Tuesday, January 11, 2011

The Tucson Massacre and the Cabbie

In the aftermath of Saturday's tragic event, I've already heard it suggested that the cab driver (the infamous "person of interest) should have known that something was wrong with his passenger, Jared Loughner, and might have been able to prevent the shooting.

I have not spoken with the cab driver - I know of him, he's been a long time driver with Tucson Yellow Cab - but I know of him as a decent and hard working driver. The bottom line is that no one else was in the cab with the driver and Loughner, and we don't know at this point what, if any, conversation took place. Given the driver's reputation, I would have to say that if he thought or was suspicious that anything was amiss, he would have alerted someone immediately.

As taxi drivers, we can anywhere from 15 to 30 people get in our cab on a given day. Some are known to us, some aren't. As a cabbie, I really only care about a couple of things when I pick up a fare: where are they going, do they have the ability to pay, and do they present a threat to me or my cab in any way? Otherwise, I really don't care if they seem sane or not - driving for a cab company that contracts with mental health providers, you get used to having people in the vehicle that have one problem or another. It is not my job to assess their mental well being, unless I believe that they could cause me physical or financial harm. I'm going to provide them transportation as I would any other passenger, just as I would transport anyone regardless of race, gender, etc.

That is not to say that if they made threatening comments, and/or if I saw that they were carrying weapons, I wouldn't take appropriate action and report the threat immediately. I like to think that any other cab driver with a conscience would do the same. For example, a few weeks ago a number of cab drivers in Tucson realized that they had all picked up several senior citizens at one time or another over a period of weeks to take them to the bank and then on to a store to wire the money. The conclusion reached by this group of drivers was that these seniors were being scammed out of their money. All of the drivers made an effort to point this out to the victims, with one cabbie contacting the Tucson Police Department to alert them to the situation. Some drivers who are familiar with the routines of certain passengers have alerted authorities when they haven't seen these passengers on certain days or after prolonged periods of times - some of these passengers have then been found by the authorities laying on the floor in their apartment or house, having fallen and unable to get up or summon help - unfortunately, some had died. How long might have any these remain undiscovered without the concern of the cab driver is unknown, but it demonstrates that most taxi drivers are decent people like the rest of society.

Cab drivers are not trained in the behavioral sciences, but can generally discern when something is amiss with a passenger. But it cannot be expected that we will or must ascertain a passenger's motives or plans when entering the vehicle, or put "two and two together" as we proceed to the destination. While what happened in Tucson is a horrific tragedy, don't blame the cab driver.

Arizona Daily Star, 1/9/11, "Authorities clear man called "person of interest" in Giffords shooting case

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