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"Truth is the highest thing that man may keep." - Chaucer
January 13, 2010 7:41 AM   Subscribe

"I'm needy, but I'm not greedy. It's better to be honest." A New York City cabbie returns over $21,000 left in his taxi. A similar case occurred three years ago when a Manhattan cabbie returned half a million dollars worth of diamond rings. Honest taxi drivers can be found on the West Coast, as well.
posted by Tenacious.Me.Tokyo (43 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite

 
It's interesting to see the disparity. To quote from the article, having the money back "saved her family's vacation." Meanwhile, for the cabbie, the money "would have allowed him more time to study." I'm not sure what that means - maybe he could afford to go back to school? On one side, vacation money. On the other side, major positive life change. As uplifting as this story is, that's a bit depressing to contemplate.
posted by naju at 8:00 AM on January 13, 2010 [4 favorites]


Good point, naju, but something tells me a few people who also see that disparity may be moved to slip the guy some money. I have a feeling things will go well for him ultimately.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:02 AM on January 13, 2010


On one side, vacation money. On the other side, major positive life change.

That a slippery slope you're starting down, trying to compare how Alice or Bob might spend Alice's money.
posted by cribcage at 8:07 AM on January 13, 2010 [6 favorites]


That a slippery slope you're starting down, trying to compare how Alice or Bob might spend Alice's money.

Or how Maubert Isabeau or Jean Valjean might use Maubert Isabeau's bread.
posted by mpbx at 8:14 AM on January 13, 2010 [2 favorites]


I remember reading an article during the (Mayor) Giuliani era about an experiment a local magazine tried with cab drivers throughout NYC. I can't for the life of me find the darn thing online. The magazine dressed someone as a tourist and had them get into cabs and ask to be taken to an address that was between 2 and 5 blocks away.

At the time, the Mayor was spending what seemed like a great deal of time talking about the changes he wanted to enact to improve New Yorkers' quality of life. Included in his agenda was a set of new rules, fines and regulations of the Taxi and Limousine Commission (TLC), which he portrayed in interviews as corrupt and problematic. (The taxi accident rate had risen pretty drastically before he took office.) NYC cabbies have always had a bit of a negative reputation. The accidents weren't helping. So Giuliani made quite a few changes during his administration, to emphatic public approval.

The experiment took place at a time when his campaign to crack down on the TLC was in full swing, and cabbies were being portrayed to the public as dangerous and unscrupulous. Its results were fascinating. The expectation was that given the opportunity, the average cab driver would take their clueless passenger all over New York City (and clocking up a hefty fare,) before dropping them at their destination. With perhaps only one exception, every driver they tried it on was honest to a fault. Several told their passenger that the address was within walking distance and confirmed before setting the meter that they wanted to be driven. At least one even pointed out to the passenger that they would probably get there more quickly on foot than in traffic. And, one driver actually got out of his car so he could point out directions.

There was a lot of negative press about cabbies at the time, but that little experiment is the one that stands out in my mind. When faced with a choice where they could be honorable and kind to a stranger or not, with little to no consequences, they chose the better path. And they continued to do so.
posted by zarq at 8:20 AM on January 13, 2010 [25 favorites]


That a slippery slope you're starting down, trying to compare how Alice or Bob might spend Alice's money.

Taxes already exist, unless you consider that a slippery slope already?
posted by DU at 8:26 AM on January 13, 2010


One of my favourite "taxi drivers as white knights" story happened in Toronto some years back. A driver tried to pull a hit and run. Three taxi drivers deliberately hedged him in place with their cabs so he couldn't get away.
posted by orange swan at 8:31 AM on January 13, 2010 [5 favorites]


Paying into the commons is different from appropriating someone's stash, which presumably has already been taxed appropriately.
posted by Mister_A at 8:41 AM on January 13, 2010


Taxes already exist, unless you consider that a slippery slope already?

Taxes are an enforced solution to the free-rider problem and the tragedy of the commons. They're not allowing Bob to spend Alice's money, they're forcing Alice to pay for her share of the society which she and Bob are both a part of. Maybe she doesn't agree fully on how the money is spent, but she is part of that society, can vote on referenda and participate in the political system, and ultimately leave society if she doesn't want to be a part of that.
posted by explosion at 8:44 AM on January 13, 2010 [3 favorites]


Honest taxi drivers can be found on the West Coast, as well.

Those of us in flyover country on the other hand can't wait to snatch the bread money from your mouth, the candy from your kid's hands, perform a little thuggery and for preference leave you cold, naked, broke and in despair in the middle of the barren wastelands we inhabit.

[/hamburger]
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posted by edgeways at 8:48 AM on January 13, 2010 [2 favorites]


Since when are there taxis in flyover country?
posted by minimii at 9:04 AM on January 13, 2010 [3 favorites]


and ultimately leave society if she doesn't want to be a part of that.

