Vomit clean up $50, the message to riders in the back of my Chicago cab says. 

Will they take a credit card, I wonder? Unconsciously I sniff deep and long, a clumsy human attempt to replicate what canines master in their sleep.


I can’t smell vomit, sitting here in the stifled back seat of a yellow-metered car.

I wonder if my dog could smell vomit in here, now

And if he could, what would he do about it? Oh, never mind the sign says here:

“Service dogs are welcome;”

Presumably hunting dogs, or dogs that (just) sleep on the couch and lick your face are not.

View From the Curb

View From the Curb

I didn’t see the sign on the back of the seat until after we were $15.78 into a $45 cab ride, and even then I saw it only because I was looking around, and picked up the point of red light and glass beady eye as black as oil staring at me from below the right front passenger sun shade.  It never blinked.

“Smile,” it says, ” you’re on camera.”

I looked down immediately, not a head-jerk, but a quick no-I-am-not-staring-at-you change.

My eyes settle on “Vomit clean up – $50.” Like it was up-selling options on a service menu, sort of like epoxy nail varnish on the manicure menu.

Vomit clean up – $50.

And I think about who would puke in the back seat of a car and why.

I envision 4 giggling girl friends, good sling-back shoes and pashmina wraps around well-tanned shoulders, cramming into a cab after a Saturday of mercenary shopping, dinner and bubbly sweet drinks on a weekend away, the ‘boys’ looking after the ranch, and kids.

These women would be enjoying a well-deserved break away from clothes strewn on the floor, pizza boxes, ice cream wrappers, and bodily function noises kids and men mimic naturally.  Of course they would see them if they were to walk in the front door now. But they won’t be walking in the door now.  By the time they sleep off Saturday and drive two and a half hours home in the minivan Sunday, all that will be cleared away in one manic progressive cathartic house cleanse, by the boys and the kids.

Could it be the loudest talking one of the gaggle, the one with her lipstick smeared a bit? Would she be the one to splash Alfredo and sangria on the grey vinyl seat?

Maybe it was an executive, someone who is very familiar with cabs, two or more cabs in every town he flies into.  But today he is in his hometown, struggling to get through another day, but he just couldn’t do it.  Oatmeal.  He really tried: Chemo is hard.

Or maybe the splasher would be a small person, say not quite three feet tall.  Maybe it was their first cab ride.  Maybe the combination of heat, humidity, orange soda, and half chewed hot dog conspired to launch lunch into Mommy’s lap.

Would you get in after paying $50 to have the backseat cleaned?

Tough job, this being a cabbie.

I read a bit more on this informative sign. ‎”Battery of an on-duty taxi driver is a class three felon and can get you five years.” (Presumably in a federal hotel with room service by a uniformed guy named moose.)

Here is one that stumped me: “If your driver voluntarily chooses to assist you, tipping is appropriate.”

What?   Or…

“Two or more strangers can share a cab, each person needs to pay rates below.”

Who in their right mind would share a cab with two or more strangers?  Seriously. (Besides, if you can’t save money, there is not much point in sharing cabs with strangers. I wonder, would the price go down if we were acquainted.  How long would we have to be acquainted before we’re no longer considered strangers?  What is a stranger really any way?)

These are the things I think about when paying to ride in the backseat of a stranger’s car, a car someone probably vomited in.

“City mayor welcomes you.  Please direct compliments or complaints to the 24 hour hot line,” the last line of the sign says.

I have none.  

My face is being recorded; I smile for the camera, pay my cab-fare, sniff real deep, and exit curbside. 

No vomit.



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