December 02, 2007

What Are You Gonna Do To Me?!

That's what I kept screaming at the taxi driver last night. Michelle and I had hopped in a cab after 2 a.m. on the Upper West Side to get a drink or two in at George's bar before last call, and the guy drove like a maniac the whole way. I was already feeling nauseous (from ending my dairy fast? from eating steak tartare?) and the ride made me carsick on top of everything, and extremely agitated.

I'm really into the new credit card swipe in taxis since I'm often short on cash, so I was glad to see that this cab was equipped with the new technology. When I first swiped, the driver said, "It's not working." A likely story - taxi drivers are notorious for trying to encourage you not to use the credit card payment, since they have to pay a fee for it. I had just been reading an article in Time Out about what your passenger rights are, so I wasn't about to give up.

Once I swiped and it went through, the driver started to say I had to sign the receipt. He gave me a pen, I looked at the receipt, and I said, "I don't have to sign this, here" and gave the pen back to him. The guy lept out of the front seat, ran around to the back right passenger seat where I was about to depart, and became very threatening - waving his arms around, pointing his finger at me, shouting, all right in front of the swank Bowery Hotel.

Of course, I wasn't having it. I got up in his face and said I wasn't a tourist and he wasn't going to intimidate me, if he had just been nice then we could have worked something out but now I wasn't going to do anything for him. He became more violent and threatening and we started to collect a crowd, notably a shivering girl who'd been waiting for a cab for a long time. I started to pick on her, shouting "Do you want this guy to drive you home? Do you trust this guy to get you where you need to go?" And then I went back to the driver, channeling a very Phil-like "Is that how you're going to act?"

And then because he wouldn't back down and because he was blocking me from leaving the backseat, I got up in his face and started growling, "What are you going to do to me?!"
When it comes down to it, you don't have to sign the receipt unless the trip is over $25 (which it wasn't). In the back of my mind at the time, I thought there was a chance I was wrong and that prior cab drivers had just never asked me to sign, because the whole thing is still new and we're all still getting used to it. And with the old credit card swipers (that weren't in many cabs at all), you did have to sign and you did have to tell the driver ahead of time that you were paying with credit card (you don't now). But I became so infuriated at the way he acted, the attack he engaged on me, thank God in a very public setting and not in the dark corners of, say, Greenpoint where I used to get chased down by cab drivers.

All that, for a dollar fee he thought he was not going to get reimbursed.

I think the shivering blonde girl took the cab after I walked away, but I departed so swiftly and determined that I didn't bother to look back and check. I even lost Michelle, who was so dumbfounded at what just happened that she didn't notice which way I walked and ended up wandering in the opposite direction.

It didn't occur to me at the time to take down the guy's medallion number. I could have reported him to 311. I could have sued him probably for harrassment and mental anguish (something I would love to do considering my recent escapades in the New York Small Claims Court system). But in the end, no harm done. Yelling at him totally dissipated my nausea and I was able to have a decent time for the rest of the night.

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