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Faux Cabbie?

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This past weekend was crazy busy, more of which I'll get into in the Hackie column of 6/27. Suffice it to say, as Saturday wound down I was frayed, played and waylaid. It had been a lucrative couple of days, but I was more than ready to pack it in. One more spin through downtown was all I had left in me.

The seats were already up on the tables when a stray young man wandered out of Mr. Mike's Pizza and hailed me. He had baggy shorts, curly hair sticking out every which way and a T-shirt which read, "Where am I going, and why am I in this handbasket?" This kid has a sense of humor, I thought to myself as he plopped into the front seat talking on his cell phone.

"Wait, wait," he said with the slurry speech of someone who'd made the bar rounds that night, "lemme put you on with the cabbie." He then passed me the phone.

His friend gave me an address, and I said, "Yup, I know Dewey Drive - right up before Northgate."

"That'll be $9.50," I said to my customer, "and could you pay me in advance?" The guy was looking and acting a little sketchy, so my intuition told me to get the dough up front.

"I'm not paying before I get there," he replied, indignant at the very suggestion. "Hey - where's your meter? I don't think you're even a real cabbie!"

"Well, in this town taxi meters are not required unless you're working out of the airport. Besides, did you notice the taxi light and the writing on the side of the vehicle?"

It took all my effort to spit that out. I could tell this was a discussion that wasn't nearly over.

Utterly ignoring the inescapable logic of what I had just told him, he said, "That's it!" He broke into a broad, self-satisfied smile, like he had just cracked a police case. "You're a phony cab. You're in deep shit, man. Deep shit."

I threw the taxi into drive, and shot up to the next corner directly behind a police cruiser. "Get out of the fuckin' cab," I said calmly.

"I'm not getting out until I get your license number."

"47Q359Z," I said.

"Wait, let me get out my phone . . .  OK, gimme that again."

"496V487W," I said, as randomly as the first time. The guy dutifully punched the numbers and letters into his cell.

Opening his door to get out, he said, with the passion of the truly wronged, "I'm gonna report you, man! Don't think I won't."

That's the sign, I said out loud to myself as I pulled back into traffic. Time to call it a weekend.

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