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"In L.A. if you want a taxi, you pick up the phone, call for one and it comes to your house. In New York, you go out into the street and get in a fistfight for one."
A character, on a city street, is trying to hail a cab. No matter how many times they yell, "Hey, taxi!", nothing stops for them.
This can be played for comedy, such as trying to show a country-bumpkin just how tough the big city can be. It can be played for a drama, if the lack of a taxi will slow the hero down in their quest
. The inability of a black man to catch a taxi is a too-frequent Real Life
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- In Spirou à Moscou, Fantasio is trying to get a cab in the middle of Moscow, with no success. Meanwhile Spirou is digging through the material they got from the KGB (which they work for at the moment) and shows Fantasio the spiffy new KGB badges they've been given. Six cabs immediately stop for them... driven by some very nervous-looking cab drivers.
- A Wizard of the Crow comes out and says it: the main character, born in Africa, can only get a cab when it's driven by a black guy.
- Inverted in David Foster Wallace's Infinite Jest, wherein most characters report that the late James O. Incandenza, Jr. was capable of conjuring up Boston taxis in extremely unlikely places.
- Ephraim Kishon, when he was in Paris. Even praying in Hebrew and cursing in Hungarian didn't help.
Live Action TV
- In The Incredible Hulk Returns, Don Blake tried to hail a cab by wimpily lifting his arm and calling "Hey, Cab" but they all passed him by. Then Thornote used his lung power to bellow "HEY! CAB!" and one stopped abruptly.
- In an episode of Michael Moore's TV Nation, they showed Famous Actor Yaphett Kotto (a large black man) try to hail a cab, and about 10 feet in front of him an anonymous white man also trying to hail a cab. Kotto was unsuccessful but the white guy would get all the cabs he wanted. The kicker: the white guy was a convicted felon who had been recently released from prison.
- Played for comedy when the TV Nation crew would quiz the taxi drivers who didn't pick up Kotto, and tried to address the problem — when the drivers said Kotto "looked scary", they had him hail a cab while holding a bouquet of flowers and a baby, and even standing by an illuminated sign reading "I NEED A CAB".
- The accompanying book, "Tales of a TV Nation", notes that Kotto did get a lot of rides... from black cabbies.
- In Doctor Who's second Christmas special, "The Runaway Bride," Donna Noble tries to hail a cab in her wedding dress, without success.
The Doctor: Do you have this effect on everyone? Why aren't they stopping?
Donna Noble: They think I'm in a fancy dress.
[One cab passes by and toots its horn]
Cabbie: Stay off the scotch, darlin'!
Donna Noble: They think I'm drunk.
[Two men driving the other way shout through their window]
Both Men: You're fooling no one, mate!
Donna Noble: They think I'm in drag!
The Doctor: Hold on, hold on. [hails a taxi by emitting a long, piercing whistle]
- However, they have no money, so they get booted out of that cab quickly due to double rates on Christmas Eve. To get money, the Doctor waits impatiently in line at an ATM while Donna begs for change on the street. Just as the Doctor's getting his money for Donna's fare, he sees her riding off in a cab....driven by a Robot Santa. Cue a climatic chase sequence on the expressway.
- The intro to Conan O Brien's first episode of The Tonight Show had him, unable to hail a cab in New York City, start running - all the way to Hollywood ! (although, in Real Life, "Move to L.A." was probably further up his list than where it was shown...)
- An episode of the Disney Channel series The Famous Jett Jackson was about Jett spending some time in a rougher urban area than he was used to and realizing that his sheltered, privileged life isn't typical for a black teenager in America. One of his clues was that he couldn't get a cab to stop for him. (It's a cliche, but still, try finding a storyline like that on Disney Channel today.)
- A segment on Sesame Street talking about how we use our hands to communicate ("Hand Talk") involved a man hailing a taxi, only to have it drive right by, with a waving fake hand in the back.
