I'm a little slow today. I just switched to Sanka. So...have a heart?

Friday, December 09, 2005

A Series of Open Letters

An Open Letter to Taxi Drivers:

Dear Taxi Drivers of America:

Of late, I have witnessed a disturbing trend amongst your kind. After flagging you down, and sliding onto a vinyl seat that has seen god-knows-what, we cruise to my destination, sans air conditioning. I am now hip to your scheme to save gas, and it does not amuse me. Henceforth, I shall request that you crank up your A/C, and you shall so comply. Perchance, in the country from which you originate, it is socially acceptable to arrive at your destination damp from perspiration, hair and collars wilted, with a distinct vomit-cleaner aroma.

That is not the case in this American Republic.

My personal comfort is more important to me than your gas mileage. I am sorry to be blunt, but we have an understanding - you are, perhaps, the last great vestige of a time when the Master-Servant relationship existed, and I am your paying customer; your master if you will. I make no reference to slavery, rather to a time when coachmen were common in the homes of middle and upperclass Americans.

As such, you are to drive, and I am to be transported by your livery. There was a time, even during my lifetime, when Taxicab drivers would open doors for their charges, and handle their luggage. Sadly, this is no longer the case. As customs have changed, it stands now that your job is to ferry me from point A to point B, as cost-effectively as possible for me and not for you. We are not to make conversation, as I really do not care how you're doing or about your take on the weather. While I am in your taxicab, the only thing about which I care, is your inability to change lanes to avoid an obstruction in the road, and your failure to speed up to catch a green light while it is still green. You win extra points if you take me on a parallel route that is less crowded, and your tip is suitably diminished if you make no effort to avoid road congestion. For every fifty cents that I must pay in waiting charges due to what I deem as your carelessness and laxidaisical approach to shuttling me, I shall dock your tip by that amount, which brings me to my final point: correct change.

It would behoove you and the food delivery men of America, to assemble in concert, and address the subject that, if Oscar Wilde himself had penned it into a Stage Play, would be called, "The Importance of Making Change."

While American currency does come in denominations that the Average American will only see behind glass in a museum, the common $1, (Occasional $2), $5, $10 and $20 are so ubiquitous as to be a given that you shall have correct change for such amounts. The denominations of $50, $100, $500, $1,000, $5,000, $10,000, and $100,000 you are, of course, not expected to change.

Therefore, after you have ferried me to my destination of disembarkation, and I tender my fare to you, at absolute last resort in the amount of $20, it is inconceivable that you do not have some combination of, worst-case scenario, nineteen dollars to give to me as change. Such a gross failure on your part is simply unforgiveable.

Allowing you to retain any amount above the price on the meter is a discretionary matter, in my sole control. I realize that you may have children to feed, and rent to pay, but as the addage goes, one good turn deserves another. The inverse is also true. It usually happens that when I tender a $20 bill to you, I may have some combination of small bills in my billfold, but they do not total the entire fare. I am loathe to give you twenty dollars for a six dollar taxicab ride (customarily of mediocre-to-poor quality) as you have done nothing in the five minutes in which we have been acquainted, to deserve a fourteen dollar tip. Although it pains my conscience to do so, regarding such matters, a pained conscience is far more tolerable than a pained wallet, when I tender to you a $20 dollar bill, and you inform me that you "do not have change for a twenty," the only fair result, in my opinion, is to instead, offer you whatever other loose bills occupy my billfold. No American business transacts itself without change for a twenty dollar bill, and the trade which you ply is no exception. It is more than reasonable to expect that the first two or three passengers you may ferry may pay you with a twenty. You should, nay, must carry more change with you. As I am not responsible for your failure to do so, you shall not extract a penalty from me for your inability to prepare for your day's or night's work. You have no uniform to wear, and I know for a fact that at the central dispatching agency from whence you rent your taxi, a cashier can make change for your twenties. It is doubtless frustrating when a seven dollar fare is reduced to three, but that was your decision when you loaded your billfold, and hopefully your involuntarily-reduced tariff will teach you a lesson for next time.

That said, you do perform a much under-appreciated and vital service in the cities of America. Your image, which suffers from a dearth of positive public relations, is not, however, undeserved.

I remain cordially yours, and hope that you have taken the words I have uttered to heart. Until the next time I drunkenly stumble into your charge, I bid you adieu.