At least an hour of daylight remained when I picked up the older couple at Casino Center and Fremont. I was simply cruising through and got stuck at the red light when the old man waved his hand in the air indicating that he and his companion needed a cab.
It's a universal signal really. When I was in London and in need of Taxi service, I waited on the curb and raised my hand when a cab drove by. When I was in Beijing, and in need of Taxi service, I waited on the curb and raised my hand when a cab drove by. One time when I was in Chicago, and in need of Taxi service, I waited on the curb and raised my hand when a cab drove by. However in Las Vegas, this is illegal for a cab driver to do. Or so we are told and such is the practice. If you pick up a passenger that has flagged you anywhere off of a cab stand you can be cited. Or so is the status quotient.
There was no traffic to speak of and that was good because it took the old man and his wife a small bit of time to climb in. Just as they shut the door, I noticed in my mirror the Las Vegas Metro motorcycle cop turn onto Casino Center from Carson and soon he was right behind me. I only traveled a few feet before he lit me up, chirping the siren for just a second.
"Why are we getting pulled over?" the lady asked.
"I don't think he was supposed to pick us up there honey. Is that right driver?" the man replied.
"You got it sir, it's a dumb rule isn't it?" I said.
"What are we supposed to do, walk all over damnation to find a cab? You were right there!" He said.
"I know sir, as I said it's dumb."
"I've been all over the world and this is the only city I know of where you can't catch a cab on the street. That's like saying you can't see a doctor at the hospital. Why is it that way here, do you know?"
"Well it's an interesting question and I‘ve been wondering the same thing for a long time. Police write tickets to those that do it, and the courts seem to be upholding them. And the doormen do everything they can to perpetuate the myth because they want the business funneled through their stands and even the tourists reiterate it, as you just did. I've even talked to some drivers that were cited at gas stations, or other places of business, private property, where a ride presented itself. I mean think about it, I'm working and want some smokes and a cup of coffee. So I stop at the nearest 7-11, and a guy who just won a little money on the video poker machine doesn't feel like waiting for the bus anymore, so he hires me to take him home. According to some officers enforcement, this is very much illegal. What, I'm supposed to tell that potential customer to call my dispatch and wait for a cab to pick him up because the 7-11 doesn't have a cab stand? I refuse to believe that there is a law on the books prohibiting my picking up a customer at the 7-11. This is either absurd or it's incorrect. Either way maybe it‘s time to challenge it. To your question, it very much is the truth in practice yes, I'm just not so sure it's the truth according to the law."
The officer didn't take long before he strolled up to my window but I already had my documents in hand. Having gotten 8 tickets in the last 365 days and countless others before, you could say I'm getting good at this. The good news is, all 8 of those have been taken care of already and not one of them made it's way onto my record. I guess you could say that I have my resourcefulness to thank.
"Driver I need to see your license, registration and insurance card" the officer said.
I immediately handed them to him and held up my Taxicab Authority Driver Permit, "sir do you need this as well?"
"No." Metro Officers never want to see your TA permit or trip-sheet but I ask anyway. "Driver do you know why I'm pulling you over?" he said.
"Yes sir, I believe I do."
"I'll be back in a minute" he said, pleased I think, that I was doing my part to expedite the process.
A few minutes passed before the officer returned. "Driver I'm citing you for loading illegally. You know you're not supposed to pick up there. I need you to sign here, this is not an admission of guilt but a promise to appear in court on or before the date indicated at the bottom," he said and handed me a massive palm pilot looking thing.
"No problem sir, but before I do can I ask you a question?"
"What law are you citing me for violating specifically?"
He looked at me surprised that I went there I think. He took the mini computer out of my hand and said, "I'm not sure to be honest with you, I'll go find it and write it down for you."
"Thank you sir."
I laughed at the idea that the officer was not even sure what exact infraction he was writing me a ticket for. I mean, if he didn't know the law, is it even possible to have probable cause for the detention in the first place? And shouldn't you have to input this alleged infringed law into the little computer thing? Apparently not. I guess you can just enter in whatever you want.
The cop walked back to his motorcycle. "What's that all about?" my passenger said.
"Well there are a few different rules on the books that talk about this and I just want to know which one specifically he claims I violated," I said.
The cop returned, "driver I'm citing you for violating LVO(Las Vegas Ordinance) 11.60.040 loading outside of a cab stand."
"I see. Ok sir, thank you."
I signed the palm pilot and handed it back to him.
"We're sorry that you got a ticket" my passengers said.
"That's ok," I replied "I've been trying to get this ticket for years."
...to be continued: PART II