What to do When a Cabbie Holds Your Phone Hostage, Hating On Gifts in Public, and Other Questionable Advice

Welcome to Thatz Not Okay, a regular column in which I school inquiring readers on what is and is not okay. Please send your questions to caity.weaver@gawker.com with the subject "Thatz Not Okay."

So I'm in a cab on the way back to Williamsburg and I find a phone in the back seat. I ask the driver if he remembers who the last person in the cab was. Remarkably, he does, and says that the woman was just dropped off in Williamsburg prior to picking me up. Dude knows her address and everything. So I naively assumed this cab driver was a human being and would deliver it to her after he dropped me off. Nuh-uh. Instead, this dipshit starts crowing about how he's going to hold on to the phone until she calls it and then will return it to her for a fee depending on how his night goes. "It's a $20 tip for me, usually!" he says. So I get pissed. I start in on the dude and then ask for the phone back and say that I'll drop it off and call him an asshole. "Nope," he says. "This is how I get my business to run." More yelling transpires between us and then I pay $20 to get the phone back from him and call him an asshole some more. I mean, I could see if this girl was in Long Island City or some place or if he didn't remember the passenger but this seemed completely shitty for the sake of being shitty on his part. But then again — maybe this is standard operating procedure and I wigged for no reason. If you leave your phone in the back of a taxi and the driver charges you a fee to return it, is that okay?

Thatz not okay.

A similar situation to this one went down on NBC's 30 Rock, a serialized documentary about a perfectly lovely middle aged woman whose severe body dysmorphic disorder is compounded by her non-traditional relationships with coworkers in a stressful work environment.

In one installment, the protagonist, "LL," leaves her cell phone in the backseat of a taxicab, and the driver charges her $2000 to return it. (There's an additional element of blackmail here, as that driver threatened to text "an adult photo" stored on the phone to "LL's" entire contact list if she failed to come up with the money. From what you've written, it sounds like the victim in this case avoided such a scenario, though you don't explicitly state what happened after you received the phone. I don't know your life.)

Anyway, what an asshole.

I'm not a lawyer or a doctor a policeman or a small-town sheriff or, heck, even an 8th grade graduate, but doesn't it sound like the cab driver basically laid out for a random passenger (you) his plan to perform extortion? "Oh, yes, I know whose phone that is. I will sell it back to her for a small fee" – At that point, doesn't the phone move from "lost" to "willfully stolen"?

No good ever comes of anyone leaving a phone in the backseat of a taxi. It sucks for the person who loses it. It sucks for the person who finds it. Do you give the phone to the driver in the hopes he is not a criminal crazy person and will hold onto it until its owner can arrange to pick it up? Do you take it yourself and try to return it, because you are some kind of low-grade superhero whose power is returning things? Do you just leave it there for someone else to deal with?

One time, in college, I was running late for a mid-term and was so far from campus I had to hail a cab to take me in. (I know. I felt like a douche.) After I sat down, I noticed an iPhone in the backseat. The driver advised me to take it because he didn't want to deal. (Smart man, though potentially cheating himself out of a $20 tip/extortion fee). I brought the phone into class with me and, in the middle of my test, the owner started calling. I did not know how to silence the phone. I did not know how to shut the phone off. I did not know how to work an iPhone at all. I started frantically hitting buttons (and swiping at the locked screen) and found that if I continually pressed "lower volume," the phone's rings could be preempted. I spent the next 45 minutes writing essays with my right hand and lowering the phone's volume with my left. After class, I returned the phone to its owner and did not collect $20 and did not pass go and hated everyone.

While it's not a driver's responsibility to keep track of his passengers' cell phones (that's their Moms' responsibility), this guy was not right to hold the phone hostage in exchange for a special phonedergarten fee. He could have returned the phone to its owner gratis and hoped for a tip; he probably would have received a big one. He could have dropped it off at a police precinct for its owner to track down. He could have let you deal with it, on good faith that you would return it to her as you promised you would, though that's risky business because you look shady as fuck and I wouldn't trust you with a prop phone, let alone a real one.

He is an asshole and good for you for calling him an asshole.

You, by contrast, are an angel for paying the man $20 in exchange for the phone.

I hope you and President Jackson negotiated that prisoner exchange before the meter ran out so that you could just deduct $20 from the total fare when paying him, then vanish cackling into the night like some mischievous Prince of Phones.

I hope you returned the phone to the girl and that she was actually Santa Claus in human form testing to see if there was any goodwill left in the world in, and that, a couple months from now, you find a crisp $20 bill under your tree with a note that reads "Your phroend, Santa."

