Cabbies’ vomit tax: What price for puke?
Last week the Tribune reported on Chicago cabdrivers’ most recent wish list: They’re asking Mayor Daley for a 22% rate increase, permission to charge for services such as phone dispatches and credit card swipes, and most important, the go-ahead to charge woozy passengers a $50 fine for upchucking inside their taxis.
That last item had me wondering, What would someone have to pay you to clean up a total stranger’s vomit? Sure, we’ve all been there: You stumble into a cab after bar time, the car lurches into motion and suddenly all the lights outside bleed into a dizzying swirl of color. Your throat tightens, you get that strange taste in your mouth and…with a little luck, you get the window open in time and offend only a few innocent bystanders. But if you don’t, your driver’s left with one hell of a mess to clean up.
Dmitry Samarov, a driver for Yellow cabs, thinks the tax is a great idea—in theory. “Usually [passengers] will give you money if they’re coherent enough but a standard fee? It’s just not enforceable,” he says. “You try demanding $50 from someone who’s already wasted; that’s just going to make them combative. You’d have to call the police to enforce it every time; it would be an incredible hassle.”
As for the price, Samarov thinks it’s mostly fair, depending on how severe the offense. “I once had a guy give me $40 extra when his girlfriend puked; that was nice. But another time, someone puked so quietly, I didn’t hear them—I only realized it when the next person got in and stepped in it.” One of the worst cases he's witnessed involved a female passenger who directed him through the McDonald’s drive-though late one night. “That strawberry milkshake didn’t stay down more than 5 minutes; it was a bloodbath of dairy back there,” he says. The $50 fine wouldn’t begin to cover the clean-up on that one, he says.
As for the fare hike and other cabby demands, Samarov says they’re long overdue, pointing out that Chicago still has some of the cheapest fares in the country. “It’s been four-and-a-half years [since the last hike]; we were promised one last spring,” he says. “The gas surcharge we got only confuses people; riders just think they’re being screwed so they tend to take it out of your tip.”
Back to the vomit tax: What would someone have to pay you to clean up a stranger’s spew? Name your price here in the comments section.