Depending on the taxicab industry can be scary. Not only for the passenger, but also for the driver, who doesn’t know if the fare he just picked up is going to try to rob or stiff him. And what if one of you doesn’t speak the other one’s language?
What these two people need is some trust. Of course, trust is earned.
Before a recent trip to Santa Monica, I went online and researched the approximate cost of a ride from LAX to the condo I’d be staying at. (There is a flat rate, it turns out.) I checked travel websites for reviews of taxi companies. I even Googled taxicab scams.
And of course, I looked for BBB Accredited cab companies. I found one out of Venice with an A+ rating and three complaints, all resolved. What a relief to hail that cab and see the BBB Torch Logo in the window!
In the new book, Hack: Stories From a Chicago Cab, recently on Public Radio, author Dmitry Samarov brings up interesting ethical questions such as:
- How do cab drivers choose which passengers to pick up, and which not to? Obviously, personal safety is an issue. So is discrimination. (Samarov points out that the wealthiest passengers are often the poorest tippers. His best tip, he says, came from a poorly-dressed student carrying a garbage sack that he picked up in a phone booth.)
- Cab drivers may be called upon to drive prostitutes, drug addicts, and drug dealers around town. Where is the line between doing your job and aiding/abetting someone who is breaking the law?
One final note: The NPR interview generated a call from Brad Newsham, a San Francisco cab driver since 1985. He is the self-proclaimed President of the one-man Cab Driver Anti-Defamation League, and he objects (strenuously) to the use of the word “cabbie.”
Mr. Newshaw claims the term is derogatory and belittling. He pointed out that the interviewer probably wouldn’t like it if Mr. Newshaw called him a “journo” or a “newsie.”
Neal Conan quipped that while the word “hack” is fine when speaking about cab drivers (it originates from a horse-pulled “Hackney carriage”) it is true that no journalist really likes being called a “hack.”
What do you think?