Thursday, February 4, 2010


Runners like everything else, come in clumps. That is a period of time where certain themes, seem to be dominating in archetypal patterns that are synchronistic in appearance. Sometimes the themes may involve passengers who are female, male, of a particular nationality, ethnic group, personality type, attitude, emotional temperament, social scale, intelligence level and dozens of other possibilities. Runners fall in one of those categories, because just like big tippers, short runs and vomiting passengers, more than one seems like more than it is.

Runners are different from scam artists because the scam artist will give you a story to excuse not paying, and then tell you that they’ll pay you tomorrow or next week. A runner is more honest than them, because he lets you know that he isn’t paying now or later, as he bolts out the door down a dark alley or into a maze like apartment complex, like he was trying out for the Olympic track team. After having a few runners, a cab driver will begin to question other cab drivers about their experiences with runners. The result is seeing a similar pattern in every case, which could be called a profile.

Item #1: They are usually male, but not always, and are almost always either teenagers or in their early twenties.
Item #2: They are always picked up at a non residential address, like a business or a street corner.
Item #3: They are always going to either another non residential address, or an approximate location, that they aren’t exactly sure of, but explain that they can direct you there.
Item #4: They always have you park in a tight parking space or in an area where you couldn’t chase them with the cab, but by this time it’s too late to do anything anyway, unless you want to get physical with them and chase and tackle them.

The solution to this problem, is ask for money up front, every time that Item’s 1-3 occur, because the driver has all this information before he begins driving the passengers. At first a driver may be timid, but after getting burned a couple of times, his anger will seethe, long enough to harden him to their complaints at this unfairness. The passengers may then say that their parents or someone else will pay on the other end. At that point the driver will ask the passenger to phone the parent so the driver can talk to them. If they are lying they will make an excuse why they can’t contact them by phone. Unless they have collateral that is worth ten times what the potential fare will be, like a Rolex watch, or a cell phone, gameboy computer game or similar item that the cab driver appraises, he refuses to drive them.

I have personally had about 6 runners, over the past 6 years. Each was different and caught me off guard, because they never happen when you’re expecting them, and like getting your car stolen, you can’t believe that it really is happening. After the first time, I began to get a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach soon after we got underway. With the last couple I knew that they were going to run, but I had to let the game play itself out.

The first runner I had was a few months after I started to drive cab, in the early fall of 2004. I picked him up at the Am/Pm Minimart on Lancaster and Ward, one late afternoon, at around 5:30 PM. He was Spanish young man who looked to be about 21 years old.

“Take me to the apartments down the street from the Burger King in Keizer,” he told me.

When I asked for an address, he said that he didn’t know since it was friends place, but he knew where it was. As I talked about how I was a new cab driver and didn’t know the best way to Keizer from Lancaster, he directed me, like he didn’t want to have to pay a dime more for the trip than he had to. He had me pull into a parking space between two cars against the curb, and then he reached into his pocket, with his left hand, as his right hand opened the cab door and he put one foot on the pavement. Then he flung open the door and announced, “I’m out of here!” as he sprinted between two buildings. I called it in as a no money for about $9.00, and licked my wounds.

Six months later, I picked up two Spanish guys with red parkas, with the hoods up. “Town & Country bowling alley in Keizer,” the guy who sat up front with me said, as he played with a $10.00 bill that was folded four times, length wise, by looping it over a finger of his right hand, and pulling in back and forth with his right. He directed me meticulously, even though I knew how to get there, then I felt a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach, as I recognized the face in the parka. A few minutes later he told me instead of the bowling alley take them to the apartments by Burger King.

Suddenly I realized it was the same guy, and he was going to burn me again, but he had the fare in his hand. When he had me pull in the same parking spot as last time, I knew without a doubt that he was going to burn me, so as soon as I put the car in park, I grabbed for the $10.00 bill, but he was faster than me and pulled it away.

“I don’t want to give you this bill,” he said, “it’s valuable. Go get ten dollars from my sister,” he told the guy in the back seat, who opened the door and started walking towards the apartments. When the guy who was walking was out of sight my passenger said, “Wait a minute.” As he opened the door, got out and started running. I shut off the cab, took the keys and ran after them. I saw his foot go into a space left by a missing slat on a wooden fence. The rule is don’t pursue, because they could be laying for you, so I just racked it up to being a sucker.

That guy never burned me again, but then I never drove him again. The next time it was a group of 4 teenagers, that I picked up on a street corner, after failing to find a bad address, on that street at 11:00 PM, on a Monday night. They said that they called and got the address wrong, but it didn’t matter anyway, since I found them.

“Take us to the U-Haul on 12th Street,” the female sitting up front told me, as the 3 guys in the back seat let her do the talking.

My first thought was that the U-Haul would be closed this time of night, but maybe their car was there or some other thing. When we arrived the street that it’s on is a dead end that has a fenced barrier at the end. The female had me pull right up to the barrier, then she said that she had to go get the money, as all the doors opened and everyone got out. Before I could respond they were all running on the other side of the barrier, down the middle of the street, for a lost $14.40 fare.

I won’t bore you with other examples, but suffice it to say that I learned the hard way. It’s money up front with me, if you are under 30 and fit the profile.

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