Our intrepid reporter has a Taxi Driver experience for the new millenium
About a week or so ago, Mr. wOw and an old dear friend decided to go see Miss Joan Collins in her cabaret debut at Feinstein’s at New York’s Regency hotel. What fun. (The Regency has always held a special place in my heart, as it was there I first clapped eyes on Miss Elizabeth Taylor, back in 1973, amid much rioting and mobbing and paparazzi madness.)
So I tell my friend Bill to meet me at the hotel. He lives on the Upper West Side. I come in from Hoboken, NJ. Arriving at the Port Authority, I am running a teensy, tiny bit late. So when I snatch a cab outside the PA, the fact that the guy drives like a complete lunatic isn’t as upsetting as it usually is. I’ll be on time.
We arrive at the Regency. I need only cross the street to meet my friend. The fare is about $8. I have a $20 bill and intend to give him a two dollar tip. I hand him the twenty.
“Theese is false money! Theese is counterfeit! No accept!” He is screaming. Like, loud.
Mr. wOw is calm-ish. “Uhhh … no. This is a real $20 bill. Honest. May I have ten back?”
“No, no, no!! Counterfeit! Phony! You know it. Why you give me false money. Give me real money!”
“This is real money. Are you kidding? Give me my change and let me get out.”
“You are liar! False money! I call cops!”
Mr. wOw is now both scared and furious.
“Fine, call a cop.”
“No cops! Give me real money. Use card!”
Well, as it happens, Mr. wOw did have a credit card on him, though he usually doesn’t. I was obliged to cut my cards and cancel my accounts years ago. I was very silly with cards. The one I carried is actually a joint card with B. that he keeps unless I really think I’ll need it. But … I was not giving in to the madness. My twenty was fine. The only other bill I had was a fifty.
“All I’ve got is a fifty. Want to change that?”
“No fifty, no twenty, phoney money! Why you try to give me phoney money?! Use card!”
Mr. wOw has now settled in. “I’m getting out if you won’t accept this bill.”
“No! I call cops!” And he gunned the car and sped up Park Ave.
Then he stopped short. “I call cops. I take you to jail.”
Mr. wOw has entered a zen mode. “Fine. Call a cop.”
We sat for several minutes. I tried to open the door and just step out but he put his foot on the gas again and drove further up Park.
“False money, false money!” he screamed again.
“Take me to a fucking cop.” I said, calmly.
Then he drove around and around for a while, running red lights. Every time I leaned out the window, hoping to scream, “Help! Get a cop!” he gunned the motor. Finally, incredibly, we arrived at a police station.
“This is police station,” he announced.
“Fine,” I said, “Go get a policeman.”
He hesitated, but then he got out and went inside. I opened the door and stood halfway in and out of the cab, holding my dubious money.
Shortly, Mr. Crazy returned accompanied by two young and nice-looking policemen.
I was dressed like an adult and held out my hand, “Officers, I am so sorry. But this … gentleman … thinks I’m trying to pass on counterfeit money and he would not accept it or let me out.”
Mr. Crazy is babbling. The cops look at the bill. “It’s fine. It’s real. What’s your problem?” The cabbie is now almost speaking in tongues.
“How much change are you owed?” asked one of the cops. I told him. “Give this man his change and go away” they said to the driver from hell.
Ah, but Mr. wOw was now very late. “No!” I said, with some petulance, to be sure. “I want him to drive me back to where he left me off. I’m late.” I probably stamped my foot a bit, and tossed my grey hairs.
One of the cops (the really cute one) took me aside. “Come on sir, do you really want to get back in the cab with this guy? He’s nuts. You can grab another cab right here. Just let it go.”
Hmmmm … I didn’t say, because I don’t care to argue with the police (even if they are hot) that shouldn’t they be questioning this nut or taking his name and license … or something?! And don’t call me ‘Sir!’”
I let it go. And I’d been so rattled I hadn’t thought to look at his name and number. I feared for the life of his next victim.
Finally, I arrived back at the Regency. Lucky me, Miss Joan Collins was running a bit late. So there was still plenty of time to tell friend Bill my tale of taxi terror — to eat, drink and observe the particular types who attend a Joan Collins performance.
Let’s put it this way — Mr. wOw felt very young and very butch. And happy to be alive.