Just today I realized it, while driving past, that the two sketchy characters i had picked up on Atlantic by Smith a few weeks ago, who pretended to be undercover cops and gave me a hard time, and then got out ever so nonchalantly on a dark, abandoned street behind a housing project in Brownsville and walked away without paying the fare..... had come out of the Brooklyn Detention Center. I had never looked at the big sign on the entrance to that building. I just knew from peripheral vision that it was some sort of government facility. Drivers, please be careful picking people up on that block: Atlantic Avenue between Smith Street and Boerum Place.
These two men looked menacing from the moment they jumped off the curb and into the street, hailing me as I drove up. Of the thousands of street hails I've seen in my four years as a hack, I've only had to avoid and drive past half a dozen or so of them (all together) because I felt immediately threatened or disturbed by the prospect of their presence in my cab. My threshold is high. I pick up most anyone. But these two guys emanated bad vibes, out of their eye balls, facial gestures, and body language. Still, I picked them up because I glanced and there was a cop car in my mirror. I did not want to be stopped for refusal. Though I've had cops tell me some disgusting things I'd never expected from them....
"this is your fault. why do you pick up drunk people?" (in response to a sleeping passenger.)
"you should never pick up people in this part of town"
Anyhow, I had them along for an excruciatingly long 20 minute ride out to the far eastern reaches of Brooklyn and they interrogated me the whole time about some guy named "Jinx" and how I must have some information on him. They said they were on a murder investigation and that once they caught him, he'd never see the light of day again. I grew very afraid that they were being metaphorical about what they planned for me. They also said a lot of really stupid stuff and after the first two minutes of the ride, the tiny little part of me that had believed their purported NYPD role collapsed. I really got scared when I learned they had smelled fear on me."why you so scared, man? what are you scared about?"
For a minute after we had pulled over at their destination, they messed around with me some more. They'd look at me and smirk at each other, as if deciding whether I was worth robbing or not. Finally, one of them lifted up a twenty dollar bill at the partition, and said....
"take this and get the hell out of here. don't blow our cover."
But when I reached for it, he pulled it back quickly, and they stepped out of the taxi, calmly and with an evil little giggle. They walked away ever so slowly, with mad swagger. I sighed with relief and quickly drove away and out of that neighborhood. I felt lucky to be alive at that moment. Sure, a little part of me wanted to go back and run after them with any piece of metal lying around, demanding my money, but that would not be wise at all. It's like instead of getting paid 20 dollars for my service, I paid 20 to keep my life. What a bargain. The rest of my life for only 20 dollars. This is the first time in four years of cab driving that I felt in that much danger.