Uh, no. Even if you move out of the United States, your income is fully taxable forever. The United States will not allow you to renounce your citizenship if they get even a whiff that you're doing it because of taxes.
posted by Malor at 9:05 AM on January 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


Why does being a devout Muslim mean you cannot be recognized by others for your good deeds?
posted by minimii at 9:09 AM on January 13, 2010


Yesterday a friend was at the Verizon store to buy a replacement phone after he'd lost his. Just as it was his turn, his partner drove up and told him that the cabbie from last night brought back the phone he'd dropped in the cab. Maybe not on the order of $21,000, but it saved him a lot of money and grief. It's good to see that there's quite a few cab drivers who have respect for their fellow human being, despite having a job that involves a lot of hassle for not a lot of pay.
posted by azpenguin at 9:16 AM on January 13, 2010


I am amazed at how cheap, relatively speaking, a New York cab fare is.
posted by Mister_A at 9:27 AM on January 13, 2010


Well, this is a nice counterpoint to the last taxi post.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 9:32 AM on January 13, 2010


Good point, naju, but something tells me a few people who also see that disparity may be moved to slip the guy some money. I have a feeling things will go well for him ultimately.

Aren't feelings nice?
posted by clarknova at 9:36 AM on January 13, 2010 [4 favorites]


They're not allowing Bob to spend Alice's money, they're forcing Alice to pay for her share of the society which she and Bob are both a part of.

Since naju did not advocate giving Alice's money to Bob, let alone by what mechanism that might occur, it is impossible to tell if it was isomorphic to taxation or not.
posted by DU at 9:45 AM on January 13, 2010


Nothing is certain but death and taxis.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 9:51 AM on January 13, 2010 [2 favorites]


I stopped reading after isomorphic.
posted by found missing at 9:52 AM on January 13, 2010


To be clear, I advocate nothing less than the bloody dismantling of the foundations of western capitalism. All of the taxi drivers are in on this goal, by the way, a Tristero-like network of revolutionaries. They control your transportation. I would be scared.
posted by naju at 9:55 AM on January 13, 2010 [3 favorites]


I think most people, wherever they live and whatever their job, are honest and good at heart. And I don't believe that is mere confirmation bias. Too bad we have have the other sort running around loose and giving the normal folks a bad name.
posted by bearwife at 9:55 AM on January 13, 2010 [2 favorites]


Some go even further to deliver their fare:
Taxi driver Abdirashid Issa abandoned his car in huge tailbacks and trekked through a blizzard for four miles in freezing temperatures to deliver vital emergency blood supplies to a hospital. He was then stranded overnight before he made the four-mile trek back to get his car yesterday morning.
Apparently it's not uncommon for blood to be delivered by taxi in the UK.
posted by jonesor at 10:15 AM on January 13, 2010 [2 favorites]


Apparently it's not uncommon for blood to be delivered by taxi in the UK.

It's not uncommon in the US either. What's less common is for the blood to be unaccompanied by other body parts.
posted by DU at 10:25 AM on January 13, 2010 [3 favorites]


My wife and I were talking about this tonight as we heard it on the Today Show and I made a comment that was proven correct and saddened me.

Said I:

"I really hope that the cabbie is Muslim and that it gets mentioned."

See, in the US, all that was mentioned that the cabbie was Bangladeshi. Knowing that Bangladesh was formerly known as East Pakistan, I knew there was a good chance the gent in question was Muslim. And the US press will report on someone's Muslim faith should the news be negative, but rarely if the article is positive.

So, I check out the link where the BBC mentions he is Muslim very quickly. Not only that, it mentions that him not taking a reward is a tenant of his faith and it KILLS me.

I know USA is a country that views people on political basis but c'mon, be fair. When Good is done in the name of Faith, attribute.
posted by Dagobert at 10:25 AM on January 13, 2010 [20 favorites]


I've been in New York for over 25 years (too many of my posts here contain this phrase, I'm afraid) and I've taken taxis literally thousands of times.

Almost without exception, I've found taxi drivers to be honest, polite, and most of the time very well read and intelligent. I can think of one or two bad apples in all that time but I can't count the number of great drivers.

About 20 years ago I took an (emergency) taxi from the Bronx to Brooklyn, with a French-speaking driver called Max. About 45 minutes after I got there, there was a knock on the door - it was Max, I'd left my work ID in the cab (it'd have cost me $50 to get another one). He wouldn't take a reward!

I attribute the honesty to the fact that over two-thirds of the drivers are Muslims - but then Max wasn't a Muslim.

I've had all sorts of fascinating drivers. One one of them was an older white man who claimed to have a PhD in biology and was shopping his new filter technology to New York State for pollution detection (at that time, he was quite confident it would be adopted as Senator D'Amato was behind it). While I don't know biology well, I'm almost completely sure he was totally on the level - he wasn't saying, "New breakthrough technology", he was saying, "My system of forcing polluted water through a porcelain filter under constant pressure gets results in an hour instead of overnight, with significantly greater accuracy as well," and then explained to me how the current method (filter paper in a funnel and wait overnight) had well-known, significant errors depending even on convection currents and how fast the lab worker poured.

I had the same taxi driver THREE times. And each time I was going to a music gig! I had a driver tell me that he'd picked me up years before - I didn't believe him - and he told me the story ("You were with a young blonde girl - it was snowing") and I remembered it very well (as I was on acid at the time... !)

