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April 27, 2007

Imus in the Evening

I have a regular taxi customer who weighs in at about 6’2”, 200 lbs. For his size, he’s not svelte; he's not flabby. Beefy is the word. I’m not quite sure of the relevance of his appearance to this story, but nonetheless.

A couple nights ago, he calls for a trip to the downtown bars. I arrive at his condo, and it’s the guy and five of his friends. My customer is the smallest of the five. This is not an exaggeration; they look like teammates on a rugby squad.

I say, “Let’s put the biggest dude in the front, the other four squeeze into the back,” and they follow this suggestion.

As soon as we’re underway, the inevitable razzing begins – kind of like free-for-all ragging. This is fine. I’m a guy; I understand how men show camaraderie and affection: by pointing out each other’s faults, inadequacies, poor hygiene, sexual failures – all that good stuff and more. Except, with this group, it quickly devolves to “nigger” this and “fag” that.

I hate it. This type of casual racism and homophobia hits me viscerally, like a want to strike out, puke, cry, scream.

So, we motor along towards downtown. I’m driving way faster than is usual for me, because I want this fare to end and I’m suppressing a knot in my stomach. But, I’m saying nothing.

Here’s where I draw the line: if customers in my cab are spewing hate, I stay out of it unless they try to involve me in it. In that case, I tell them my views: that gay people or black people or whomever are our brothers and sisters and I take it personally when they are smeared and attacked in this way. So, leave me out of the discussion.

I’m thinking that I need to draw a new line, one closer to the bone. It’s feeling like remaining mum is endorsing or, at least, acquiescing to the hate. And, given the state of the world in 2007, perhaps it’s too late in the game to let it ride.

What do you think? What do you do?

April 27, 2007 at 07:26 AM in A Cabdriver's World | Permalink


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Tough call, Hackster.

I always feel a very strong desire to please my customer. happy customer = money. money = food. food = survival. therefore, customer = survival.

But unless I was starving, I'd pull the cab over, tell the jack-holes to get out -- that such behavior is not tollerated in this vehicle.

Don't lecture them. Their sculls are too thick to comprehend.

Posted by: Blogger | Apr 27, 2007 5:55:35 PM

Hey Jernigan! I'm so happy you have a blog. What fun! I'm also glad you wrote about this unfortunate experience with so much honesty. I've been in that kind of situation before. Sometimes, when I feel like I need to say something or defend my views, my heart beats so quickly, it clogs my vocal chords.

Even when you do find the courage to say something, half the time it seems like it doesn't make a difference. But I think it does. I think deep down most people inherently want to feel like they're doing the right thing. I also like to think that a lot of people act like fools out of ignorance. If your Imus and his friends were acting out simply because they didn't know any better, then maybe you saying something (nicely) could've helped.

And, if you really think about it: they DID involve you in their hate rant, because they brought it into your cab.

Posted by: Penelope | Apr 27, 2007 6:02:58 PM

Thanks, Blogger and Penelope for your thoughtful comments. I think when this comes up again (and I'm sure this is not the last time I will be confronted with bigotry in the taxi) my inclination would be to speak directly to the folks rather than just boot them out of the cab, although I have a lot of sympathy for Blogger's gut reaction. In a way, it's more challenging to engage via dialogue because I'm then forced to really think about where I'm coming from.

I was quite struck by Penelope's observation: " . . .if you really think about it: they DID involve you in their hate rant, because they brought it into your cab." Ain't that the truth?

cheers, jernigan

Posted by: Jernigan Pontiac | May 1, 2007 1:34:05 PM

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