Monday, April 27, 2009
Let me set the scene...
The year was 1996 or 1997 and I was working as a bartender in a small cigar bar, in the River North neighborhood of Chicago. The Chicago Bulls were on their 4th or 5th championship, I can't remember which, it was the final game of the playoffs. Chicago was on fire! People celebrating all over the place, shooting their guns in the air on the west side and looting where they could.
The bar where I was working was completely empty. The police had blocked off traffic coming from the suburbs to avoid a flood of additional revelers heading downtown to party in the streets. The streets surrounding our bar were very difficult to get to due to all the road blocks, therefore we were dead. My manager decided to let me go home since we didn't have any business that night.
I left the bar and was headed to a nightclub where my then-boyfriend worked and where my friends were drinking that night. I walked down Clark Street for several blocks, I realized there was not a taxi to be found. Finally a cab filled with guys pulls up and one of the guys yell "Get in!" I ignore the suggestion and continue to walk on. The guy then sticks his head out the window and says "you'll never find a cab tonight, we're getting out in a block, get in and then take the cab from there". Though this seemed like a terrible idea at the time, I got in the cab filled with guys.
This is not where I was kidnapped.
The guys were genuine, they truly were getting out of the cab in a block or so, at another nightclub. When we pulled up to the nightclub, the guys got out, paid the cabbie, and I was to stay in the cab and head to my destination. Instead, the moment the guys got out another group of guys RUSHED my cab. I tried to push the group out and I yelled, "I am not getting out! This is my cab!!" They did not care, they simply got in the cab and said, "We can share it."
I didn't have much choice but to agree. They were going north east and I was going north west. It was out of the way but they were paying for their share and I was paying for mine and what else could I do at this point.
The second set of guys got out on the corner of State and Division, they paid the cabbie $7 for the fare and got out. I continued westward on Division to the nightclub where my then-boyfriend worked. On the way, we passed two police road blocks, cops monitoring the back to back traffic crawling through the streets of Chicago. Cars were honking, individuals screaming out their window, etc.
Just as we approached Cabrini Green (the projects that were much more scary 15 years ago) the cabbie turns on his hood light and says "Don't I know you from somewhere?" I look into his rear view mirror, begrudgingly, to see his black eyes starring back at me and I say, "No, I am sorry, I've never met you. I take cabs several times a week, you've probably just picked me up before."
Just at that point, I realized that the meter read more than $10. I thought back to what the boys who got out paid, and they paid the cabbie $7, the cabbie had not re-set the meter. I asked the cabbie, "Why didn't you re-set the meter when the guys got out?" He said, "Why would I, this is the fare." I went on to say, "But they paid you $7, what do you expect me to pay?" He said, "The fare on the meter." In a stubborn fit, I demanded that he let me out of the car - right in front of Cabrini Green.
The cabbie and I started to argue. He didn't stop the car and he didn't turn right on Halsted like he should have to take me to my final destination. The cabbie blew off a red light right in front of a police block which made me believe he was crazy enough to do anything. He started to speed down Halsted street going southbound, opposite of the direction I instructed him to go. I screamed at him to stop the car. I rolled down my window and stuck my body out of the window and started to SCREAM for help until my throat felt like it was bleeding! The only response I would receive is a shout back from Bulls fans in passing cars. "WHOO HOOO" they thought I was just celebrating. I grew increasingly frightened and the cab driver would not stop the car, he continued to speed up.
I contemplated jumping out of the moving vehicle, I even opened the door, but his speed was increasing and I was wearing giant platform shoes and thought I'd break an ankle. Feeling helpless, I reached inside my bag and pulled out my pencil case filled with quarters.(SIDE NOTE: After each bartending shift, I would collect all of my quarters and put them into a mesh pencil case, I normally had $20 in quarters in that pencil case at any given time) I took my case and I started to beat the cab driver over the head, hitting him repeatedly. Imagine hitting someone over the head with 2 rolls of quarters. After four or five blows, FINALLY! HE STOPPED THE CAR.
As soon as the cab came to a stop, I jumped out, didn't close the door and started running down the mniddle of Halsted street. The only thing I recall after that was a car yelling at me "Hey, get in! Get in!" I was SO confused. I see women in the car so I get in. I squeeze in the back with these women and they explain that they saw me in the cab and heard my screams but they didn't know if I was just celebrating. When they saw me running down Halsted street, they knew I was in trouble so they picked me up.
Here is the embarrassing part. The girls ask me where they can take me. I was about a 1/2 mile from the nightclub where my then-boyfriend worked as a manager. As I break into tears, barely coherent, I ask them to take me to the nightclub. Here I am, potentially just finished fighting for my life, and I am now going to a nightclub - seemingly to have a good time. Which of course was not at all the case.
I found my friends immediately and I couldn't speak. The moment my then-boyfriend walked up to me, and I looked up at him, I burst into tears. Because I rarely cry, he knew something was significantly wrong. Once I was able to tell him what happened, he tried to put me into a cab but I refused to get into another cab that night. I sat in the nightclub office until he "cut" one of his bartenders so they could drive me home.
It was a terrifying night. I learned ONE big lesson, always get the cab drivers name and cab number. Make sure the picture on his license MATCHES his face. And, never argue with a cab driver until you reach your FINAL destination and you're out of the cab and in a crowded area.