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Friday, May 25, 2007


Bring on Alec Baldwin

This is my favorite cab story, but it just doesn't translate well to the written word. It is a much better story when told verbally. I have tinkered with the story for months, but I'm just not happy with it. The more I tinker with it the worse it gets. So here it is.

These two guys got in my cab. One was a complete drunken jerk, the second was apparently his personal assistant. I quickly deduced that the jerk was a rather rich, successful business man or possibly some celebrity who I would have known if I watched TV. Whoever he was he rated having his own personal assistant. Might I add: he had a very good personal assistant. He also seemed to have a bit of a drinking problem. I wouldn't have been surprised to learn excessive drinking frequently got this prima donna into trouble.

The second guy was a nice guy with an amazing ability to smooth things over when the jerk started insulting me. I gathered that he had a lot of experience with that sort of thing. I figured it was his job to keep the jerk out of trouble, and I had a feeling he was paid handsomely to do so. I must admit that he was good at his job.

On the way to their destination the drunk asked if I took credit cards. I said no. He started getting belligerent. "Just run it through the thing there," he said indicating the meter.

"Sorry, we don't take credit cards in Fairbanks."

He started shoving his credit card in my face, and telling me how incompetent I was to not know how to run a credit card machine.

The guy in the back assured me that he had cash and would pay the bill as he tried to calm down the drunk.

The drunk would just not let up. "They take credit cards in Denver, and Denver is the most backwards city in the world. You must take credit cards."

"This is Fairbanks. No cab driver in Fairbanks will take a credit card. Now put a cork in it buddy."

The guy continued to rant, and got personal several times. The guy in the back did a very good job keeping me from losing my temper.

Anyway, we got to our destination. The drunk shoved his credit card at me. The guy in the back paid cash.

A couple hours later I picked up the same guys. Same thing. Jerk sat in the front and was shoving his credit card at me, ranting about how backward Fairbanks was. Again, the guy in the back did a remarkable job keeping me from losing my temper.

Finally I had had enough. I told the drunk that if he didn't get his credit card out of my face I was going to chuck it out the window.

I warned him a couple times. I had time to palm one of our business cards. The assistant in the back seat was grabbing the jerk's arm, trying to get him to put the card away. It wasn't working.

I grabbed the credit card. In one fluid motion I took the credit card and flipped a business card out the window.

The drunk was speechless for the first time that night.

"Stop! Stop! I need to get that," screamed the assistant.

"I warned him. Now he's gonna be walking back to get it."

The drunk was still speechless.

"I need to go get that card!"

I said, "I ain't stopping and I recommend cancelling that card as soon as you get back to the hotel."

That move really took the wind out of the drunk's sails. The rest of the trip was eventless. Even the assistant was quiet. I slipped the credit card back to the assistant when we got back to the hotel. I'm still kicking myself for not looking at the name on the card.

That's a nice ride. Nobody would hold it against you if you had thrown out the real card.

Round these parts it's a driver decision about credit cards. About half of ours take them -- usually via some arrangement through Office Depot.

I used to take them, using an old swipe plate with carbon forms. Of course, the less intelligent customers wrecked it for everyone: people wanted to use a card to go three blocks. I would get declines, too, and those were usually for long runs ($40+). I thought about getting a wireless, instant-check machine in the car, but the lease is $80/month.

So, no more cards.
I have worked out deals with customers to let them fill the gas tank on a credit card for the amount of the fare.

Wireless technology lags behind in these parts. Plus, just because this is Fairbanks, it is safe to assume that credit card transactions in a taxi are probably occurring on a stolen card. It just isn't worth the hassle.
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