What should you do when your taxi cab driver goes berserk in the middle of bumper-to-bumper traffic?
Then caught in the middle of a taxi brawl, please tell me what you would do. This is one of those “only in New York” stories. Before you give me the Bronx cheer, know that I am a born and bred New Yorker who stills love that city, but is grateful that I live in the more manageable Washington, DC.
On Saturday, My husband and I take a taxi from New York’s LaGuardia Airport to meet our children in Manhattan. Upon emerging from the Midtown Tunnel, we see a throng of boisterous millennials dressed in Santa costumes crossing the street. It’s SantaCon, a popular bar crawl that starts in the morning and goes all day. It’s about 2:30 p.m. and some St. Nicks are already high without their reindeers.
Although we’re slowed by lights, the taxi driver makes his way through the tipsy revelers and the holiday crowds. As the lanes merge to get around a double-parked car on the right, a woman, driving a chrome-colored Jeep, squeezes past us on our left, scraping the length of the cab with her right outside mirror.
The cabbie yells for her to stop. She doesn’t but gets caught by the red light. Our driver then gets out and bangs on her window, saying “You hit my car.” She screams some unprintable words and takes off when the light turns green.
Our cabbie pursues her, missing the turnoff for our son’s apartment. We repeat loudly that we have a 3 p.m. meeting; it’s now about 2:45p.m. We tell the cabbie to get the woman’s license plate and follow up later. No response. Even though we are not moving fast—remember the traffic—the driver chases the woman in the Jeep, cutting off other cars in pursuit. The woman signals a right on 15th Street. As our driver shoots in front of her, making a right turn from the middle lane, I look out my window to see the Jeep headed straight for me. She stops short, missing ramming the passenger door by about an inch.
Our taxi is in front of her car now. We think he’s on his way to our destination, having exacted some revenge by cutting her off. Instead he drives up the street just far enough for the Jeep to complete its turn and for the car behind the Jeep to turn. The cabbie then parks the taxi in the middle of the side street, sandwiching the Jeep. The meter’s running. The woman driver, probably late twenties, leans on her horn, shouting more obscenities. The driver in the car behind her is honking and yelling too.
My husband and I tell the cabbie that we’re late. He acknowledges our presence long enough to turn off the meter, which stops at $37.13, and he tells us to wait. The Jeep driver gets out of her car, shrieking hysterically that she’s late for a doctor’s appointment (On a Saturday afternoon in Manhattan?). The woman gets toe-to- toe with the driver, denying hitting his taxi and screaming more obscenities. In truth, I have never witnessed anyone screaming with such force.
A crowd gathers. Most of them dressed in Santa suits. My New York instincts kick in. I tell my husband that it is time to exit the cab before knives and guns appear. “And do what?” he says. “We walk,” I say. I take two twenty dollar bills from my wallet and hand it to my husband to pay the driver who was pinned outside my husband’s window by the out-of-control woman. I get out and try to open the trunk to retrieve our luggage.
The trunk is locked. The woman is screaming, three or four cars are honking and even more Santas arrive, most filming the scene on cell phones. The driver calls 911, explaining that he thinks the woman is on drugs. She moves a few steps back. The driver unlocks the trunk, we grab our luggage, haul it to the sidewalk and walk the seven blocks to our son’s apartment.
At the corner, my husband hands me back the $40, saying when he tried to pay, the cabbie ignored him. My husband also admitted that he did not want to pay the cabbie. I feel we should have left the $40 on the backseat before fleeing. Out of nine friends and relatives polled later, only one agreed with me.
What would you have done? Paid the cabbie or not? Stayed until the police arrived or left as we did? Comment below or connect with me on Twitter, @familyitrips.