Inviting perfect strangers into a tiny enclosed space over and over again, every day, in a situation that’s stressful and unpredictable, must certainly lead to flare ups of random violence. And when those strangers also happen to be grumpy New Yorkers, the odds of a scrap triple.
PETER Where I hailed him: Union Square Where he hails from: Africa Years as a cabbie: 2 Previous profession: Delivery truck driver
You don’t get threats so much. There are confrontations, but they don’t really threaten. Sometimes someone says that they won’t pay you. What do you do? You let him go. He is not the only person in the city. Usually, though, when they don’t pay, they just jump out and run away. When you are stuck in traffic sometimes they start complaining, but, hey, I don’t create the traffic. I want to get rid of them, too — get another passenger. No cab driver wants to just be driving the same person around all day. But they always think that we are trying to cheat them. So they yell at us and are rude.
EUGENE Where I hailed him: East Village Where he hails from: Grenada Years as a cabbie: 25 Previous profession: Worked for Standard Motor Products
I never get like into a fistfight with them. You get in some heated arguments, but nothing physical. I’m too old to be fighting. I get into little things — they complain about the traffic, some try not to pay. I always say, though, that 98 percent of the cab drivers in this city are brainless. The things they do — they give no respect to each other. They piss all over each other. Say you’re talking to a customer on the street and they say they want to go to Long Island — another cab driver will come up and say get in, try to steal the fare. Or at the airports, they race each other to the line to pick up a fare. Cab drivers are animals, man. And 90 percent of the passengers also have no respect for the cab driver. I have the radio on listening to a little program, they will get in and say ‘take off that program.’ They get in the cab and say, ‘I’m in a hurry.’ I tell them, ‘the guy behind me takes the people that are in a hurry. I can’t take you anywhere in a hurry.’ I say, ‘Get out of my cab, get in his.’ I don’t do it much, but I do it. They are so accustomed to pushing people around.
OKONKWO Where I hailed him: Greenwich Village Where he hails from: Nigeria Years as a cabbie: 12 Previous profession: Student
I’ve never been really threatened, but I have gotten in some very bad arguments. One of the most common causes of arguing with a passenger is the misconception that I’m taking you out of the way to get a bigger fare. Sometimes the shortest way is not the fastest, or even the cheapest, but people don’t know this. And if they have stress in their life, or are high-strung people generally, they’ll question every move I make. What they don’t understand is that drivers don’t make more money by going out of the way. It is in our interest to take the fastest route possible to turn over the business… I’ve also gotten in some bad fights with people who don’t tell me to make a turn until it’s way too late. I refuse to cut across traffic and they go ballistic. Me, I just stay very calm. That’s the only way to deal with a threat or an argument from the passenger.
AHMED Where I hailed him: Union Square Where he hails from: Bangladesh Years as a cabbie: 2 Previous profession: Clerk
Just last night I had a guy bolt from my car in Brooklyn and shake his fist at me and run away without paying. This is my biggest problem. It happened once in the Bronx in a neighborhood I didn’t know that didn’t seem to be very good. I didn’t bother to chase the guy because I felt threatened by the neighborhood. And, after all, 20 dollars isn’t worth getting stabbed or beaten up for, right?