Yes, you read that correctly. The taxi cab industry in Toronto is getting an overhaul. They’ve proposed many a change, which you can check out a summary here in this article, or take a look at ALL the proposed changes in detail here, most which will more directly impact the cab drivers themselves. However, some of those changes will impact the customers, and while some of the changes will be for the better (like mandatory accessibility for disabled persons) others…not so much. I can see some issues arising with their $25 fee for anyone who “soils” the cab primarily because…seriously?…if you’re drunk enough to puke in the cab to begin with, what’s the honest-to-God likelihood you’ll remember doing so in 10 minutes? And if you don’t believe you were the soiler, either from pure blackout drunkenness, or because you literally think you did not make whatever mess the cabbie is complaining about (because the actual law isn’t limited to puke: it does actually say soil), then what happens, an automatic trip to the cop shop to sort things out at 3am? However, issues aside, I can completely understand the validity behind imposing it, and a simple solution to any disputes (I mean, it’s pretty cut and dry and the end of the day, especially if you have an in-cab video camera…either you did it, or you didn’t. And bro? You puke in my car, your bill ends up being FAR greater than that, and is accompanied by me showing up at your door in the morning, handing you a scrub brush and some cleaning shit, and giving you the silent treatment til that god awful smell is fully gone).
But, the one thing I take MAJOR issue with, is the new law which will allow a cabbie to bill you upfront $25 based on whether or not in his opinion you will run out on your fare or not. And, of course, that judgment will be completely arbitrary. Basically, said cabbie gets to eyeball you, and decide on whatever merits he wants whether you’re likely to pay, and then refuse you service unless you pay up upfront. And remember, he/she will not have to justify themselves to anyone, not you, not the police, not their boss – it’ll be left completely up to their discretion, and they could lie their asses off later if ever questioned on what their real issue was. Because, even if their issue was “he was under the age of 25 and black, and we ALL know all young black guys are criminals” they know that isn’t exactly the socially acceptable answer. Now, I may be being slightly unfair. I’m sure not EVERY payment upfront demand will be racist. Some will be sexist, classist, homophobic, etc. Just like a cab is more likely to pass the scruffy (yet honest) looking white man over the one in a suit in tie, it is more likely to pass on the black man in jeans in favor of the white man in basically the same outfit. Now, I’m sure there are many cabbie’s who aren’t any of the “ists” who will actually use the law for what it was meant to be used for. In fact, I’ve met a few fantastic cabbie’s along the way, one of which was named Sunny, who was fantastic to the world at large, old and young, black and white and red and purple, rich and poor, healthy and sick…he made friends with everyone across the GTA, and treated you like he was a friend lending you a ride, even remembering details of your life to ask you the next time you bumped into him.
However, for all of the Sunny’s in the cabbing industry, I’ve always met some really racist pricks. I’ll give you a good story. When I was 15 years old, I did a stint living with my grandmother. Sometimes, when I would go places (during the day, mind you) she would pay for me to take a cab home. However, more often than not she would give me the money when I got back home (not that I blamed her: I was 15, and very liable at the time to buy myself god knows what with this sudden influx of spending money, and then still be screwed for that ride to get home on time for whatever it was…what can I say, I was going through a phase and a tough time, at the same time…we all have our moments lol). So, anyway, she lived in an apartment building, and her balcony faced the front of the building. She would keep a lookout for my approaching cab, and when she saw me get out, she would drop the money in a weighted bag down to me (this was before the cell phone era). This system worked for years, since long before I lived with her. I’m talking 30+ rides, where I would explain the situation to the cabbie as I got in, would get out when we pulled up, the money would come floating down, and voila! He was paid, and we all walked away happy. In fact, a few times I actually went upstairs to get the money. Anyway, this one time, as usual, I explain the situation to the cabbie, he accepted, we pull up to the building…in broad daylight, mind you…and I say “Ok, there’s my grandmother, you can see her little head and body over the railing…I’m leaving my bag and wallet with my ID here, I’m just gonna grab the money and I’ll be right back!”.
And his response, “Ohhh HELLLLL no, you don’t think I know your kind???”, as he auto locks the doors and pulls off, practically flying over the speed bumps. Ummmmmmmm…what. the. hell. At this point he’s screaming about me, about n-word this, and black punk that, and how no punk n-word on welfare’s kid is gonna get his taxes AND his wages. So, after rolling down the window and lighting a cigarette, cause hey, I’m thinking maybe he’s taking me off to execute me for the crimes I haven’t committed and had no intentions of committing, but hey, might as well take one for the team, I ask him where we’re going. “I’m getting your ghetto ass imprisoned!!” he rages at me. I laugh, asking why the meter is still running. Rationally, he tells me this is all going on the amount I’ll pay in damages. Wooooowwwww….So, he calls the police station when we’re a few minutes away, so that a cop can meet us at the door. Which he does. He asks what the problem is. Psycho cabbie goes yammering on about tax dollars and ghetto welfare kids, and how he finally caught one of the rotten apples for the team. I explain the actual situation. So the cop asks the cabbie “did you call her grandmother?” “oh no, she would just call a friend. The woman she pretended was for her was white!”. The cop looks at me, looks at him, looks back at me, and asks “is your name by any chance Classic Ruby?”, and I was like “well yes, how did you know?”. And he explained that my grandmother was terrified when the cab just flew away with me like that, so she called the cops and reported a kidnapping!
You should have seen racist cabbie’s face. And then, shamefaced and sullen, he had to get his little righteous ass back into his cab, drive me back to my grandmother’s apartment, meter running the whole while. I believe the trip would have been $15 max, and only if I had given a very good tip. By then it was at about $75. We pull up and he stops the meter, turns and holds out his hand. My eyes goggle. My jaw hits the floor. And my laugh is hearty and deep and unmerciless. He turns back around. I get out of the cab. And I’m pretty sure that day he lost his job. And lucky for him, and for that company, we didn’t sue.
But the point is, what if we gave creepoids like him carte blanche to be racist? Or sexist, or homophobic? Do we really want to give them that elective power, to discriminate based on some preconceived notions they have about which people in this world are decent, bill paying citizens, and which aren’t? It would be a different matter if it was a blanket law, and now everyone had to pay some form of deposit before getting into a cab. Or like with this puke clean up idea, where at the end of the day FIRST you do the CRIME, then you pay that bill. But that just isn’t what is being proposed. And with my personal experiences, and with the stories I’ve heard from others, the idea of getting screwed over just because you did the responsible thing and took a cab home from the bar tonight but look at little too metrosexual for this cabbie’s taste, just isn’t justice. Or you speak in some slang and are in casual clothes, so when you have to run into the house and grab some money because you spent a little overbudget tonight but forgot your bank card at hime, you get to end up at the police station for the night, with criminal charges- either from a cabbie who has deemed you a criminal, or from the cops when, after trying countless cabs and all have turned you down for not having $25 up front, you decide to sleep in your car til someone wakes up and can come pick you up, and the cops slap you with a DUI cause they find you sleeping drunk in your car?
I don’t know, man. I agree that the fare jumping isn’t cool. But, what if restaurants were allowed to charge patrons they deemed too cheap, poor, or irresponsible ahead of time? You and your date arrive at a nice place, all dolled up, and because you have the wrong skin colour, accent, clothing brands, etc., you’re both about to be shamed publicly? Does that seem like a progressive society to you?
Like I said, fare jumping isn’t cool. Neither is the dine and dash. But this isn’t the way to resolve it, because it’s never a resolution if it sets progress, and equal treatment for all, back 20 years. Just saying.
Anyway, some food for thought!