Looking at me with a clenched jaw and wide open eyes, the man who, a moment ago, had held a knife to my neck lunged towards the open window of my cab.
Reacting without thinking, I found drive—slamming the gas, car lurching forward, I watched the bastard roll across the apartment driveway from my rearview mirror as I sped away.
There’s nothing like escaping a blade to the neck to put things into perspective.
Everything had happened so quickly I was numb with adrenaline. I saw that blood was spilling onto the steering wheel. Not knowing where it came from, I touched my neck to make sure he hadn’t nicked my jugular.
I thought about calling the police when I saw a cop who didn’t seem busy. I flashed my brights and pulled up next to him to tell him what had happened.
After a lot of bad noise the cops traced the phone number used to call the taxi to the residence where I had dropped my passengers off. Not an award winning heist plan, bubba.
This all happened last October, the weekend of Sierra Nevada’s Oktoberfest.
I was working an extended shift, 4 p.m. to 6 a.m.
It was a lucrative night and my pockets felt promising, tucked with enough bills.
Someone had even given me a stein from the event at the brewery for a tip. Things were going nicely.
After midnight I picked up a pair of guys. As I approached them to confirm they needed a ride, they took their time getting in, smoking the last of something that smelled like weed.
Nothing unusual. My only apprehension was that these guys might try to barter with me instead of paying fare. I can’t pay rent with pot.
The guy in the passenger seat said, “It’s tough trying to make it around here. I’m just trying to take care of my daughter, my family.”
When we arrived at the apartment complex he said thanks and opened the door to leave without paying.
“It’s ten bucks,” I said. “You haven’t paid me.”
He nodded, smiling and said, “Oh, right. I’ll be back out. I have money inside.”
As a cab driver, long hours melt together. It’s easy to become delirious and lose the edge of attention that keeps bad decisions in check. Sometimes waiting too long can cost a driver money, especially during the busy parts of the night.
I looked at the clock; it was almost 1:30 a.m. I made a mental note that I would wait one more minute and then leave for downtown.
Just as I prepared to give up and head back for the bars, I saw my customer in the side view mirror, walking towards my window.
He mumbled, “Here’s what’s gonna happen” as he pulled a kitchen knife out from under his shirt and put it to my throat.
I shoved the weapon away with my left hand, cutting my thumb.
I remember a split second of hesitation between the time I put the car in gear, before I drove off, where our eyes locked.
The guy was ready to try again, to freeze me into submission and take my money.
Maybe he meant to scare me, not to rob me.
Either way, by the end of the night he was in Butte County Jail.
Kevin Crittenden can be reached at [email protected] or or @kevlodius.