A Cab Driver’s Guilty Conscience

I actually made a cab driver feel guilty for racial profiling the other night. I’m quite proud of that! It’s not everyday that  you help your fellow man see the error in his ways. Even less likely when minutes earlier you slammed his car door shut and yelled “TAKE ME HOME, BITCH!” at him. Before I get into that story, let me take a moment to say Rest In Peace to Guru from Gangstarr. I grew up a fan of his music, and the video above is up here not only because it’s awesome, but also because it covers the topic of cab drivers who give black men a hard time instead of just doing their jobs.

The night in question, I was leaving a screening of the film Timeless, an innovative documentary/DJ set featuring the music of another fallen hip-hop legend, J Dilla. I told one of my friends that I was going to need her to flag down a cab for me, because they do not stop for black guys late at night in DC unless they are desperate. That’s pretty much a fact, and the worst instances seem to always involve African cab drivers. As a result of my years of negative experiences, I realized it’s much easier to get a sober ride home if I send a female friend or a white one(they stop the fastest when it’s someone female AND white) out there to hail a cab for me. Once they pull over, I just jump in like “Ha! Gotcha!” and then head home to get some sleep.

The first cab driver that pulled up wound his window down and asked “Where are you going?” The fellow was dark skinned, in his 40’s and had a strong, deep accent which I could not place. I walked up to his car and as soon as I said the first three syllables of my street, he started pulling off and said “I’m not going that way!”

Mind you, there are laws in DC that prohibit cab drivers from asking that question and refusing to take someone home. On top of that, I only live about 5-7 minutes from where he was picking me up, in a neighborhood that’s not all that bad. I didn’t get upset though, because I still had a lady hailing cabs for me, which meant I was gonna get another one. Only problem was, another one didn’t come for over 5 minutes, on a chilly Spring night.

When the next one finally pulled up, my patience was gone. The Ethiopian guy driving the cab tried to pull that same “Where are you going?” crap on me, and I told him that it was against the law. I even threatened to take down his cab number and report him to the Taxicab Commission.

He still tried to refuse to take me, but the best thing that could ever happen to me in that situation occurred: A white man witnessed this violation, and came to my defense! “YOU CAN’T DO THAT! YOU HAVE TO PICK HIM UP! YOU CAN’T ASK HIM WHERE HE’S GOING!” I see why Katt Williams did that comedy routine about having white friends for situations like this. That fellow saw an injustice taking place, and he yelled at the top of his lungs to help a total stranger get a cab home! Seriously, that cab driver would pave probably pulled off and dragged me by my arm for three blocks had there not been a vocal white witness.

And yes, you read that right. I did have my arm in the cab once the driver started talking about leaving. It was cold and I was tired! I wasn’t giving up without some kind of act of resistance! The cab driver changed his tune when talking to the white guy. He unlocked the back door and had the nerve to say “I wasn’t going to leave him! I’m going to take him home! I just could not hear him!”

This is when I got in and yelled “F*CK YOU! TAKE ME HOME B*TCH!” I next proceeded to sit down in the back of the cab, look out the window at everybody and calmly say “Thank you both very much. Have a lovely evening.”

There was silence for the first minute or two of the ride. Then my friend called to check on me. I said to her “You see what I was saying earlier? It literally took a white man getting upset for my black ass to get a simple cab ride home. Normally I would have just waited and given my money to another cab driver, but it’s cold and I’m tired…”

The cab driver must have started to feel guilty upon overhearing my phone conversation. That, or he saw me writing down his name and license number so I could report him later. Whatever the case, he proceeded to tell me his name(Ephraim), apologize and then refused to receive any money for the ride home. Next, Ephraim the cab driver then began giving me some drawn-out explaination saying that he wasn’t racially discriminating against me, just merely tired and on his way home. I did not buy his half-assed story for one minute since he already lied once to the Good Samaritan white guy witness. However, he didn’t have to apologize to me and refuse to take any payment, so I accepted his apology, sincere or not. I was going to report his lying ass to the Taxicab Authority anyway, but decided that saving my $7 and getting a funny story out of the deal was vengeance enough for one day.

I think I’m going to go out one night this weekend with my camera on me, and wait for a cabbie to ask me where I’m going. Then, I’m flash photographing his face and telling him I work for the Washington Post and he just made the front page. Actually, I’d like to come up with something even funnier because that one is just so-so to me. If you have ideas on how to piss off cab drivers in Washington DC in the name of liberty and justice for all, feel free to share them. As long as these ideas won’t get me shot at or arrested, I’m open to hearing them!

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13 Responses to “A Cab Driver’s Guilty Conscience”

  1. Shannon 21. Apr, 2010 at 8:54 am #

    Oh, I HATE this. I sometimes get the ‘what address’ followed by ‘oh! sorry, I was just on my way home’ bit. But obviously not as often as you do (I’m a white woman). Mostly it happens because I live in a quiet area and it will take a while for the cabbie to get a new fare. I just smile big enough to distract him, hop in, and make a show of taking down his hack number.

    As for a prank, I would recruit a white girl in a ball gown and fancy jewelry to hail cabs, then have her request to be taken to the sketchiest neighborhoods you can think of.

  2. The Foggy Dew 21. Apr, 2010 at 10:52 am #

    I volunteer to play the photog. I can hide among the Dumpsters and lie in wait with my flash at the ready. This could be especially fun to get their expressions after the white girl in the ball gown gives the address in the sketchy neighborhood.

