Will the threat of a $50 fine deter drunks from vomiting in taxicabs?
That's the intent of a proposed ordinance in Key West, Fla., which could soon join the cities of Chicago and Austin, Tex., in fining inebriated passengers who upchuck in cabs following a night on the town.
"In the event that a taxicab passenger soils the interior of a taxicab with bodily fluids or solids, a $50 clean-up fee will be added to the trip fare," posits the ordinance, which has already received tentative approval by the Key West City Commission.
According to the records for Five 6's Taxi, the largest cab company in Key West, roughly a half-dozen people vomit in their cars each year, most often on New Year's Eve or during the annual event known as Fantasy Fest, which falls in mid-October. Five 6's owner Jan Dolan says the vomit tax is unavoidable.
"The fee is for cleaning up the cab when people puke," Dolan told the Key West commissioners. "I'm sorry, that's the only way I can put it. We can't enforce it unless it's in the ordinance."
But only drunks will feel the pinch. The surcharge would likely only affect passengers who are VWI (vomiting while intoxicated). Passengers who are physically ill, or children who get sick, will be exempt from paying the $50.
At the same time, other cab companies in the Sunshine State are not rushing to penalize tipsy patrons.
In Miami-Dade County, which has its fair share of boozed-up passengers exiting the clubs of South Beach, no such fee is currently under consideration.
"I don't think such a law is necessary," said Boris Shvartsman, president of Yellow Cab in Miami-Dade, who claims he saw only two passengers get physically ill in the backseat during his 18 years driving a cab.
Likewise for Miami. "I haven't seen a problem with that so far," said Orlie Jedwab, president of Miami Springs Taxi and Key Transportation.
But retching in cabs remains a serious issue in Key West, where the ordinance will receive its final hearing on Wednesday.
If cab company owners in Key West really wanted to score points with the public, they would donate each $50 drunk penalty to alcohol education classes for young people, hopefully to prevent the case of another Samantha Lynne Goudie.
You've heard of Samantha Lynne Goudie, right? The 22-year-old student from Northern Illinois University was admittedly intoxicated when she jumped the barrier at a football game between Northern and Iowa last weekend.
Goudie was arrested and charged with public intoxication, which should have been the end of her story. Instead, Goudie went on Twitter and boasted about her behaviour, particularly the fact that she blew an astonishing .341 on the breathalyzer test.
"Just went to jail. #yolo," tweeted Goudie, aka @Vodka_samm, from her jail cell. An hour later, she followed with the tweet: "Blew a .341 in jail." Which she followed soon after with, "I'm going to get .341 tattooed on me because it is so epic."
Goudie was eventually picked up from jail by her mother, but her boastful comments went viral and have earned her public scorn from around the world.
Meanwhile, America drinks and goes home. Does anybody out there really believe that the threat of paying $50 will prevent drunks from soiling the backseat of a cab? Has there ever been a drunk person capable of rational thought in the moments before they hurl?