The DC taxi system is a complete clusterfuck.
As I was waiting an inordinate amount of time today at the bus stop for the actual bus, I watched as some people were trying to hail a cab because the bus was taking too long. Two people, standing close to each other, were attempting to hail a cab. Despite the fact that it was on a major street, we're just not in prime taxi land. If I try and hail a cab by my work I can get 5 vying for my attention. A cab finally stopped and the dude hopped in first, and then the cabbie started to talk with the woman left behind. I knew at this point he was asking where she was heading and trying to convince her to get in the cab as well. I could see the apprehension on her face, but ultimately she hopped into the cab.
In no other city would this be normal. In the instance this morning I guess it wasn't that bad, but in general, especially if you're in a hurry, you don't want your cabbie stopping every few moments asking a person on the side where they're going. Especially if they might be dropped off before you, forcing the cab ride to be longer. I mean really. Who does that?
The first time this happened I was completely taken off guard and alarmed. Sitting in the back I was all, "what the fuck is he doing?" The person told him an address and hopped in. I don't know what it is, but there is something about this stranger hopping into the backseat with you that just makes it awkward. You get used to it, but it's stupid that you have to.
One of my friends, Francophile, was visiting Stretch and I in DC from NYC, back when we used to be roomies and before Stretch left town for higher pursuits, and we were on our second evening of drinking and partying. The previous evening of drinking strong, strong homemade appletinis previous to going out had resulted in our own hat-trick of the evening. After a fortifying brunch of burgers and straight-up coke we were fully recovered and enjoying our second evening out until we even closed the bars. We went to the awesome late-night pizza slize place a few shops over because F decided she was hungry after our night of drinking and dancing. Clearly. The munchies. So decided the largest slice of pizza in history for $3 was the best plan. We each bought a slice and hailed a cab, all piling into the back like sardines with our pizza, trying to be all discrete in eating them. Don't want to piss the cabbie off by actually eating! in his cab.
We were barely heading towards our destination when the cabbie pulled over because he saw a guy along the side of the road, and F started protesting loudly. F was all, "Excuse me. Excuse me! What are you doing???!!!!" Stretch and I explained that this is just something they do here, and she was indignant, "They would NEVER do this in New York! I can't believe he's pulling over for someone else! This would just, never, do this in New York!!" As Stretch and I tried to shush her so as not to piss the cabbie off, because that is a big no-no, the dude hopped into the cab. Clearly, we were drunk, and F, if not all of us was a little belligerent.
Of course he turned around and smiled at us, probably happy to be in a cab with at least two hotties. So he introduces himself while F to my right rolls her eyes and snorts and Stretch to my left is all, "Yeah, hi! How's it going?" because Stretch couldn't be mean to a nice stranger if she tried. Well, actually, she does have quite the kick, but not usually when she's schmammered. Stretch is chatty and starts asking him questions about his job, and he works in the government and then she asks his name to which he replies Song. And this is where I don't change names, because I couldn't even come up with better examples. So Stretch does this funny little squeal thing next to me and is all, "Oh, I know someone named Singh [pronounced sing]" Which of course he thinks stretch is mocking him, and in a defeatist, annoyed way is all, "Ha. Ha. Sing. Song. Funny. Real. Funny." So I have to jump to Stretch's defense, and I'm all, "No. No. Seriously. He's her boss. She talks about him all the time. She's not making fun of you. She's not even that witty to be making fun of you like that!" He seems somewhat appeased.
At this point F has decided that she's done with the pizza and doesn't want to see it anymore and belligerently, because there is no other real way to describe it, trying to get rid of it. Both Stretch and I are trying to take it away from her, but she's decided that Song should be taking it. She's shoving it at him, "take it. Take it. Take it!" And the dear, sweet Song takes it from her. He's like, "what am I supposed to do with this?" F thinks she's being generous and is all, "You can finish it! I don't want it anymore." We finally arrive at our house and we're trying to figure out how much we owe the cabbie and Song keeps on insisting that he'll pay for us and Stretch and I feel bad and are trying to pay and F is forcefully whispering, "Just get out of the cab! Let him pay!" So we all pile out thanking Song profusely and trying to take the slice back, at which point he has two because in-between Stretch had decided she was done with hers too, and didn't want to see it, and he's just like, "No. It's fine, I'll get rid of it." So we all pile up the stairs with F pointing out that if a guy wants to pay we should just let him pay. We saw the light to her theory.
I realize at this point that this interchange might seem a little bitchy, but it was fucking hilarious. I totally remembered this incident watching the cabbie this morning and chuckled to myself.
Now this pal system of pickups might not make it seem like that much of a clusterfuck. The biggest reason for the clusterfuck is that cabbies can and I've found often will fuck you over for your fares. DC has a 'Zone' system of charging rather than a meter in the front. You can go 5 miles but if you pass 3 particular streets that might be zones you're going to end up paying at least $9. It's such a rip-off. Cabbies usually cross these streets or take a longer way to the destination so that they can charge you extra. Now, those who support this system say you can argue with the cabbie. Which is true, and sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn't. But what about tourists? They don't know any better. And why should we have to live with a system that makes you have to fight the cabbie about prices? And the fact that the cheapest fare is $5.50. Even if you drove a 2 blocks? Give me a meter fare system any day. Whenever I visit a city, even New York which is traditionally more expensive, how much cheaper it is to take a cab with a meter.
I hate the fucking cab system here.