  3. Chanel#1not5 21. Apr, 2010 at 11:08 pm #

    Have her asked to be dropped of in

    I cant wait to see his reaction! Because those neighborhoods are the sketchiest of the sketchy!

  4. Shannon 22. Apr, 2010 at 9:31 am #

    After the white girl in the ball gown asks to go to Sursum Corda, Leon should step up and ask to be taken to Spring Valley or Georgetown. The cabbie’s head will spin.

  5. homeimprovementninja 22. Apr, 2010 at 1:49 pm #

    Yeah, I used to get that “I’m not going there” sh1t when I lived in Virginia, which might as well be the moon as far as cabbies are concerned. The one time I reported a cabbie though (for overcharging me from the airport), it turns out that they get a hearing and you have to take a day off work to go to the Taxicab something in southeast to testify, so eff that sh1t. I scheduled the hearing and didn’t show up, but took comfort in the fact that some a-hole cabbie had to take several hours off to show up to a hearing and wait around like a jerk for me. If you want to steal money from me, you gotta earn it, kid.

  6. ListenToLeon 22. Apr, 2010 at 4:10 pm #

    @ Homeimprovementninja, I didn’t know you actually had to go to a hearing to get that taken care of. Thanks for letting me know about the process.

    @ Shannon, Chanel & The Foggy Dew, you all are brilliant revenge plotters! Remind me to stay on your good sides! LOL

  7. Chanel#1not5 22. Apr, 2010 at 10:00 pm #


  8. Steven W. Crowell 27. Apr, 2010 at 2:48 am #

    How can it be called racism when the alleged perpetrator is of the same race? Sometimes cab drivers DO have to “go home”, sometimes they just make hurtful superficial evaluations about risk. This is obviously an upsetting experience when passengers are left standing and hoping to get a cab, which WILL happen (it’s the waiting and not knowing how long that is most irritating). What is more upsetting is the fact that cab driving is so frequently DEADLY. More frequently deadly (from fatal assault) than any other occupation. Personally, as a cab driver of nearly 40 years, if I was a racist, I’d probably delight in depriving “them” of some of their money, wouldn’t I? We must come to the understanding that there is no actual “THEM”… there is only “US”. All kinds of indicators are assessed by cab drivers when there are choices to be made about who gets in this cab or who gets in another cab. I try to select based on my ‘return on investment’. I want the most money and the shortest time or distance to the next passenger. As an independent contractor, which most cab drivers are, it entirely up to the driver ‘when’ and ‘where’ he works. Nobody is going to accept responsibility for “losses” that occur as a result of following a ‘directive’ such as “Refuse Nobody” transportation decisions. This makes the “no refusal” rule absurd and totally lacking any real authority. Drivers should be sensitive to the feelings of others, but making empathy mandatory… is impossible to enforce. I have encountered folks who might have suspected that their race was part of my decision-making process when the cookie didn’t crumble their way and I happened to chose to take a different passenger to a different destination. I always try to give them the most comprehensive inside info on how to not be ‘declined’ by a cab driver. But it must be understood that; the choice of who, when and where… an independently contracted cab driver carries or declines to carry any passengers is legally within the drivers’ scope of legitimate choices.


  9. ListenToLeon 27. Apr, 2010 at 8:04 am #

    Stephen, Thanks for responding. It’s good to hear from an actual cab driver. Now, in the words of Samuel L. Jackson “well, allow me to retort.”

    First of all, for you to argue that a person of color can’t make snap judgments about other people of color is either unbelievably naive of you…or just a pile of bullshit so ridiculous it insults my intelligence and that of my readers. That happens all over the world, and to deny it is foolish…but that’s another topic for another day.

    As far as your occupation, yes it’s dangerous, and I understand wanting to make money, but you CHOSE this line of work. That’s like a fireman complaining about having to run into burning buildings. You knew the risks coming in. Besides, EVERYBODY does shit they don’t want to do at their job, EVERY DAY. That does not give anyone the right to break the law. “Independent contractor” doesn’t mean “do as I please.” That mentality is the reason why DC saw fit to make this law in the first place.

    If you don’t want to pick someone up, DON’T PULL OVER. It’s really as simple as that. I’ve had cab drivers let me in the cab, ask me where I’m going, then say “I can’t take you there” and make up some bullshit reason. A few times, I actually got out because I didn’t feel like arguing. Now, I’m flat-out sick of it. I don’t really give a shit if my cab driver is friendly or empathetic. I just want to get home!

    I hope you and other cab drivers actually read this and think about what I’m saying. However, I don’t think I’m going to change any minds since I’m typing to someone arrogant enough to think he’s above the law.

  10. Alexis 27. Apr, 2010 at 9:19 pm #

    I just posted a link to this story on Facebook because it cheered me up after an awful day wrestling with my bank, which is so evil, I’m sure Satan worships THEM. Anyway, I like to imagine that you said “take me home bitch” like Dave Chappelle, when he’s impersonating Rick James. Thanks for the laugh, man and I’m glad you finally got home safely. Although this story has made me re-think living in DC.

  11. ListenToLeon 28. Apr, 2010 at 1:33 am #

    DC has it’s good aspects and it’s bad ones. Don’t base your decision 100% off of my experience with one jackass driving a cab. There are even really nice, good-natured cab drivers in the city. Only problem is, those ones seem to be rare.

  12. Steven Crowell 13. Feb, 2012 at 9:22 am #

    Of course skin color doesn’t matter when it comes to making snap judgments. Getting killed is not part of the deal. Laws banning discrimination against prospective cab passengers are illegal and unenforcable.


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