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(John Woods For The Globe and Mail)
(John Woods For The Globe and Mail)

Road Sage

It's a fluid situation: Consider the consequences before making taxi patrons stomach clean-up fees Add to ...

If you vomit in a Calgary cab, it will now cost you $100 thanks to an amendment to Calgary’s livery transport bylaw that will fine nauseous passengers a cleanup fee that covers not only regurgitation, but all “bodily fluids.”

It’s hoped the fine will encourage more taxi drivers to work early morning shifts, when there is an increase of passengers hurling due to an excess of liquid joy. Many cabbies avoid this shift because of upchuck incidents.

The fine brings up (sorry) a number of issues. On a moral level, there is the question of how culpable a passenger is for bodily fluids he or she leaves behind.

Some cases are simple. If you spill a coffee in someone’s car, you offer to pay. That’s common courtesy. If you puke in someone’s car, you offer to pay for the cleanup. Simple.

The trouble begins when you create a $100 fine that targets drunks. Let’s break it down with the Socratic method.

Question: What sort of person would puke in someone’s car and then say, “That’s on you, buddy. I’m not paying.”

Answer: The kind of person who drinks so much they vomit in a taxi. And yet, those are precisely the kinds of people we REALLY want in the back seats of taxis.

Question: Why?

Answer: Because the kinds of people who drink so much they projectile vomit in the back seats of a cabs are precisely the sort of people who, in their inebriated state, would think, “Hey, I don’t want to pay $100 to have my vomit cleaned up. I think I’ll drive.”

It’s possible, therefore, that the unintended consequence of this $100 fee might be to have less bodily fluids in the back of cabs and more bodily fluids – namely blood – on city streets.

Yet these sort of cleanup fees are popular with municipalities. Saskatoon wants one. Toronto has proposed a $25 fee (smaller than Calgary’s because, perhaps, everything is bigger out west). New York has had a $75 fee since 2013.

I get the logic and have no sympathy for anyone who pukes in a taxi or any other vehicle. But I would caution the taxi industry – these people are your bread and butter. If they decide to start walking or – heaven forbid driving – it’s not going to be good for business.

An entrepreneur with a little imagination would see the potential.

Why not create a fleet of hollowed-out minivans with rubber easy-rinse interiors stocked with Gatorade and potato chips. Drunken passengers could be hosed off as they exit the taxi to save the need for a shower when they get home.

Anyway, I’m just throwing it out there.

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