August 18, 2006

On the Front Line of the Cab Wars

This week, as you no doubt know, I attended a technical conference in Baltimore, Md., a city with a crime rate so high, its motto is: "Hey, at least we haven't mugged YOU . . . yet." Mindful of the city's less-than-stellar nationwide crime rating, I took special precautions to ensure my safety, like not waving a stack of $100 bills around, as I'm often wont to do.

Seriously, I'm not all that worried about being the victim of an assault. With my shaved head and perpetual angry-looking frown, I look more likely to commit a crime than to be on the receiving end of one.

Still, Baltimore intimidated me for some reason. Maybe it's because one of the city's most celebrated football stars was very likely an accessory to murder, and Baltimore seems almost proud of that. Then again, Minnesota has the sex boat Vikings, so maybe I shouldn't be poking fun at the Ravens.

At any rate, I went to Baltimore with a set of preconceptions regarding the city's rather considerable crime rate, and I had a similar set of preconceptions regarding the temper of its citizens. All of which brings me to an evening when I needed a taxi ride and, in my mind, almost started a minor riot.

I exited my hotel and noted that there was a line of taxis waiting outside the hotel doors. The first, or lead, taxi was a yellow cab, followed by a brown cab, followed by about four other yellow cabs. The driver of the lead yellow cab was out talking with someone across the street, so I naturally started to open the door of the brown cab, instructing the driver where I wanted to go. What transpired, I'm convinced, probably touched off an inner-city taxi cab war, and for that I'm truly sorry.

Just as I was about to get in the brown taxi, the yellow taxi driver across the street started yelling at me and the brown taxi driver. I couldn't make out quite what he was yelling, but whatever he was yelling prompted the brown taxi driver to insist that I "Get in! Quick!" Now, the last time I heard the directive "Get in! Quick!" was in a movie, and the person being given the order was about to be shot by a sniper, so it made me a little nervous.

Note: The following dialogue is a best guesstimate, since I couldn't make out exactly what was being said. This is based off what I could understand, and the angry hand gestures being exchanged.

YELLOW TAXI DRIVER (YTD): HEY! Don't use that guy! He's intruding!

BROWN TAXI DRIVER (BTD): No, man! I'm here! Get in! Quick!

YTD: The hotel has an agreement with us! You're not supposed to be here!

BTD: That's not true! I can be wherever I want! Get in! Quick!

YTD: Security!

BTD: Hey! Do you want a cab or not?! Get in! Quick!

HOTEL SECURITY: What's going on here?

ME: I don't know. I just want a taxi. I don't want to break any rules.

YTD: That guy's not supposed to be here!

BTD: I have as much reason to be here as you! Get in! Quick!

YTD: You're the only brown taxi here! This hotel has an agreement with our taxi service!

BTD: No they don't! Get in! Quick!

HOTEL SECURITY: I'm not sure about anybody having an agreement with the hotel. I'll have to check.

ME: Look, I don't want to cause any trouble. I just need to get to a restaurant.

BTD: I can take you there, but only if you get in! Quick!

SECOND YELLOW TAXI DRIVER BEHIND BTD: *revs engine* *yells several ominous expletives*

YTD: You don't want to start this!

ME: No, I don't. I don't want to start anything.

YTD: Not you! Him! *gestures towards BTD*

BTD: I'm not starting anything! Get in! Quick!

At this point, I assessed the situation. Clearly, the yellow cabs were in the majority, and the drivers were all angry at the brown cab interloper. The hotel security guy didn't seem to have the first clue, and also didn't seem all that interested in getting involved. The brown taxi driver, though forceful, seemed awfully defensive, to say nothing of angry, so I didn't relish the idea of a taxi ride with him to anywhere. With all this in mind, I closed the door of the brown cab and got into the lead yellow cab.

You would think that would have been the end of it but—this being me and my perpetual string of strange luck—the brown cab FOLLOWED us all the way to the restaurant. After dropping me off, the yellow cab driver and the brown cab driver got out of their cabs and started yelling at each other, face to face. I decided my role in the fiasco was complete, so I went into the restaurant and washed my hands of the whole ordeal.

So, if there's a taxi cab civil war going on in Baltimore right now, I apologize profusely for whatever role I may have played in its inception. Honestly, I just wanted a cab ride. Nothing more.

Posted by Ryan at August 18, 2006 08:51 AM | TrackBack

No wonder they call it "Charm City"

Posted by: Rob@L&R at August 18, 2006 09:19 AM

That sounds just awesome.

Posted by: Keith at August 18, 2006 10:34 AM

If you'd gotten into the brown cab, his next line would have been "...and keep your head down!"

I have a feeling that it was simply not brown's _turn_ seeing as he was second, not first, in line. If it were simply a case that he shouldn't be there *at all*, wouldnt' they have been already chewing him out when you showed up, since he was just sitting there in line?

The first guy lost his shot by standing across the street and not paying attention. I would have closed the door and gotten in the third cab. :)

Posted by: Strider at August 18, 2006 01:50 PM

I have been to Baltimore twice in the past few years due to it being near the Naval Academy. The Aquarium (in the Inner Harbor) was great. I had no idea about the crime. Washington DC, however, scared me. We took a wrong turn and I wasn't sure we would get out alive & with our vehicle.
What I found hilarious was that plebes (freshman at the Academy) could only go as far as 18 miles(I think) from Annapolis when on leave. This is b/c Baltimore was about 22 miles away & Washington DC was 26 miles away.

Posted by: Mandy at August 18, 2006 02:09 PM

The correct terms would be "Asian taxi driver" and "African American taxi driver", you racist pig.

Posted by: Joshua at August 21, 2006 09:02 AM

Joshua: Heeeeeeeee.

Posted by: Ryan at August 21, 2006 09:28 AM
StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble It!