Arthur L. Davis of 4828 Upton St. NW. is one of those unlucky Washingtonians who lives on the farthest fringe of the city. That means that whenever he hails a cab and asks to be taken home, two things usually happen:
First, the driver groans and rolls his eyes when he hears the destination (for some reason, D.C. cabbies think God has decreed that every fare should be going either six blocks, or to Dulles Airport). Second, the driver immediately begins to hunt for other passengers who are going to intervening destinations.
The D.C. Public Service Commission has not yet outlawed rolling your eyes or groaning. But it has set down the following regulations:
A D.C. cab driver must take a passenger wherever he wants to go, unless the passenger is drunk or abusive. And while the driver may hunt for and pick up other passengers going to intervening destinations, he may not deviate by more than five blocks from the route he would have taken if only the original passenger were in the cab.
On Nov. 6, these regulations were honored in the breach.
Davis hailed a cab at Connecticut Avenue and M Street NW at about 6:40 p.m. and asked to be taken to 49th Street and Massachusetts Avenue NW.
The cabbie drove north on Connecticut for a while, then picked up a woman who said she was going to 41st and Ellicott Streets NW. Although that corner was not along the most direct route to 49th and Massachusetts, it was not far enough afield to squawk. Davis said nothing.
But moments later, the driver stopped for a third passenger, who wanted to go to Chevy Chase Circle. According to the complaint he later filed with the city government, Davis "remarked that the driver surely knew the rules regarding additional passengers, and knew that he was violating them."
The driver became abusive. When Davis told him he wanted to be taken directly to 49th and Massachusetts, he refused, and became more abusive.
Finally, as the cab passed the Shoreham Hotel, both Davis and the 41st-and-Ellicott passenger demanded to be let out.
The driver charged them each $2.25, which they each paid. Then they caught separate cabs to their destinations.
According to Harold Foster, who handles cab complaints for the District government's assistant director of transportation, L'Affaire Davis is actually relatively unusual.
"By far the greatest single complaint we get is refusal to provide service," Foster said. "That's for example a case where someone hails a cab and the cab won't stop."
The second most common complaint is a stepbrother of the first: "refusal to transport."
"That's when a person gets in a cab, and for some reason or other the passenger doesn't get where he wants to go," Foster said. "Usually, either the driver won't take him, or they get in an argument about the fare."
But Foster agrees that "indirect route" complaints are particularly unfair to the Arthur Davises, who in effect pay extra -- in terms of time and inconvenience -- for living on the outskirts of the city.
Foster urges anyone victimized in the way Davis was to do what Davis did. File a written complaint with the Public Vehicle Division, Office of Mass Transportation, 600 Indiana Ave. NW, Washington, D.C., 20004.
"Drivers do get suspended, and drivers even get (their licenses) revoked," Foster said. "We take complaints seriously."
If only certain drivers took the rules half as seriously.