About a month ago an interesting thing occurred: two fares consecutively, from the same corner. The rest of the similar yet different destinations and prices we speak of need further explanation-
A group of three hails for a cab at the Greenwich Village Gray's Papaya. It is too late for the bars and too early for much else, but Gray's Papaya is always open to provide a hot dog and a shake for a thin pocket. Two people get in, the guy tells me before they get in that they are going to Long Island, and I never turn down a fare.
"But where in Long Island?" I ask. And he gives me the run around several times, meanwhile there is hesitation from all sides, the 3rd member of their party keeps a very far distance from the cab and doesn't want to go. The guy in the cab says,
“Forget him we're going to Long Island.”
But where in Long Island, I still didn't know, and I wasn't leaving without knowing every highway I was going to take, and which exit to get off at. There was another issue; the girl was practically asleep already. He told her that I wanted to make sure that she was okay before we go, which sounded like a great idea. So I ask her if she knows where she is going, if she is okay with the destination of somewhere in Long Island, and he repeats my questions to her. Her response was whatever, to which he replied,
"No, not just whatever! You have to tell him you're okay."
So she muttered enough coherent response to warrant her okay, but not really okay. Mind you now he held a heavy Brooklyn accent, like the stereotypical Brooklyn accent, they both seemed Brooklyn to me, now of course that holds no sway in the matter but it's just one of many things that didn't add up kosher. Neither of the two held the nasal accents of any of the further reaches in suburbia. He tells me he'll pay me good, which is an alarm since most people I expect to pay me without any hesitation.
"I don't even know where I am going,” I say. “I am not very familiar with the island man," And I continue with my innocent questioning: "How much do you think it'll be?" Giving him a loose rope to do with what he will.
He finally gets that he needs to come up with a number, "100 bucks, I'm not gonna lie to you it should be 200."
And so I figure 200 is a nice number, but I still wonder if I should be doing this. It makes enough sense that a fare might need to get home to Long Island after their long night ends, and perhaps they’re smart enough to know they can’t handle the drive themselves. But to never really give me the full low down and where specifically it is.
I am grateful for the new GPS system which has an input for flat fares. I punch in the numbers: 2 people, 200 dollars. They have to accept the fare and so I point to their tv monitor in the back seat, where they have to touch the accept button.
"WHAT?! 200 dollars! Are you Crazy?" He exclaimed, "You cabbies are all alike-" He went on, but I either stopped listening or cut him off.
"200 dollars was the price you told me you'd pay. That is the fare that we just agreed to," I told him. At that point honestly, I was so excited that he might decide not to go to Long Island, because it was ridiculous for me to even have humored them to this point. I had no specific destination and 3 people who wanted a cab which turned to 2 people, and only 1 person was awake, and that was before we even started driving.
"It's only by J.F.K. bro, and that's only 40 bucks!" He retorted.
"Well it's actually 45 dollars plus toll so its 50 to J.F.K., and your going to Long Island further away so I'd do it for 70 bucks." And just like that I cut the price by more than 50% even though I was almost positive they were going a few more miles past the airport. But he still wouldn't take the deal, and it was one hell of a bargain let me tell you. So he asks to go back to Gray's Papaya. With all the fussing over prices, I figured it be best if I told him how much that'd be too.
"That'll be 10 bucks," I say.
"Whatever bro, I'll pay you man."
We'd already gone about 4 blocks, and from there I turned on the meter, turned it off early and it came out to 5. I told them 5 dollars was fine, and he gave me a ten and told me to keep it.
As I drop them off an individual who doesn’t seem to blend with the rest of the environment at that hour sticks his pointer finger up and makes a brief second of eye contact with me. I get out of my cab and open the trunk for his rolling luggage.
“I am going to J.F.K.” he says. I can barely contain myself.
But wait, there’s more. He tells me he’s picking up somebody in the Upper West Side first. How much do you think the two rides came out to with the tips? 69.80, that’s right, 70 bucks, the same price I quoted the earlier fare, and I didn’t drive past J.F.K.
We had a nice talk on the way up to meet his friend. I told him about the irony of it all, how the fare just before him spoke of going near J.F.K. and how they refused even after getting a price quote of 70 bucks. He assumed like most out-of-towners, or newbies, that my shift was riddled with crazy passengers. I told him the truth, that for the most part people are tame.