There are few things in life more déclassé than for an uptown girl—Hermes scarf blowing in the wind, hips swaying ever so provocatively, makeup done just so—to emerge triumphantly from her favorite Madison Avenue boutique wearing her impeccably tailored little black suit, with her immaculately manicured hands filled with little shopping bags from some of Manhattan’s big-name stores, and proceed—almost ceremoniously—to hail a taxi in complete disregard for the little old lady (old enough to be her grandmother and then some), just up the block, who had been patiently waiting her turn, like a lady, for a cab. Such unfortunate scenes play out on New York’s streets every day, so much so that there should be a law against such lack of “behavior”—the way some cities strictly enforce jaywalking violations.
Flagging a cab on the streets of a major city is treated by many as a free-for-all, dog-eat-dog, to- the-victor-goes-the-spoils-type activity, where little courtesy to others in need of cabs is observed, extended, or expected. But no gentleman conducts himself in such a manner. For a true gentleman, manners are a way of life. They are not employed only when others are observing, or because there are ramifications—social or otherwise—for failure to observe decorum, or because of what others will say…. So though there are no “Manners Police” in Manhattan or the other great cities of the world, whenever flagging a cab, it is imperative that a gentleman pay special attention to other persons within his reasonable vicinity who preceded him in their quests to secure transportation. And in the instances when a cab stops at his request but the gentleman is aware that another person should be accorded priority, the gentleman should direct the cab to the other person and secure the next available cab.
When time permits (and it oftentimes does), a gentleman should yield his priority to the elderly, an expectant mother, or a lady with young children. And in instances where severe weather is coupled with a scarcity of cabs, he should invite another person in need of a cab to share his cab provided that they are both heading in the same general direction. When sharing a cab under such circumstances, a gentleman should insist upon paying the entire bill if his destination is beyond that of the invited rider. And in instances when the gentleman arrives at his destination before the invited rider arrives at his, the gentleman should pay (and include an appropriate tip) the portion of the bill registered by the meter at his point of disembarkation, thereby allowing the invited rider to pay only the amount that will accrue thereafter.
Inviting a rider to share a cab under special circumstances—especially when the invited rider is a lady—is not an invitation to initiate general conversation. Beyond exchanging typical courtesies, the conversation should be limited to the particulars of the shared journey. If, however, the invited rider initiates additional conversation, the gentleman should graciously participate. In some jurisdictions, especially those where taxi rates are determined by zones, taxi drivers are allowed to pick up other passengers going in the general vicinity of the first passenger. In such cases, passengers need only exchange general courtesies such as “Good morning,” upon entering the cab, and “Have a nice day” when departing. Each passenger pays his own bill. And, of course, a passenger should always greet his taxi driver upon entering the vehicle and thank him for his services when departing.
The proper place for a passenger to sit in a taxi is behind the driver, on the opposite side of the vehicle, seatbelt fastened. [In some countries around the world, such as Australia, New Zealand, the Netherlands, Scotland, and parts of Ireland, passengers are expected to sit in the front seat of a cab; occupying the rear seat is viewed as elitist]. If directly accessing that seat requires that its corresponding door be opened into oncoming traffic, the passenger should use the entrance directly behind the driver then slide himself across the seat so as to occupy the appropriate seat. When escorting a lady, the gentleman should open the door directly behind the driver in order for her to occupy that seat, being sure to close the door securely once she is properly situated within the vehicle. (This is provided, of course, that said door will not be opened into oncoming traffic). The gentleman should then walk around the rear of the vehicle so as to access the seat situated directly across the vehicle from that of the lady, thereby sitting behind and diagonally across from the driver. (This is the preferred placement for the official passenger as it facilitates communication between driver and primary passenger. Such placement also facilitates the exchange of payment). If accessing that seat in the manner described subjects the gentleman to the danger of oncoming traffic, then the lady should slide herself across the seat, thereby allowing the gentleman to sit directly behind the driver. Upon arriving at the destination and paying the bill along with an appropriate tip, common sense and safety should again govern regarding the exiting of the vehicle: Generally, passengers should exit a vehicle onto the curb as opposed to into oncoming traffic. And if that necessitates the lady opening the door in order to effect a safe exit for her and her escort, then she should proceed accordingly. After all, this is the 21st century, and most women are quite capable of opening doors these days! Otherwise, the gentleman must exit the car first then offer his hand in assistance if she is to exit via his door. If it is safe and appropriate for her to exit via her door, she should remain seated until her escort opens her door and offers his hand in assistance. Some 21st-century women prefer to take a more active, participatory role in the ingress and egress of vehicles, and a gentleman should defer to their wishes, whether tacitly or verbally expressed. (As expressed elsewhere in this book, many modern-day women, usually as a result of upbringing, culture, or outlook on life, regard social parity with their male counterparts to be a birthright, and a gentleman must respect and acquiesce in their wishes). In either case, the gentleman should thank the driver for his service, bid him goodbye, then close the door firmly.