Many are the times I've sounded off in this space about D.C. cabbies who don't obey the law. They cheat on fares. They don't know where they're going. They refuse to take people to outlying parts of town. You know the drill.
But you don't know this drill. It's a charming new twist on a bad old melody. It's called, "If You Don't Like 'Em, Dump 'Em."
A Levey regular called the other day. She identified herself as black. In Washington, that's a five-letter word meaning, "No cabbie will pick you up if you're the last person on earth."
Somehow, however, the woman got a cab to stop for her at 16th and K streets NW. She got in. She gave an address in Far Southeast.
The driver winced (no surprise). Then, instead of starting the trip, he grabbed his CB radio microphone and began jabbering in a foreign language.
Having taken cabs to Far Southeast before, my caller figured the cabbie was appealing to fellow drivers for directions. But one thing in the discussion puzzled her. Interspersed between the jabbers were three words in plain English: "15th and K." That intersection was only a block away.
After a couple of minutes, the driver put down his microphone and drove slowly along K Street to 15th. He pulled alongside another cab. The driver of the second cab got out and approached the first cab. Again, the woman figured a consultation about directions was about to take place.
Wrong as wrong can be.
Cabbie No. Two opened the right rear door of Cab No. One, next to which my caller was sitting. He grabbed her by the arm. And he literally tossed her out of the cab, onto the sidewalk. Then the two cabs sped away.
The woman was too shaken by this episode to get a look at license numbers or cab companies. Nor were the police able to locate any witnesses.
The only solace I can offer my caller is that these two cabbies will probably try the same stunt again. When they do, let's be ready for them.
If you are a black woman, and you are going to an address that you know the cabbie won't like, get a look at his "face" (license) before you say anything. Memorize his name and license number.
(Yes, I'm well aware that many D.C. cabbies don't display a "face." If you find yourself in such a cab, find yourself out of it -- pronto. As the guy drives off, notice the tag number. Then call a cop and report him).
Memorizing a cabbie's name and license number will not make your bruised hip feel any better if you get the bum's rush the way my caller did. But if you pave the way for the police to make an arrest, that will give the next black woman going to a distant part of town a more even break. It will also protect the good cabbies in Washington (there are lots) from even greater damage to their reputations.
Now that everyone is back in town, back at work and back at school, I'm beginning to get the same phone call, many times over.
It's from a hesitant, worried voice. The voice asks if my annual fund-raising campaign on behalf of Children's Hospital ended during the holidays, while the caller was (pick one):
Home with Mom.
Skiing in Austria with a heartthrob.
Making New Year's resolutions.
Breaking New Year's resolutions.
Trying to collect the last two checks from the two slowest slowpokes in the office.
Dear Hesitant, Worried Voices: Save yourselves a quarter. Our campaign continues through Jan. 22. If you still have not contributed, you have more than two weeks to do so. I hope you will.
Calling all members of the military and their dependents. Joan Zettle of Manassas would like to spur you toward your checkbooks.
"Please find enclosed a check for $10," she writes. "My six-year-old son Nate hurt his finger last Saturday while roller skating. No big deal? Well, it turned out he needed emergency surgery on Wednesday, and is still in Bethesda Naval Hospital.
"Had we not been in the military, the bill would have been colossal. It made me realize that parents with no insurance must go through the double trauma of a sick child and the worry of how to face the bills. It is so nice to know that Children's is there for them."
Then Joan wrote the kind of line I love to read:
"On second thought," she said, "let's make the check for $20." Which she did -- but not before jogging "all of you military members to see how many can match it."
Many already have, Joan. I've gotten checks from Coast Guarders at sea. Checks from Army privates in Virginia. Checks from Navy ensigns at the Pentagon. Lots of checks, from lots of active duty folks.
But I'd love to see more. And I can't think of a better reason for military people to give than the one Joan mentions.
American Council of Life Insurance ($1,744, the 16th consecutive year this group has made a donation. Special thanks to L. Charles "Friar" FitzGerald).
Comsearch Frequency Protection Department, Reston ($10).
The coffee kitty, Health Physics Group, Naval Research Lab ($100).
Junior Civitan Club, Robert Goddard Middle School, Seabrook ($100 raised by selling candygrams).
Continental-Eastern City Ticket Office ($40).
The employes, W. L. Harper & Sons Plumbing Company, Silver Spring ($250).
The Progress Club Foundation Inc. ($2,500).
The staff, National Association of Professional Insurance Agents, Alexandria ($56 from the raffle of a gingerbread house).
The employes, Maryland National Bank Financial Regional Mail and Traffic Section ($78).
The office staff, Grace Presbyterian Church, Springfield ($40).
Employes of the Data Services Center, Economic Research Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture ($105).
The students and teachers at Maret School ($100).
Faculty and staff, Department of Psychology, University of Maryland ($285).
CIA EURA/WE ($37).
The staff, Automated Sciences Group, Inc., Silver Spring ($216).
Office of Legislative Affairs, Navy Programs Division, Department of the Navy ($25 won in a door-decorating contest).
TSTP Corp., Kensington ($1,502 instead of exchanging holiday gifts and cards).
The staff, Migration and Refugee Services, U.S. Catholic Conference ($33).
The Bowling Bags, who roll Tuesday mornings at Reston Bowling Center ($40, and welcome aboard to these first-time donors).
Contractor personnel, Branch 22900, Harry Diamond Laboratories, Adelphi ($307).
You have big hearts, people. Thanks very much.
TO CONTRIBUTE TO THE CAMPAIGN:
Make a check or money order payable to Children's Hospital and mail it to Bob Levey, The Washington Post, Washington, D.C., 20071.