Saturday, February 4, 2006

Who's Your Driver?

It's hard to believe sometimes, but cabdrivers have to have a chauffeur's license to run through all those lights, cut people off, and weave in and out of traffic. Despite the perils, I usually call our local suburban cab company to take me to the airport, ever since they started offering a really cheap rate. To feel safer, I just put on my Princess Diana memorial seatbelt for people sitting in the backseat, and close my eyes for the fifteen minute ride.

Before the lower airport cab ride prices, I always took a limo because there wasn't much difference in the cost, maybe one or two dollars. Now it's almost ten dollars.

That's a big difference for such a short ride.

On the other hand, the difference between riding in a swank and roomy limo and a-neither-one-of-those cab is also considerable. You don't see many cabs with a free newspaper, crystal decanters with matching glasses or wood paneling. Also the limo drivers all speak English, know where they are going, and drive impeccably.

The difference in the quality of driving is what is starting to bug me.

My last trip to the airport was pretty harrowing. The cabbie drove right in front of another car and never noticed the guy honking his horn at him. He also drove in the left lane on the highway right at the speed limit, with little regard for the lane markers, often getting pretty close to people trying to pass him on the right as they were flying by at seventy mph.

Yesterday I left my car with my Korean mechanic who bows when he presents me with his bill. I'm a sucker for people who bow. But he didn't have anyone who could pick me up when the car was ready.

That meant I needed to call a cab. So I called the company that's been driving me to the airport these days. Mainly because they're the only cab in town.

The foreign driver had to call my cell phone because he got lost driving the eight blocks from the cab stand at the train station to my house. I guess the straight line confused him. Somehow we managed to communicate even though he barely spoke English.

On the short ride back to the car place he managed to run two stop signs and drive in a manner that can only be described as casual, settling into the middle of the road unless there was traffic coming directly at him.

He then stopped in the center of the street at my destination. I opened the door and I was about ten feet from the curb. I asked him why we were stopped there and he told me that's where I could get out. Nope.

I made him drive into the driveway of the lot so that I didn't get hit by oncoming traffic, which had to stop anyway because the cab had been blocking everyone coming from either direction.

After noting the cab number, I called the police to ask what they did to check whether or not a cabdriver has the proper driver's license. They do keep a record. But it was after hours so I have to call back next week to confirm.

The dispatcher laughed and said I would be surprised at how bad some of the drivers are who get a chauffeur's license. Our former governor is on trial because of incompetent truck drivers bribing people to get their licenses. So the cat's out of the bag.

Same with checking things out at the cab company. I can only complain between eight and four.

I'm going to do two things the next time I am not happy with a ride. Aside from not tipping, I think I might ask the driver to take me to a different address -- the police station, since isn't that far from my house. I'll have the driver wait while I go in and get a police officer to come out and check his driver's license.

Or I may just ask the cab company when I call for a ride to confirm the name of the driver and that he has his chauffeur's license. Before he picks me up.

There are no female cabdrivers where I live by the way.

The real problem is that in my suburban area a driver doesn't have to have his name and picture posted in the cab like they do in the city. There's nothing except the cab number to go by, which means any mope could be driving.

I'm starting to think that they're all driving me.


sdoscher458 said...

As someone who has never learned how to drive (it's a long story) I have tales about cab drivers that would set your hair on fire. The worst, of course, are the Japanese cab drivers..they have a definite death wish! New York cabs are not far behind.  Down here in southern lala land they are so laid back you are lucky if you reach your destination on speeding for these guys! Belive me I feel your pain...Sandi

nikg2005 said...

I think Chicago cab drivers are the worst.  My mother took a cab from the airport, leaving 20 minutes after we left the same airport.  They pulled in right behind us.  I swear she was shaking when she got out!

ow517 said...

There's been far too much cloud to see the Universe this week, but  I do drive a cab....

swibirun said...

close my eyes for the fifteen minute ride.

Don't did your cab driver!

Most recent entry was 2/04/06

suzypwr said...

I guess I got lucky in Chicago when I took a cab from the airport Hilton to where I was staying - although the guy didn't speak a lot of English. He seemed to have been honing his driving skills for maybe a whole day or two.


bosoxblue6993w said...

I'll be Don Ameche in a taxi, honey

onemoretina said...

Sounds like you've had more than a few wild rides.  Next to NYC, which can be horrendous, I think that Chicago is my favorite 'white knuckle ride' city.  I took a cab ride downtown there, with my sister from Kildeer, who was very pregnant at the time.  I figured the cabbie took a few days off her pregnancy, which wasn't so bad.  I don't know how the L.A. cab drivers are, being way out in the burbs.  Maybe I should take one the next time I go to LAX, just for fun?  Hmmm..... Tina