The Generous Tip
By Robert Feinstein
Back in the seventies, I used to drive a cab on Sundays. It was tough work and I was grateful that hacking, which in those days had nothing to do with computers, was not my full-time job. The hours were long and the money I made really wasn’t all that much. I would have done better, sticking more to Midtown, but I’m not the most patient man. I preferred to spend most of my time in Brooklyn, where there were fewer traffic jams.
One afternoon, after dropping off a rider in Coney Island, I decided to go over to Sheepshead Bay, where I would be able to buy supper from one of the incoming fishing crafts. The crews almost always have their own catches to sell. I intended to stop over at my place, in Flatbush, give the fish to my wife, and eat seafood when I returned from my shift.
My plans were changed because two guys, who had been out on one of those boats, hailed me. One of them wanted to go to an address in Crown Heights, which turned out to be only two blocks away from where I had grown up. The second was going further up, just beyond Myrtle Avenue, and it was arranged that he would be the one to pay me.
We had gotten to Ocean Avenue when one of them asked me if they could drink soda in the taxi. I told them it was fine, and they seemed pleased, although I was well aware that it wasn’t Pepsi they would be guzzling. Nevertheless, they were sort of quiet and even somewhat pleasant to deal with. After I dropped the first fellow off on Eastern Parkway, I continued on in the direction of Bushwick
En route, I was forced to take an unexpected detour, because the city had recently installed a large, outdoor swimming pool, which I hadn’t known about. The extra distance for the trip was three blocks, which meant the fare would be increased by only a nickel. But suddenly, the passenger accused me of deliberately going out of the way in order to jack up the price on the meter. I earnestly denied it, but my attempts to pacify him were to no avail.
If I hit my thumb with a hammer, while trying to hang a picture on the wall, I must admit that I’d likely let out with a bit of profanity. But that would be nothing compared to the foul-mouthed fury coming from his lips. I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone let loose with more lethal and varied curse words, and the barrage continued throughout the remainder of the trip.
I feared that he was going to refuse to pay me, but when we reached his destination, he grudgingly did so, while showering me with a few more expletives. He did, however, skunk me on the remuneration. His tip was zip, zero, nothing.
I drove away feeling more than a little unhappy, and nobody hailed me for another twenty minutes. My next passenger was a rather dignified looking gentleman, who was wearing a suit and tie. Just seconds after I drove off with him, he casually remarked: “Are you aware that there is a flounder here in the back seat?”
I was both astonished and amused, as I told him it wasn’t a flounder, but a fluke. I knew those fellows had gone fluke fishing. Within an hour, I had dropped the still-fresh catch off at my apartment.
If you’ve ever gone out on one of those Sheepshead excursions, as I have, you’d know that they always have what is known as “the ship’s pool.” Almost everyone on board puts an agreed upon sum into a kitty and whoever catches the biggest fish wins it all. Let me assure you that this particular fluke must have been the winner. It was one very large fish.
My wife cooked if for dinner, and there was enough left over for our lunch, the following day. And it was delicious!