"When are you guys going to start driving hybrids?"

I hear this several times a week. Dozens, if you include every permutation of what is essentially the same question: "Why are cabs so big/gas guzzlers/always American cars/etc.?"

One evening I run into our general manager and ask. "Hmm," he says, rubbing his chin, "maybe after we discover who that mystery cabbie is?" I will never be a poker player. When we stop laughing, I ask how he knew. "It just sounds like you." So I can freely joke about needing a readable answer. He merely shrugs. "You've been around long enough to know the drill. It's not likely to happen very soon."

He's probably right. For this is actually a somewhat conservative business. (Ever wonder why there are no safety barriers?) The drivers themselves own the cabs as a sort of collective. While exceptions dot the fleet, more often than not, someone who originally bought in with a reconditioned cop car will eventually replace it with another. Thus some collective member would be acting pretty damn individualistically by dressing a hybrid in our colors.

"C'mon, the company owns a few cars!" I know I'm reaching. "Maybe an incentive, like a lower kitty payment?"

His expression alone conveys an impressive variety of potential complaints, but all he says is, "It's a complicated issue." Too complicated for this tiny space. However, the discussion must begin somewhere soon. —nightcabbie@wweek.com