Lucky for me this incident took place a couple of years before 9-11. I was on a business trip to Mexico for the oil company I work for. Landing in the Mexico City airport, I needed to catch a cab to our local office. Like many Third World cab drivers, the one I flagged down looked a little seedy and his car had certainly seen better days but, hey, “when in Rome.”
Now, I had made that same ride countless times before so I knew both the direct route and the various short cuts some cab drivers liked to use when traffic was especially bad. The problem was this cabbie wasn’t using any of those streets. At the time Mexico City was infamous for its cab drivers picking up fares, driving into a remote area and then, with the help of a local gang, robbing and sometimes murdering the rider(s). Naturally, there was no real way to tell the honest drivers from the street predators.
Once it was obvious that the driver was going in the complete opposite direction from where I had requested, I knew I had to do something quickly if I wanted to come out of this ride in one piece. Reaching into my pocket I pulled out the Al Mar Falcon lockback I always carried when traveling. While this folder didn’t have the pocket-clip and one-hand opening peg most modern knives offer, its flat profile and modest size better suited my own carry needs outside the U.S. Carried in the bottom of my pocket (or taped behind my belt if I was feeling especially paranoid—Col. Rex Applegate, an old Mexican hand himself, taught me that trick) it went unnoticed until I needed it.
As is common with Third World taxis, this one started out as a regular passenger vehicle, so it lacked the “bulletproof” glass partition between the rider and driver American cabs normally have. Quietly opening the Falcon low to the seat, I swiftly leaned over and lightly pressed the edge of the knife against the driver’s neck. In my best Tex/Mex Spanish, I requested, “por favor” if would he take me back to the airport by the most direct route “or else.” And if I had the slightest hint he was trying to signal anyone along the way I was going to start cutting. While it might not save my butt, he wasn’t going to be around to appreciate that fact.
Once we returned to the pick-up area at the airport, I grabbed my brief case from the seat beside me and bailed out of the cab before it had even come to a complete stop. The driver instantly hit the gas and sped off with my luggage still in the trunk so I guess the trip wasn’t a total loss for him. Luckily I had my passport, cash, credit cards, and other important papers with me. While I wasn’t happy about losing the rest of my belongings, it was certainly better than the alternative.
I still needed a ride to the office so I just did my best to pick a cab that looked a little newer and safer for my next ride. There wouldn’t have been much point in reporting the problem to the police as then there would have been questions about why the gringo was packing a knife. Like everyone else, I’ve had to give up carrying that modest-size folder on air flights since 9-11 so I don’t know what I would do if that same situation arose today.
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Lucky for me this incident took place a couple of years before 9-11. I was…
by Michael Janich / Jan 1, 2011