January 2020


The Importance of Walking Out

Every once in awhile I have an experience that reminds me the importance of walking out of a business – or a taxi.

Back in 2007, I took a taxi from Brussels Airport to a hotel – and when the taxi driver had trouble with his meter, I ordered him to stop the taxi at a gas station, I got out, and got a new taxi. It was clearly the right thing to do.

My first clue that the taxi ride was going to be bad was that it was a minivan taxi: I hate minivan taxis. Then the driver started messing with the meter and couldn’t get it to work the way he wanted it to work, so he pulled off and started hitting it. (Major) I told him I wanted a different taxi—where things looked up. (Paranoid Park)

It is a principal I have – and try to remember.

Back in December, I decided to try a restaurant that had come recommended by friends – I walked in, said hi to the waiter, then sat down at a nice table.

Five minutes later I still did not have a menu and the waiter seemed to have forgotten that I had walked in.

Eventually he noticed me and started to bring me a menu. Unfortunately for him, I’d already had enough: I’d stood up, put away my Kindle, put on my coat, and was walking out — “zu spät,” I said to him.

I went somewhere else where within 30 seconds of sitting down, a staff member delivered a menu to me. Life was good.

Unfortunately, I made a mistake with a taxi in New York City upon arriving at JFK three hours late – touching down at 11:30pm instead of 8:30pm – I decided to take a taxi to my hotel. I walked out, got into the next taxi in the queue and had a brief conversation with the taxi driver before focusing on my emails and thinking about bed.

What I had noticed is that the driver of taxi 3L67 had turned on the meter and not set it up for the $52 flat fare from JFK to Manhattan. I should have asked a pointed question at that moment, instead I let things slide – until the cell phone rang and the driver answered it, immediately starting to drift out of the lane, resulting in the driver in the neighboring lane to honk their horn.

Somewhere in there I realized I needed to be more aggressive and I told him to hang up the phone. I wasn’t sure if he didn’t hear me or just said something like, “OK” – but I could see that he was still on the phone, thanks to Bluetooth information on the car’s display.

Long story short, I got taken for a ride and at some point started to give him very specific directions about which lane to be in, where to turn, and where to stop.

When we got to my hotel, the meter read around $68.

We met at the back of the van, I recovered my suitcase, and I lectured him about not using his cell phone, even if it was hands free, while driving.

Ultimately I sort of feel like I gave him too much – I gave him $55.

In retrospect, I should have made it more painful and given him $40 or $30.

With 20/20 hindsight, I should have said something when he didn’t put down a flat rate for the trip from JFK to Manhattan.

And remember that walking out is a perfectly reasonable thing to do.

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