Two different people, two different situations, same reason that they were in the Taxi Friday night: Its the first of the month.
Woman one gets into the taxi and tells me that she is going "off of Perry Street." I picked her up in front of the movie theater atThe Waterfront. The Waterfront used to be a Steel Mill, but is now an "open air shopping experience." Friday night at 9 o'clock, is a good time to sit in front of a the movies, tempting college kids to not take the bus (free) back, but instead pay me ($15, the place is far) to drive them home. This is how the woman got in.
"off of perry street" could mean a million things and I beat around the bush for a few minutes while we started driving off.
"on the north side?"
"yeah off of federal, up perry"
"oh ok, are we going to cross the bridge?"
"yeah the Charles bridge, then we will go left...."
"yeah to the highrise."
Northview heights is arguably the worst housing project in Pittsburgh. It made the news recently when the "Northview Crips" shot a 13 year old girl. The Kraynick's team used to do rides that went past the entrance, and Greg would say "dont flat here," as we picked up the pace to get away from it. Yes there is an "entrance," one way in, one way out. The entire poject is on top of a mountain, surrounded by chain link fences and has a gate with a policeman manning the booth to get in. If you are from Pittsburgh and wondering where this gem is, look right while driving up 279 at the Hazlette st exit. There is a cliff that is strewn with garbage and debris with houses on top. There you go.
Before realizing that it is indeed the first of the month, I let instinct take over.
"can you pay me up front? like 30 bucks? I've had bad luck up there"
That was a lie. I have only ever been there on vouchers from the hospitals, which are always covered. I just want to get burned on a 25+ dollar fare. Following my brother's advice "If people act offended, they don't have money."
"the last taxi didnt ask me for that"
"ok, but I am and this is my taxi and that is how I am going to do it. I am sorry if it is insulting, but cab drivers dont pick people up in my neighborhood either"
(true until recently.... it is done by zones and my neighborhood is in a zone that has some awful people)
"it was less than 30 to come here"
"how much was it"
"ok exactly, give me 30 and Ill give you the change based on what the meter says"
"you should only charge me what the meter says"
"that is what I will charge you, but I need to hold some money to make sure that I will get that amount, and I will give you the difference when we get there."
"how are you going to charge me more than the meter"
... ok she must not know difference, she hopefully knows subtract?
"we will subtract what you owe me from what you give me and I will give you change. You only have to pay me what is on the meter"
"That isnt right though... 30 dollars ..."
At this point we are on the Highlevel bridge about a mile from where I picked her up. I feel kind of guilty because I think that on the other side, where it is dark and there is nothing around, and Im going to kick this woman out of my cab.
She hands me two 20 dollar bills, and just says "30 dollars is too much, this just aint right..."
I spent the next 5 minutes of the drive trying to explain to this woman how it worked and that she is not getting ripped off. I then realized that she has no clue, cant do math, and might actually be mentally deficient. Its quiet for the remainder of the ride.
The cops at the gate wave me in without even showing them my drivers license! We had to drive across the entire compound to get to her high rise. Driving through was one of the most surreal miles of my life. A night in February, 32 degrees with a light sleet/snow and there were at least a hundred people standing about in the streets. They stared at me as if it were the only entertainment they had had in hours. So weird.
From what I gathered, this woman spent 50 dollars in cab rides to see a 10 dollar movie. Im thinking that she probably ate along the way too. It looks as if she spent anywhere from 20 - 40 percent of her monthly check in a night out. No wonder she still thought that she got a bad deal when I gave her the change.
I see some charity math tutoring for Dr. Stubna.
Woman 2 with child get into the taxi. I grabbed them at the grocery store and they had a few bags. I could be ticketed and fined for driving a child not in a car seat that weighs under 80 pounds. This girl was on the cusp, but whatever. We start rolling. They are headed to a different set of projects on another side of town. Its a shorter fare and the woman offered to pay up front. If somebody offers to pay up front, I usually dont take it... they have the money.
I was a bit zoned out, but after a few minutes I realized that they were playing "eye spy." The mom couldnt have been much older than me. The mom asked "excuse me sir... excuse me, but what color is your shirt?" It was too dark in the taxi for them to tell, and apparently they were debating it. Each taxi has a lamp that I can reach. It is freaking bright, maybe 200 watts. I always warn people "bright light" before I turn it on, because it can startle people.
The rest of the ride was spent with the girl guessing colors in the dark and me flipping on the switch to verify if she was right or not.
When we got there, the Mom paid me and thanked me for riding her. It was nice and kind of sad at the same time.