It had been a tough week, which contributed to me being off my projected income goal. My normal work week is Monday through Friday and some Saturdays. But the Ravens were playing Pittsburgh in a exhibition game this particular Sunday at M&T Bank Stadium and working the game made the week.
As a fan, I love the Ravens' home games, but as a cab driver, it's murder. There's no problem taking the fans to the stadium—they stagger in from everywhere and by many different modes of travel.
The madness starts at the beginning of the fourth quarter. The police and traffic enforcement officers start barricading most of the incoming streets leading to the stadium. Hamburg and Ostend Street Bridges are completely closed off and used for pedestrians only.
There is no cabstand and the police will not let cabs stage on Russell Street's service road adjacent to the stadium. They keep you moving, which force the drivers onto Interstate 395. Either passengers have to approach cabs while stopped at the red light or drivers pull over unnoticed by the cops for pickup.
This is senseless; fans who are cab riders must make complaints to the Public Relations Division in The Mayor's Office to correct this situation. How can we even be considered as a tourist/convention city if the city does not provide accessible taxicab stands at Camden Yards and M&T Bank Stadium?
This same situation occurs on Preakness Day at Pimlico Racetrack, on a much larger scale. This single-day event is the middle jewel of racing's triple crown, but for the City, it's the crown jewel. There are well over 120,000 people in attendance from all over the world. If you haven't been, you can imagine the magnitude of this crowd dispersing after the Preakness race and being confronted with severe transportation problems. People are stranded in an unfamiliar neighborhood and the cops are merciless, ticketing cabbies for picking up passengers on Northern Parkway. Many cabbies have refused to work the Preakness! Drivers are told to stage on Pimlico Road at Belvedere Avenue. This is about five good city blocks from the infield's tunnel entrance and at least 6-8 blocks from the clubhouse. People come to these events to party and for their enjoyment, not to be hassled with public-transportation problems when leaving the venue. It is crucial that cabs have staging in close proximity to the clubhouse and tunnel for the convenience of the patrons. This situation can definitely leave an unfavorable taste to attendees, especially out-of-towners. Many would appreciate it if the city would revisit this situation between police, cabbies, and patrons.
Anyhow, back to M&T Bank Stadium. After being forced onto I-395 and finding Martin Luther King Boulevard's access ramp to Russell Street closed due to the stadium's event, I had to drive three miles to get back to the stadium by driving over the triple bridges, across Hanover Street Bridge, and then north on Waterview which leads back to Baltimore Washington Parkway/Russell Street.
Fans were literally running up the Russell Street Bridge when cabs came into sight. My doors were locked, right front window partially down, determined not to take any short fares. A black man about 45 years old and partially dressed in Ravens gear pulled on the locked door.
"Where to, sir?"
"Lauraville around Cold Spring Lane and Harford Road in Northeast Baltimore."
Once seated, he talked of being a seasoned Ravens ticket holder.
"This has been one hellava experience," he said. "It's been extremely difficult to catch a cab. The racism from many of these drivers is just unreal. They would say they're on call once my destination was revealed and immediately picked up whites when approached. I feel totally disrespected, like less than a human being."
"Sir, it can be economics apart from race," I told him. "Unfortunately, that's the driver's call. Unfair practices can always be reported to the Maryland Public Service Commission." Believably, most blacks think it's race alone.
We had a good sports conversation for the remainder of the trip. The fare was $23 and I was given a $5 tip.
"Thanks for picking me up. Go Ravens!"