On Monday I posted Day Twelve of my “New York, New York” picture travelogue and hinted that there might be a couple of stories that went along with that part of the day. Tuesday I posted the first of those stories, with the second one yesterday. Let’s finish.
Story The Third
To recap, it was the first full day in New York City on my first trip there. A long, long day with a tour of the Intrepid and the Space Shuttle Enterprise, the full Circle Line tour around Manhattan, the search in the heat and humidity to find a cab to CitiField, the late start to the game, leaving the game early because we were exhausted, missing the theatrics of a bottom-of-the-ninth comeback by the Mets, then a long cab ride home in heavy traffic.
It’s just before midnight following all of that. We were staying at a place right next to Central Park (thanks again, Aunt Eleanore!) and as we get there the cab is pulling up on the opposite side of the street, next to the park.
There’s a fair amount of traffic, and while they might not think anything of a cab stopping to block a lane of traffic for a few minutes, it was a new experience for me, and I was trying to hurry to minimize the delay. (I’m not from around there, as we’ll see demonstrated even more vividly in a short time.)
The Long-Suffering Wife had been sleeping while we were stuck in traffic, so I’m trying to get her awake and out of the cab.
Not enough going on all at once? Okay, since you’re bored and just picking lint out of your navel, how about you pay for the cab ride?
Before I went on this trip I had used a cab only rarely at best. (I live in LA – we drive everywhere or don’t go.) The NYC cabs made it easy to pay with a credit card, but every single cab was an adventure with different protocols and displays. Chip or swipe? It says chip – no, don’t do that, swipe! I have to swipe because there’s no chip slot right? No, it’s underneath there, you can’t see it in the dark? Am I supposed to press the screen? These buttons on the side? Which button? The screen’s really dim, it’s really dark, and I have I mentioned that in all of the hubbub I can’t find my glasses and I’m blind as a freakin’ bat up close these days?
Well, at least they make it easy to add the tip. I actually appreciated that. Somewhere in the process you get a screen that gives you the 10%, 15%, and 20% figures. You just pick one, or you can override. One less thing to think about.
We finally get done, get out of the cab, our friendly Mets fan driver heads off looking for his next fare, we manage to get across West 59th Street without being killed, we drag our sorry butts upstairs, and we’re ready to collapse. TLSW heads off to strip off her soggy clothes (did I mention that it was in the 90’s with 90%+ humidity all day, rain showers off and on) and I start to empty my pockets, empty out the backpack, recharge batteries for all of the cameras, and so on. I pull out the receipts I had from the various purchases all day and stick them into the envelope where I was keeping them – and on top I notice the receipt from the cab ride back from Citifield.
Tip amount = $0.00.
Wait, I didn’t do that did I? What kind of an asshole stiffs the driver on a cross-town cab ride in the middle of the night?
The kind that’s hurried, confused, exhausted, in unfamiliar territory, and blind as a bat, I guess.
But, there’s got to be a way to fix this, right?
This, this right HERE, this is where I might as well be wearing a neon sign that says, “You’re not from around here, are you?”
I know the cab company even if I don’t have the cab driver’s name or the cab number – but I’m sure they’ll have that information. Why not? I’ll give them a call at 0:15 AM to ask.
It’s bugging me, but it’s late. But tomorrow…
Tomorrow (pictures coming) between our other adventures, I make three more calls to different numbers and agencies, trying to figure out if anyone can help me identify the driver and put me in touch with him. I want to let him know that I screwed up, that I’m an idiot, not an asshole, and give him the tip he had earned.
On each call I patiently explained what had happened and how I wanted to get some help to fix it – on each call the guy was flabbergasted, at best. I was obviously the first person in the history of civilization to have this problem, to consider it a problem to begin with, and to decide to try and rectify the situation. (It’s good to know I’m Number One in something!)
I’ll bet good money that there are four dispatchers in New York City that to this day tell stories about this clueless yahoo from out of town who tried to track down the one cab driver who he had mistakenly stiffed for a tip. I’m sure the stories get better with each telling. I doubt they’re much wrong.
The final guy, at some City agency that oversees cabs, listened to the story, asked if I was kidding, asked me to clear up a couple of things in the timeline for him, asked again if I was kidding, and finally took pity on me. It was time for the stereotypical New York wisdom to be passed down from native to clueless yahoo.
“Buddy, shit happens! He’s a New York City cab driver, he knows that far better than you do. Let it go.” And he hung up on me.
As he should have.