It had been a long night. Not especially good or bad, just long. For the last couple of hours the fares had been few. It was 4:30 AM with my shift over at 5:00. I had just enough time for one more fare, but had my doubts over whether I'd get one.
I cruised up Dartmouth St. past the Back Bay T Station. A man in disheveled but expensive clothes flagged me. I pulled over.
"I'll give you fourteen for a ride to Newton," he said through my window. Fourteen was remarkably cheap.
"It's only a couple of blocks off exit 17; it'll only take you ten minutes," he added when seeing my grimace.
I took a moment to think. We were just a block from the pike entrance and I probably could do the job in ten minutes. After a toll and gas for the run, I'd be left with ten bucks. It was that or likely pass another half hour for nothing. It was marginal at best, but what the hell.
"Alright," I told him, and we were off.
It wasn't long before he issued an arrogant string of petty demands, complaints and insults. He was exactly the sort of self-important turd I would never knowingly have in my cab. I tuned him out to make the best of it.
Off at exit 17 and several blocks later I turned back to look at him.
"It's just a couple of more blocks," he said.
Several blocks later, I slowed the car and looked at him again.
"Two more blocks," he said with irratation.
I debated wheather to throw him out where we were or continue yet another 'couple' of blocks. For the sake of efficiency, I opted for the latter.
Suddenly he shouted, "Stop!", slapped a bill in my palm, and had his door open simultaneously. I'd seen the bill was a five, and before his foot was fully out the door, mine was on the gas.
The forward thrust of the car threw him deeply into the back seat and slammed his door shut.
"What the fuck!" he yelled.
I threw the five back in his face, slammed shut and locked the open partition, and told him, "The fourteen we agreed on was a bargain- asshole."
He continued screaming for me to stop. I pointed toward the small opening next to the sliding partition, "Put fourteen through the slot and I stop."
He began a tirade of variations on the theme of 'Do you know who I am?' I pointed again to the slot.
He then began screaming that his cousin was a Lt. Detective, did I really know how fucked I was, and finally that he would call the police.
"Good," I hollered at him, "You can save me the trouble!"
I had planned on taking the local roads back -alone- to avoid the toll. At this point my concern was that the bastard in my back seat didn't get anywhere for free, and was otherwise out of my cab as soon as possible.
We barelled down the pike and were back in front of the T station in no time.
"This is where you got in, and this is where you get out."
"I'm not leaving!" he yelled.
"Get out here, or the next stop is the police."
"Make it the police!" he shouted.
I could hardly believe it.
"Fine!" I said, and headed for the station.
We exited the cab, each with a wary eye on the other, and entered the station.
Once every few years, there's a situation that, regretably, is best resolved this way. I've learned to always allow the passenger to make his case first. Usually by the time they've finished, I don't have to say a word.
Remarkably, the officer on duty at the front desk, was one I had met before.
Two months earlier in front of the Garden/North Station, she'd motioned for me to pull up behind her prisoner transport wagon. It was in the wee hours in the aftermath of a hockey game and bar closing.
"You want a fare?" She'd asked me, nodding toward the wagon's locked doors.
In the collegiate jock bars of the area the guys outnumber girls by as much as 4:1. In order to impress the few girls available, the guys often resort to throwing fists at each other.
"They're really not bad," she'd said upon seeing my surprised expression. The officer had full round cheeks and as sweet a smile as any. If it weren't for the uniform, she'd have been central casting's go to for the young school marm. "We just had to get them off the street long enough," she continued, "before something bad did happen."
I'd understood. "Sure," I'd told her, then she'd released one fellow from the wagon.
The beer muscled lion had become a lamb, infusing enough pleases, thank-yous, sirs and maams in a breathe to set a record. When he'd stepped into the cab, she'd looked at him saying, "You DO have the fare don't you?" I recalled thinking at the time, 'This is my kind of cop.' And she'd been right, that fare wasn't bad at all.
Needless to say, in the current situation with my fare from Newton, I was glad to see her again.
I let my Newton fare make his case and everything seemed to form, except in a twist, he concluded by saying he wished to charge me with kidnap. The officer looked surprised, turned to me and asked, "And as I understand it, you'll be charging this man with fare evasion?"
With all the false enthusiasm I could muster, I replied, "Absolutely!"
She grabbed a clipboard and forms. Her demeaner and tone transformed completely from an understanding lady trying to apprehend the facts, to one hard assed bureaucrat who wasn't there to fuck around.
"I'll need your name, address and social security number," she sternly told my fare, meeting his eyes with a cold steely stare.
He staggered back and began stammering, before saying he changed his mind.
"Then am I to understand you intend to pay this driver $14 in order to avoid the charges against you?"
He fished through his pockets and retrieved a handful of ones and fives. He looked surprised, and kept fishing.
"Sir, you HAVE the fourteen?" she asked.
He stopped his search, counted out the fourteen, and handed it to me.
She gave us a nod as if to say 'Dismissed."
As we made our way to the exit, she called out to my passenger, "You are NOT to get back in to this man's cab; you ARE to go your seperate ways at that door."
To my surprise he responded. "What am I going to do?"
"I would suggest you find a doorway and take a nap until the trains run," she said.
After leaving the station, I went around to the driver's side of my cab. The former fare hesitated for a moment near the passenger side rear door, then, with a sudden jerk, pulled himself away.
I got in and drove away, thinking how impressive the officer had been. Were a florist open, I'd have bought flowers for her office, as it was, at this hour, Dunkin Donuts would have to do.
I asked for an assorted dozen of their best pastries. They placed them in a box and taped it shut.
I returned to the station.
"I just had to say thank-you," I said as I held up the box.
I could see it took her a moment to recognize me as the cabbie who had been there just moments before. It occured to me there was no way she recognized me as the cabbie who she saw at the North Station two months earlier -- maybe I don't cut quite as dashing a figure as I like to think. She offered a dutiful thank-you and I left. Oh well, I wouldn't have felt right if I'd done nothing.
I knew I was running late as I gassed up the cab. From the lights by the pumps, I noticed something in the back seat. I opened the door and saw two twenty dollar bills: almost exactly what it would have cost to have gone from the Back Bay T to Newton and back with the meter on. I recalled the fare's loook of surprise when he fished through his pockets at the police station, and his hesitation afterward as he paused near the rear door of my cab. He knew. I figured from the fourteen he'd paid at the station, less tolls, gas, and pastries, I had another five: my tip.
I left the cab at the garage to discover my day man wasn't in yet- late and no harm. I began my walk home and thought to myself: the night hadn't been long at all; the night had been poetic justice.