Not just because it could end super badly. It's really because driving a cab is a rough gig with an often-narrow profit margin, and, think about it. If you're taking a cab, it can mean a lot of things: that you're lazy, running late, carrying too much crap to take on the train, carrying too many substances in your body to take it on the train, trying to get someone home faster in order to initiate sex, trying to get yourself home faster in order to initiate sleep. Whatever the case may be, your life is in your cab driver's hands, however briefly.
Which is why Gothamist's report this week that even though they're not technically tipping less, New Yorkers haven't adjusted their tipping to match recently raised cab fares, is a bummer. Are we really so callous? So unfeeling? So penny wise and pound foolish? I would hope not, but in the interest of good will and the nice people who take you home when you're too drunk to do it yourself, here are a few concrete, practical ways to show your appreciation.
Even if they made you look up directions on your smartphone. Even if the cab smells bad and is playing shitty radio. Maybe not if they're clearly taking you out of the way to run up the meter or are falling asleep at the wheel (this has absolutely happened to me, it's terrifying). But still. If you already decided to blow the money on a cab ride, you can blow a nominal extra amount on a generous tip. It is the correct thing to do.
This is largely for your own sake, because taxi TV is an abomination and keeps you from looking out at the world around you. But also, these guys have to hear the same stupid ads and segments for the entirety of their overly-long shifts. Give them some respite. Everybody wins.
This is a point of some dispute — a lot of people out there love spilling their guts to cab drivers, and conversely, some cab drivers really love to spill their guts to smiling, nodding fares — but it's a good jumping off point. No need to pester them with questions, or whatever it is you wanted to pester them about (other than directions to your destination, which is obviously fine). Per Executive Editor Mike Conklin's advice, "Everyone just needs to shut the fuck up and get through it." Exactly.
Clearly, this is not ideal. The real answer to the classic "I need to go home, but I also want to barf" debate is to pull yourself together and either wait until you're in the comfort of your own apartment to let fly, or get it out of the way before you get in a car someone uses to make a living. But still, if it comes to this, go for the window. The outside of a car can be hosed down. The inside cannot.
That is, unless it's something — a power bar? I don't know — that is absolutely, without a shred of a doubt, guaranteed to produce neither mess nor smell. Anything else is totally unacceptable.
Again, debatable, since by recusing yourself from the system you are, by implication, depriving all cabbies of potential income. But I asked my colleague Henry Stewart about it, and the unequivocal answer was, "It's a waste of money and bad for the environment and speaks to laziness. I don't believe that a cab is a safe place."
So, decide for yourself, I guess. But if you do, in all your laziness and environmental neglect, decide to spring for one, be nice.
Follow Virginia K. Smith on Twitter @vksmith.