THERE MAY BE no end to the citizen accounts of traumatic rides in Washington taxicabs, but the recent police crackdowns on illegal hackers seem to have bagged or blown out a noticeable number of the city's worst scofflaws. Perhaps it is merely that during the summer, lots of students from elsewhere who drive cabs part-time during the academic year -- with or without proper licenses, safe vehicles or rudimentary knowledge of the city -- are not around to ruin the reputations of honest, professional and fully licensed drivers. For now, at least, the apparent change is refreshing and worth maintaining.
Some of this may catch veteran passenger/victims of horrible hackers by surprise: it's not every day that you hail the first empty cab you see and it stops for you. And what does the driver mean by that smile and the greeting? Why is the cab clean and the driver's license on display? How come this cabbie is actually on course to your requested destination? Is there some reason for the driver's polite, clear announcement of the correct fare?
Many of the city's best cabbies will tell you that all of this is standard operating procedure -- and that the object of any smart hacker is to keep the cab rolling by picking up the first passenger and moving on smartly to wherever that passenger asks to go. They'll also note the financial pitfalls of trying to pick and choose fares by their looks or suspected destinations. But are these drivers exceptional?
We, and they, like to think not. But the illegal and unacceptable behavior of far too many others who pose as drivers or disregard basic courtesies have for too long overshadowed the honest majority of drivers. The police are doing a service by weeding out the worst -- and they shouldn't let up.