When I say to other cab drivers that I've worked nights for twenty years and never been robbed, they either don't believe me or tell me I'm lucky. But, I'm telling the truth. I haven't been held up and I owe it all to Officer Paul Weiner.
Weiner trained us and during orientation told us that we had to pick up anybody and everybody who wanted a cab.
"But isn't that dangerous?" I asked, "I mean, you can tell that some people are trouble just by the way they move, they way they look, their gestures, they way they look at you. "
"You can't tell nuthin!" Weiner yelled, getting in my face like a Marine Corps drill sergeant.
"But sometimes you can see it com -"
"You can't see nuthin,” he bellowed. "You don't pick ‘em up, it's refusal to convey! That’s the law!"
The reason I owe my perfect record to Officer Weiner is that he started me thinking seriously about how dangerous the job could be and I decided to ignore his rule.
I can see the point of the law. It's a product of the sixties. It's aimed at racial profiling. And, of course, you can't convict somebody of a crime because of the way they move or look. But only a fool would ignore the warning signs of aggressive body language or a sadistic stare. There is a difference between punishing somebody and protecting yourself. Are such distinctions are too subtle for the law?
Personally, I've never turned anybody down because of race. In fact, innumerable large, minority men have told I that I was only cab driver who would pick them up. Contrary to stereotype, I've usually been tipped very, very well by these people.
The reason I raised my questions to the Weiner in the first place was that I'd been mugged by two white junkies a couple of years earlier.
The thing is that I saw them: I saw that they were scumbags: I knew they were dangerous: I could even see them targeting me.
But I ignored the signs. Why? Because it was a lovely Sunday afternoon on Hyde & Vallejo streets on Russian Hill in San Francisco with strolling couples and cable cars passing by while I was walking home from a Laundromat.
Hyde & Vallejo might be the safest corner in the world. It never entered my head that I could be mugged at such a time in such a place. If it had, my rip-off artists would never have gotten close enough to point a butcher knife at my guts.
One of them walked by me then turned around holding the knife concealed by his jacket. They other blocked me from behind. They got $6.00. It was well worth the price for the lessons they gave me. It’s paid me back a dozen times over since I started driving cab.
I’ve passed by thugs that I know have robbed other drivers. When I was working for City Cab a dispatcher gave me an order at a corner on Cortland to pick up three guys at 2 am. I took one look at them, drove by and called the dispatcher, telling him not to call the order again. He called it anyway. The dirtballs robbed the next cab driver that came along. The dispatcher later claimed that I'd never talked to him. But, of course, the company could have been put in a delicate situation. They might either be busted by Wiener for refusing to call an order or sued by the driver for putting him in harm's way.
Whatever – the moral of my tale is: always be aware of your surroundings and trust your perceptions. Your intuition is smarter than the law and swifter than your brain.