Cabbin' It on the Main Line

Our embedded reporter hunkers down with a cabbie in the 'burbs, where taking a taxi is an event.

By Matt Grady
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 1 | Posted Aug. 3, 2010

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“First up, Bryn Mawr.”

It’s the emotionless voice of the dispatcher calling for the next available cab out of the Main Line cab stand.

“107,” the driver answers. 107 is the number assigned to the cab. Over time, it becomes the driver’s identity. It’s now his call, and as we find out soon enough, his problem.

“107, roger. Pick up, 4227 C-L-Y-W-D Road,” says the dispatcher.

Clywd? What the hell is that? Where the hell is that?

“107, please verify address,” the driver responds. It’s probably a misspelling—a distinct occupational hazard—so he waits to punch it into the GPS mounted on the windshield. Keying his microphone, he adds, “I think we need a vowel in there.”

The dispatcher dispassionately responds “107, roger. 4227 C-L-Y-W-D Road.”

And we’re off.

Years ago, HBO’s Taxicab Confessions popularized the notion of cab drivers serving as public functionaries, performing a composite role of friend and constabulary and parish priest. The episodes took place primarily in cities—New York and Las Vegas—where cab usage is a way of life. In the suburbs, however, where cars reign supreme, taking a cab is an event. But if you’re a drinker, it can be a routine occurrence. What’s surprising is the number of underage drinkers using them.

We’ve arrived in Bala Cynwyd, and the GPS isn’t functioning properly. The clock still works, and now reads 1:19 a.m. We find Clywd Road and confirm the house’s address with dispatch.

It’s big.

We back into the driveway, and two teenage girls get in, a blonde and a brunette. Before they can close the door, the stench of booze hits the front seat. It’s almost overpowering. Foregoing pleasantries, the brunette directs us to an address in Narberth, but is amicable enough to answer our burning question.

“It’s KLY-WOOD,” she says.

They’re quiet for the most part—some heavy texting going on back there—but are alert enough to keep the driver on course. In the absence of streetlights, it’s dark on these roads, and with the GPS out of commission we’re relying on the navigational skills of two boozy ’boppers.

“Turn right here. No, THERE! You missed it!” barks the brunette.

This isn’t the first group of drunken teenage girls that we’ve carted around tonight. A few hours ago, a trio of teenage girls poured into the cab and asked to be taken to Gypsy Lane in Gulph Mills. They claim to be 19 and students at Villanova, but in the absence of either hard evidence or demonstrated maturity, we have to take it on faith alone. In a sense, we’re lucky—only one of them is belligerent.

“Fuck this cab company, fuck this cab company, this cab company sucks,” she shouts.

Eleven dollars later, we reach Gypsy Lane and surprise! They don’t have the exact address. However, to those in the front seat, it sure feels close enough, and the girls exit the cab on their own behest.

Back in Narberth, the brunette is attempting to reach her friends still on Clywd Road, but is suffering from the same signal problems as the GPS. After what seems an interminable 10 minutes of driving, we make it back, the brunette sees her friends Carolina and Laura, and begins exhorting them to get into the cab. “Carolina, Carolina, Carolina!” she says over and over again, our patience now worn thin to the point of nonexistence. The driver finally intercedes and says “Hey, ladies, I’ve got another pick-up to make,” and asks if maybe we can settle up.

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