While cleaning out some old documents today, I came across the above item – and had a good laugh for myself. On the day after New Year’s Day 2009, (only weeks after the attack), I returned from a work event in Las Vegas and had the misfortune of getting into a yellow cab with a jerk driver. When the cabbie arrived at the PATH station at 33rd Street at 6 p.m., and I attempted to pay with my credit card, he told me his machine was no longer working and that I’d have to pay cash. The same driver had told me 30 minutes earlier at JFK Airport that his credit card machine was indeed working. Sound familiar? I was having none of it. Something about this man trying to take advantage of me set me off at a new level, post-attack.
I told the driver I had a credit card to pay with and not $55 cash. I told him he could call in my credit card number to his dispatcher. He would not look me in the eye, and became quite belligerent telling me to “Go to the ATM and withdraw the cash or you won’ t get your bags!’
Over. My. Dead. Body. That is what I told him. I did not have my ATM card with me, as it was a business trip, and this man was trying to pull a scam on me. I again demanded he call the dispatch so we could work something out as that would be the only way he’d get paid. He began screaming at me that the dispatcher was off duty, and that he would drive me to Long Island City with my bags if I didn’t go to the ATM. “You go to the ATM!! Get me the cash!!” he screamed.
Fortunately, I spotted an officer near the PATH station entrance (always seems to be officers near there) and opened the cab door, keeping my left leg squarely inside. I screamed and hollered until I caught the officer’s attention. It was quite the scene for the tourists nearby. The officer came over and attempted to reason with the cabbie that the credit card machine suddenly not working was not my problem and if he knew it was on the fritz, he shouldn’t be taking fares. The cabbie still would not open the trunk to let my bags out. The officer called for backup. Three more officers arrived. That’s right, me, four officers and the cabbie, all on the corner of 33rd and 6th. The head officer who had arrived heard my story, took one look at the cabbie and told him to “Open the fucking trunk now!” in a booming voice. Well, that trunk popped right open, and I hopped out, took my bags and the cabbie was off like a shot.
But my encounter with the cabbie did not end there. The thought of that man trying his scam on an elderly person or a tourist from another country, or another woman (something told me he would not try that with most men) pissed me off enough that I called the number on the back of my taxi fare receipt given to me at JFK and filed a complaint. And that led to my foray into Taxi Court. That’s right, Taxi Court, where you can fight your jerk cabbie for his wrongs.
I was given a court date in March and the option to call in or appear in person. Due to work, I had to make the call during my lunch break. And boy was it an education. My cabbie, Mr. Hussein, was represented during the hearing, as was I (Taxi Court assigns each person a representative free of charge). A judge then asked me to describe the events of January 2, 2009. It was my first taste of dealing with a judge at trial and it dawned on me only as I was speaking that there was no guarantee the judge would find me in the right. I remember that sudden realization and it stayed with me many weeks and months after.
The judge asked me to expand on a few points, challenged some of my statements and then asked to hear from Mr. Hussein, who described a scene quite different form mine. He said his credit card machine was working and had worked for some 30-40 fares he had had that day, and that my card had not been accepted. He said I had tried to skip out on my fare.
I was livid! As I sputtered to defend myself, my court-appointed rep stepped in on my behalf and said the following:
CR: “Mr. Hussein, you say your meter and your credit card machine were working fine? You know that by law it is your responsibility to make sure both are operating properly?”
MH: “Yes! Of course!”
CR: “And you say you had 30-40 fares that day?”
MH: “Yes. And I had no problems.”
CR: “Then can you please explain why the monitoring device on your car meter only registers that you took two fares that day? You know the Taxi Commission can monitor your meter’s readings, correct?”
MH: mumbles something.
CR: “Mr. Hussein, you said you had 30-40 fares that day, that your meter and credit card machine were working fine that entire day, yet the records for your meter show that you only took two fares that day. How do you explain that? You know it is illegal to turn your meter off during your shift, correct?”
MH: still mumbling.
That’s right, my cabbie was a scam artist, picking up people, saying his credit card machine worked, then shutting off his meter and demanding cash payments at rates above what they would normally cost had the meter been on. In fact, it was discovered during this trial that Mr. Hussein had a pattern of shutting his meter off such that he had maybe 2-3 fares register all day for weeks. He would turn in his fares each day almost entirely in cash and had not been questioned until now. All I could think of was all the poor people rushing to find ATMS to pay this angry, awful man as he shouted at them to “Get me the cash!” He was given a $1700 fine and 4 points on his license.
I hope that was worth the read, but it points to a broader theme in that the injustice of what Marco did to me, almost ending my life, made me completely intolerant of others trying to take from me. It made me fight back with an intensity and tenacity not previously displayed and the taxi incident was the first of many “fight back” episodes that year (and continuing ever since), and helped to mentally prepare me for what possibly lay ahead with the Italian courts.
EXTRA THOUGHT: A friend of mine at the time asked me if fighting the cabbie or Marco was really worth the effort. Wasn’t I just exhausting myself? Couldn’t I just “let it go?” I never looked at it that way. Defending yourself, your body, your home or your loved ones are all worth fighting for. My friendship with this person was not. 😉