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Perilous passengers 

Taxi Driver

I don't have statistics on this, but I can say that it's hardly uncommon for a passenger to assault a cab driver in Colorado Springs. A driver's hair, ears, eyes, neck and shoulders are all at risk when the passenger door closes. Hitting a tree or utility pole in the midst of a customer fracas is a real possibility, too, so being able to pacify or defuse an agitated customer seated behind you is a valuable skill.

Cab drivers always learn this the hard way. Take Ellen, for instance. Ellen is one of the Springs' veteran drivers, and a favorite with customers. She has many "personals," or clients who call her directly for service. This rider was not one of them.

"I picked up one night at the Fox and Hound, this girl," she says, "and she was like cryin' and screamin' she didn't wanna get in the cab, her boyfriend was tryin' to get her in there ..."

"What did she look like?" I ask.

"She was maybe in her 20s or early 30s. It was dark. And she wanted to go home with him, or have him take her home, but he didn't wanna deal with her husband. He finally gets her in the cab and shuts the door.

"Well, I had a little Pontiac Vibe taxi at the time that has the automatic door locks. As soon as you put it in 'Drive,' it locks, and the only way you get it out is to put it back in 'Park' and then hit the 'Unlock' button. Well, she was yanking on the door handle and I couldn't unlock it to let her out, 'cuz I really didn't want her in there if she didn't wanna be in there.

"Then she starts bangin' her head on the window! And I thought, 'Oh, crap, she's gonna break the window and there's gonna be blood and you gotta clean it up.' So I'm telling her 'Stop!' and I can't unlock the door, and I couldn't get her to stop.

"And she's cryin' and screamin' and shit and she's giving me a headache, anyway, so I reach around behind me, and this car has tall seats — it's a sports car and you don't have much range of motion — so I smacked her on the leg, not real hard, just to get her attention, and I kept sayin' 'Stop! Stop!' So she hauls off and punches me in the head. And then she grabs a big wad of hair, and she starts yankin'.

"And you've never heard anything as ... just awful ... as hair bein' pulled out, and feelin' it, too, it's a horrible, horrible sensation. I called 911 — thank God, I had a cellphone — and she gets out of the backseat and into the front seat, and I'm screamin' at her because I totally lost it by then, after she pulled half my hair out, and I'm screamin' at her, 'Get out of my cab!' And I'm cussin' and everything, and she hears I'm talking to the cops and goes, 'Oh, please don't talk to the cops, I'll be good, I promise!' Then she gets back in the back seat."

I'm reminded at this point of another driver. Two girls the same age as Ellen's excitable passenger got into his cab at a restaurant and began arguing. It got out of control. One girl bit the chin off the other, he says, and spat it on the cab floor. Amid the blood and screaming, the fight went on. He drove straight to the hospital ER like an ambulance, then home, calling it a night.

Anyway, back to Ellen.

"And then the cops show up, and they take her, and the one lieutenant's lookin' and he's sayin', 'OK, you're not bleeding, you just lost a lot of hair in that one spot. Do you want to file charges?' And I said, 'No, sir, I think there's somethin' going on in her life, she doesn't wanna be in here, she was just all upset when the boyfriend put her in here.'

"So he goes away. Then he comes back in five minutes, he said, 'We're taking her in, we're filing charges on her.' And he said, 'We've been looking for her for about six months. She's got three warrants for child abuse on her. So she went to jail. I don't know, she may still be in there."

A call came in for Ellen, and she had to go.

I went back to my own vehicle and checked the automatic door lock.

Four or five times.

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