"God, your hair is so beautiful-please, can I touch it?"

Lest you think you can get away with this yourself, the gibbering goon in my cab is someone I often drive home from the bar where he works, and we have several mutual friends. At the moment, he's Ecstasied out of his head, and he has been staring at my hair for a while now.

"Just don't pull on it, OK? Let's get you home." But the cab won't start. I've left the hazards on, like a good little cabbie, but as I've been hanging in his bar for an after-hours hour accepting offers of free food, the battery is now dead.

I put up the hood and step into the street to flag one of our guys down.

None stops, but somewhat to my surprise, a cab from a rival company does so immediately. And then another executes a stately veronica across Southwest 2nd so that his cab is crosswise in the two lanes where we're parked, protecting us from being rear-ended. My passenger is now hanging out the window, utterly entranced by so many sets of hazards flashing.

As we're getting the cables hooked up, a third rival cabbie pulls over: "Do you want me to take your passenger for you?" I can even tell he means to be helpful rather than merely poaching my fare. But as my fare is now slouched deep in his seat with his arms overhead, fondling the soft cloth headlining of the cab with a beatific expression, I say no, thank you. The engine starts again, and we're off.