22 September 2009

Big Brother is taking good care of me

by Cecily
Cab drivers in DC used to just drive around until they got somewhere and then turn to you, palm up, for money. An amount of money that as far as anyone could tell they had invented, or dreamt, or received from the gods. And the place wasn't always the place you had in mind, either.

Now, cab drivers in DC have meters and GPS. And my world is much better.

It is particularly difficult to correct-en-route a cab driver when you are deaf. Even if your voice is pretty understandable and the cab driver can hear you, he* probably won't internalize the fact that you can't hear him*. So when you try to say "turn here" or "take a right on Rhode Island" he* will probably respond to you with something you can't hear, and then later chastise you for it.

If you don't talk, and you just hand him* a piece of paper with the address/directions written on it, then you have no way of knowing what kind of mental processes are occurring as you drive. Particularly if you are a little bit or a lot drunk, this is true. Which is problematic because everyone [read: me] takes cabs a lot more often when they are a little bit or a lot drunk.

But, now, with the new fancy Fare Meter GPS rule, it is much better! You can sit in the back seat, drunkenly musing on whatever you would care to muse on, and keep an eye on the little screens in the front. One little screen will tell you where you are, and what the cab driver thinks he* is doing. There is a big bright line telling you where he* thinks he* is going! It is easy to object and correct when necessary.

Tonight, for example, I gave the nice cab driver man* a piece of paper with my address and several other ways to consider my address written on it. First, the actual mailing address. Second, the cross streets with letter and number streets. Third, the actual closest intersection to my house. In the past, this same information has yielded widely varying results, including cab drivers who thought I meant I (Eye) Street when I wrote 1st (First), and also multiple confusions between quadrants even though I was very careful to specify.

But tonight, Cab Driver Man* just typed what I wrote into his little GPS meter dealy, and I could tell right away that we were on the right track. The GPS even knew the appropriate shortcuts to take. Cab Driver Man* did not get stressed out, and I got home with zero problems and for an acceptable number of dollars.

Moral: I love GPS.

*I've not yet had a female cab driver in DC. I have no idea if this is a statistically useful sample.


  1. I never had a female driver in DC either.

    Had one in London recently, and remarked on it. She told me that part of the training in London involves riding around on a motorcycle for a couple of years until you know the city inside and out, without pay, and that few women have the ability to fit this into their lives.

    I can't imagine there is such training in DC.

  2. wow- I've never had a female cab driver either...