- The Law & Order episode "Rage" centers around the murder trial of a black stockbroker who killed his white mentor after the latter discovered that he had scammed the brokerage out of millions of dollars. At trial, the killer's lawyer argues that he committed the crime out of "black rage," essentially claiming that he was driven to kill by society's pervasive racism. After the conclusion of the trial, prosecutor Jack McCoy reflects that, while the defendant's legal claim was bogus, the racism he saw around him was not. He then hails a cab...which deliberately swerves to avoid a black man who had hailed it seconds before.
- In a sketch on Chappelle's Show about monsters who happen to be African-American (or African-Americans who happen to be monsters), it's unclear whether the mummy is unable to hail a cab because he's a mummy or because he's black. This makes him late for his appointment with his parole officer.
- Criminal Minds, from the episode "A Real Rain":
Morgan: (about the UnSub) Well, he got picked up in the pouring rain by a New York cabbie, so we definitely know he's not a brother."
- On a episode of The Wayans Brothers, marlon doubts a person who claims to be an angel until performs a miracle—causing a cab to stop for a black person. Marlon believes him instantly.
- A Happy Endings episode had Brad, who is black, and Max, who is gay, arguing about whether it is harder to be a black man or a gay man. Brad complains that the other night he couldn't get a cab to stop for him in an extremely expensive suit, while a white man in grungy clothes was picked up almost instantly.
- Will happen from time to time on The Amazing Race, and is always played for drama. Most of the time it happens because teams will be tasked with finding a cab in an area that doesn't have many.
- The original sketch for "I Can't Get Started" in the revue Ziegfeld Follies of 1936.
- Emily in Allegro, at the end of "The Gentleman Is A Dope," finally gives up trying to hail a cab and says, "Oh, hell, I'll walk!"
- Skid Row in Little Shop of Horrors is described as "Downtown...where the cabs don't stop."
- In the "Everyone's a Little Bit Racist" number in Avenue Q, Christmas Eve complains about the personal hygiene of (presumably Indian) taxi-cab drivers. Everyone agrees with her except Gary Coleman who says "I can't even get a taxi!"
- Bring in 'da Noise, Bring in 'da Funk features a number in which a series of increasingly well-dressed black men try and fail to get a cab. The final man in the series is a soldier carrying Colin Powell's memoirs.
- Early in Gargoyles, the three youngest members of Manhattan Clan watch someone hail a taxi and decide to try it, since they're a long way from the castle and their wings are tired. It doesn't work, since the taxi driver got too freaked out when a gargoyle jumped up in front of him.
- Demona has no problem with it though, at least in her human form. And all she had to do was Show Some Leg.
- Played from the taxi driver's perspective in one episode of Family Guy when Brian takes a job as a cab driver and doesn't pick up Cleveland when he's attempting to hail a taxi. Subverted in that Brian wasn't even thinking of picking up a fare at the time and simply had to run another errand (though Brian is known to have racist leanings, leading to a possible Double Subversion).
- The Madeline animated series: while visiting New York, Miss Clavelle's cries of "Taxi!" get no attention whatsoever. Madeline solves the problem with an earsplitting whistle.
- Played with: in the Daffy Duck cartoon "The Great Piggy Bank Robbery," Daffy (as Duck Twacy) hails a taxi, which zooms up, and tells the driver to "follow that car!" The taxi zooms off without Daffy, who says to us "Keeps 'em on their toes!"
- Taxis in most major cities don't normally respond to curbside hails as most taxi service is dispatched straight to a calling customer's location. Doesn't stop people from trying to hail them while they're en route to a dispatch, and flipping off the driver when he appears to be ignoring them.
- And then there are cases where people do call for a taxi, but it fails to pick them up due to confusion over their exact location, or if there are more than one person waiting for a cab at the same landmark, not all of whom may have called ahead for one.
- Played perfectly straight all the time in Las Vegas by tourist who don't know it's illegal for cabs to pick up on public streets. Protip: Get to a casino valet or flag one down while standing in a parking lot off the street instead of the sidewalk.