No Cash? Now You Can Still Get a Houston Cab

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It's 2 a.m. and you've just stumbled out of the bar and discovered -- thanks to lots of whiskey and the fact that you're seeing not one but two versions of your car and wondering who the hell is singing "Enjoy Yourself" in a bad Louis Prima impression, only to realize it's you -- that you won't be driving yourself home.

So you call a cab and like magic, that man with the good kind of lights on his car pulls up to the curb you're sprawled out on. Somehow he gets you up off the ground and stows you safely in the back of his taxi, and he's your favorite person in the world right now, because he's taking you home. Hell, he'll even stop and let you pick up some greasy drive-through food that you'll be thanking everything holy you put into your system tomorrow morning.

As his car motors through the dark city, you're filled with that love of mankind that sometimes floods us all -- usually when we're drunk -- and you tell Taxi Driver how wonderful he is, how cool his mustache is, how glad you are his daughter is about to graduate college, how this one time you got your heart broken but it's all okay now because here you are riding through the city with a paragon of virtue. You love this man right now, even though you won't remember his name in the morning. You even buy him his own order of fries, just in case he wants a snack.

And then, as you're approaching your neighborhood, getting so close to your front door you almost think you're already there -- though that could be those tequila shots -- a horrible realization jolts through you, shattering this tenuous feeling of absolute understanding between you and T.D.: You don't have any cash, not even a quarter, and that's all cab drivers accept in person.

In one fell swoop, it's all been destroyed, this feeling of complete communion and understanding with a total stranger, the beauty of the stars spinning by in the night sky outside the cab window, your plans to drink enough water when you get home to avoid the hangover that's already creeping in.

You lean toward the front seat, meek, abashed, to tell him you'll need to find an ATM. T.D. sighs, just the tiniest whisper of a sound, but with that sigh you've gone from being the passenger you were sure he'd remember forever to another idiot who doesn't seem to get that taxis in Houston must be paid for with cold, hard cash. You find the ATM and he deposits you at your door, but something's been lost.

That was how the story used to go down, but not anymore. Now there's another way. Houston's Lone Star Cabs have just done a complete overhaul of the technology in their cabs, allowing you to book your cab, track its progress and pay for it, all through a smartphone app called Taxi Magic. If you're one of those people who are just not into the whole smartphone craze, Lone Star Cabs have also been equipped to allow customers to pay by swiping their credit cards through machines in the cab, according to a release from the company. (Though for the record, it seems like most every cab company accepts credit cards, so this seems to be more of an issue when you hail a cab or when you blithely said you'd pay with cash when you ordered the taxi, forgetting you spent your last $20 on those food-truck tacos.)

So the story of you and T.D. doesn't have to end with irritation, disappointment and you throwing up on your shoes and your own doormat once you finally get home after tracking down an ATM. Long as you're coordinated enough to use a smartphone or swipe a credit card, you'll never ruin another beautiful, temporary, 2 a.m. encounter that will reinforce your faith in the wonder and majesty of humankind again. Or if you do, at least it won't be because you forgot you had no cash.

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