I talked to a driver who told me how he picked up one woman three times in the same day! The second time he didn't notice until she was in the car. A couple of hours later, he saw the same person again, cut across a lane to get her... she got into the car, started to give directions and he said, "Madam, I will take you anywhere you wish to go." She wigged!

Out of time. Too many stories. I <3 NY cabbies.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 10:35 AM on January 13, 2010 [13 favorites]


I think most people, wherever they live and whatever their job, are honest and good at heart.

This is absolutely the case. It wouldn't take too many people ripping off the system for people to lose faith in it and collapse.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 10:51 AM on January 13, 2010 [2 favorites]


I'm always impressed by guys like him. Just yesterday the sumbitch behind me at the grocery store in the richest part of Charlotte grabbed the ten dollars I left in the cash-back slot at the self service checkout. I called ten minutes after I left and the cashier reported that no one had turned the money in.
posted by zzazazz at 11:16 AM on January 13, 2010


tenet
posted by ryanrs at 11:36 AM on January 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


I know USA is a country that views people on political basis but c'mon, be fair. When Good is done in the name of Faith, attribute.

How do you know it was done in the name of faith?
posted by clarknova at 11:58 AM on January 13, 2010


How do you know it was done in the name of faith?
posted by clarknova at 2:58

as he mentioned, the bbc version of the article said it.
"Mr Asadujjaman was offered a reward, but he turned it down saying that as a devout Muslim he could not accept it. "
posted by fuzzypantalones at 12:11 PM on January 13, 2010


That was also included in the Associated Press article: "Asked if he was tempted to keep the cash, Asadujjaman acknowledged the money would have allowed him more time to study, "but my heart said this is not good." He also turned down a reward, saying he could not accept it as an observant Muslim."
posted by zarq at 12:14 PM on January 13, 2010


The Chaucer quotation, from the Franklin's Tale (V.1479), means something along the lines of "keeping your word" = the archaic idea of plighting your troth if you intend to honor a significant promise, alive today in the word betrothed. The funny thing is, none of the characters in Chaucer's story can keep their word and pay what they've promised each other... yet one by one, the promises are waived out of sympathy, and all of the debts are forgiven. So it's really a tale about generosity, and when the narrator asks in the end, "Which was the mooste fre, as thynketh yow?" there's the double idea of being free from a bind, and nobly free-handed. The greatest honor belongs to those who give up what they could have gained in order to help someone else. Very fitting.
posted by woodway at 12:29 PM on January 13, 2010


a tenant of his faith

How much do you suppose the rent is?
posted by grubi at 12:39 PM on January 13, 2010 [2 favorites]


I once met a taxis driver who turned out to be Frank Herbert's cousin.

She was the right age and described him as "really smart, but always the weird one at the family gatherings."

And yes, she was really nice and super funny.
posted by Smarson at 12:52 PM on January 13, 2010


Apparently it's not uncommon for blood to be delivered by taxi in the UK.

I once (in the US) shared a late night foggy cab ride from the airport with a box of eye parts. Part of me could not help imagining if the cab had collided with a large deer or moose (a real possibility) and what the crash scene would look like.. "My god! there are eyes... everywhere!"
posted by edgeways at 1:36 PM on January 13, 2010 [2 favorites]


I attribute the honesty to the fact that over two-thirds of the drivers are Muslims

Racist!

Wait. Crap. I think I'm doing it wrong.
posted by inigo2 at 2:54 PM on January 13, 2010


I get taxi drivers all the time that try to force me to pay cash because their credit card machine is "broken." Where are these angel cab drivers...
posted by jckll at 2:59 PM on January 13, 2010


I can't speak to the individual motivations, but there is a big, honest, incentive for the cabbies to want to be paid in cash. Paying by credit card is essentially levying a pretty hefty "tax" on the drivers by way of credit card fees. In a business where profit is pretty thin I think I'd make a play for my customers to pay by cash if I was in the business.
posted by edgeways at 3:22 PM on January 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


So, I check out the link where the BBC mentions he is Muslim very quickly. Not only that, it mentions that him not taking a reward is a tenant of his faith and it KILLS me.

I know USA is a country that views people on political basis but c'mon, be fair. When Good is done in the name of Faith, attribute.


So - would an atheist get more or less credit for the same act?
posted by IndigoJones at 4:46 PM on January 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


... she got into the car, started to give directions and he said, "Madam, I will take you anywhere you wish to go."

". . . And your father and I have been together ever since."
posted by Countess Elena at 5:47 PM on January 13, 2010


Too bad we have have the other sort running around loose

Bluntly, this, this thing right here is in my mind a lot worse for the person who says it and the society that it is inflicted on than theft. If you think there's an end in trying to hunt down and exterminate evil, I think every movement to power and pride and authority in human history is a horrible testament to how that's not true. That's not even what these taxi drivers were doing, they weren't ridding the world of evil they were trying to do good. There's just a night and day difference.

"believe me, everyone is really responsible to all men for all men and for everything"
posted by SomeOneElse at 8:26 PM on January 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


It's always nice to see that honest people exist, and depressing that it is so uncommon, it bears worthy of mention.
posted by Dark Messiah at 8:36 PM on January 13, 2010


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