Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I was running down Foxhall Road when a woman hailed me from a parked taxicab and begged me to call the police. I ran to a friend's house and asked her to call 911 (she got a recording, by the way), and I went back to the corner of Foxhall and Lowell Street to ask the woman if I could help.

The cabdriver started to yell about how the woman had demanded he let her out without paying because he had taken her out of her way.

He told me he was not going to let her out and was holding her purse in the front seat. He had locked the rear doors from the front, and apparently there was no way the passenger could unlock them. He was yelling very loudly and had locked this crying, shaking young woman in his cab.

Another couple stopped to help. A man and I told her we would help her climb out the rear window (which would have been difficult because the window could roll only halfway down).

The cabdriver then said the woman was free to go but he was keeping her purse. Then he threw the purse at her. The police arrived and took statements from everyone and told me I could leave. I don't know what happened to the woman.

It turned out the woman was picked up in this Yellow Cab at Union Station and was going to Fannie Mae on Wisconsin Avenue. I think taking her up Foxhall Road and planning to take Nebraska Avenue during morning rush hour is quite out of the way.

My question to you is, since I am a woman and I could quite possibly be in that same situation myself, is it okay for the cabdriver to hold me and my purse against my will?

Don't I have a right to be let out? What a scary situation for a woman to be in. How do I know the driver will not hurt me or take advantage of me?

What do you think a woman should do in this situation?

Daphne P. Murphy


This was outrageous conduct on the part of the cabbie, and you are right to be concerned. Holding someone against his or her will and seizing a purse is close to kidnapping and theft.

"It's inexcusable behavior by the taxicab driver," said Adam Maier, staff director for the D.C. Council's committee on public works, which has oversight over taxicabs. "There are ways to resolve these disputes without imprisoning someone."

The driver could have filed a complaint with the police or the D.C. Taxicab Commission (202-645-6010), and a passenger who has a grievance about a cabdriver should do the same, Maier said.

Maier said that if a person is trapped in a cab, he or she should hail a passerby, as this woman did, to summon police.

Also, I think if an argument is escalating to the point that one feels endangered, the passenger should pay the full amount the cabbie is demanding (your health is more important), and afterward contact the police or Taxicab Commission.

Has anyone experienced anything like this?

Endless Construction

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

Last spring, many of us were bemoaning the slow pace of construction on Canal Road between Chain Bridge and Foxhall Road. I believe you said the project would be finished by the end of July.

Now that we are well into September and the project seems nowhere near completion, what is the latest word?

The random lane closings and the confused traffic patterns make this bottleneck dangerous and frustrating.

Joseph Lund


The contractor has run into electrical problems and difficulties with the foundations of the stone walls that are being rebuilt, according to Gary Burch, the city's chief traffic engineer. The project was supposed to be done last December.

There's some resurfacing to be done, and then all the lanes will be open to traffic, Burch said. That should happen by the end of this month--unless there are some more unforeseen problems, of course. Keep your fingers crossed.

The Garage Door Caper

Here is an offering, at my expense, that may help some new homeowners get their vehicles in and out of their garages.

Mrs. Gridlock and I had no previous experience with garages, so when we got a side-load garage on our house, we had a few mishaps. Like driving into the garage door frame (both sides), denting the car door and the frame. Several times.

One day I rather smugly told Mrs. Gridlock, who had just crashed trying to get out, that this was simply a two-step process: (1) back straight out and (2) turn the wheel. It was important that the steps be in that sequence.

Not long afterward, Mrs. Gridlock heard a loud crash from inside the garage and surveyed the outwardly buckled garage door, with me still behind the wheel. She said, "It's really a three-step process: (1) Open the garage door, (2) back out and (3) turn the wheel."

We have since solved the problem by filling the garage with junk and parking the cars in the driveway, as we did before we had a garage, but there's a point here and it is this: Garage doors come in eight-foot and nine-foot widths. Eight-footers can be a tight squeeze. My builder never asked us which we preferred, nor did we know we had a choice. So the builder put in eight-foot doors. Take it from the doctor: Get nine-footers.

Now, since we're sharing here, do you have any garage door tales to tell?

Dr. Gridlock's assistant, Jessica Medinger, contributed to this column. Dr. Gridlock appears Monday in the Metro section and on Wednesday or Thursday in the Weekly and Extra sections. You can write to Dr. Gridlock, P.O. Box 3467, Fairfax, Va. 22038-3467, or e-mail him at The Doctor's fax number is 703-352-3908. Please include your full name, address and day and evening phone numbers.