And I hope that one day that taxi cab driver loses his phone and gets it back for free so that maybe he will consider being less of a dick to people in crisis.

By the way, helpful tip regarding cabs and phones: Always ask for a paper receipt before leaving a taxi. Not only will the receipt have the driver's medallion number on it (which greatly increases your chances of tracking down the cab to retrieve a lost item), you can use the 45 minutes it takes to print out a receipt to look around and make sure you aren't leaving anything behind.

Also, never have a cellular phone in New York City.

I cat sat for a couple while they were on vacation in the Bahamas. They brought back a couple of very nice T-shirts for my husband and I as a thank you. A very thoughtful gesture.

Unfortunately they are size XL. My husband and I are size M at best. The shirts are very nice and clearly very expensive (embroidered scripting and a heavy, plush cotton). I feel guilty with them sitting at the bottom of my drawer, but after a year of collecting dust it is time for them to go. I fear if I donate these t-shirts to the local thrift store, (with my luck) my friends will see someone else wearing these t-shirts around town (the shirts are very distinctive). On the other hand, I don't want to give the impression I'm unappreciative — I just don't see wearing them unless we grow eight inches and gain 60lbs (not a very likely scenario). I thought since the one of the gentlemen who gave them to us is tall, he might make use of them.

Other than stuffing them back in the bottom of my drawer (or framing them for wall art), what is the most respectful way to handle these gifts? Is it okay to return a gift to a friend?

P.S. Another friend of mine says I'm over thinking it and that the t-shirts "were not a thoughtful gift cause if they had thought about it they would have gotten you the right size. On the other hand, they might have been telling you they think you are fat."

Thatz not okay.

Your friend is right. These t-shirts, "very distinctive" though they may be—made of the heaviest cotton, and embroidered with fine scripting by the hand of Zeus Himself—were not a thoughtful gift. Not only would a thoughtful gift have been one in your size (as your friend points out), a thoughtful gift for an adult person would not be a t-shirt to begin with. Adults give t-shirts as gifts for two reasons:

1) As gags. Does the embroidered script identify you and your husband as "Female Body Inspectors"?
2) Because they were rushing around trying to grab souvenirs at the last minute and thought that a t-shirt would come across as more thoughtful than a turtle figurine made out of seashells. (It does not.)

That being said, your friends were under no obligation to bring you back a souvenir. (Though they might have taken you out to dinner as a thank-you for successfully watching their cat or, anyway, going to all the trouble to replace it with a nearly-identical looking cat when you let their real cat die on Night 2.) That they bothered to lug these giant shirts all the way from the Bahamas is, at best, a nice-ish gesture.

You can wear them to bed. You can use them to wax your car. You can use them to mop up spilled cereal milk one day, then immediately throw them away while thinking, "This is how a king lives." You cannot, however, return them to your friends.

First of all, the t-shirts, despite your noting the fact that they "were clearly very expensive," were not expensive or important enough to warrant your returning them to your friends even immediately after they'd given them to you. If your friends had given you a fancy watch as a thank-you for watching their cat, and you felt the gesture was too extravagant, that's another story.

More importantly, you must realize how insane it sounds to propose returning a souvenir t-shirt to someone a year after you received it.

"Remember how you went to the Bahamas in 2011? Well, I've been meditating on this for a year, now, and I've decided I just don't feel comfortable commemorating that. Please accept this XL Bahama Mama t-shirt you gave me as my formal resignation."

I promise you that buying those shirts was not the highlight of your friends' vacation. If someone gave you a souvenir t-shirt a year ago, there is a zero percent chance they remember what it looks like now. Donate without remorse.

If Mercury reverts to retrograde on a full moon during a leap year and your friends conference call you one day to say they saw some strangers downtown wearing the very distinctive heavy, plush cotton t-shirts with embroidered scripting they SPECIFICALLY CHOSE FOR YOU AND YOUR HUSBAND IN THE BAHAMAS, you can either say, "Oh, I'm so glad to hear those got picked up! I just took a bunch of stuff down to donate. We got our wear out of them, that's for sure. How'd they look?" or you can say, "Hmm. I guess someone else in this one-horse town must have made it down to the Bahamas in the last 10 years. That's weird."

Judging by the conscientious tone of your email (and I mean that; you seem absurd, but also very conscientious), I suspect that you are, in fact, the kind of person who knows damn well that returning a souvenir t-shirt to a friend a year after the fact is a wack plan that will only serve to confuse them and make you look crazy. Perhaps you merely wanted to have the extra-large t-shirts decried as a shitty gift in a public forum. If so, here is that: The extra-large t-shirts were a shitty gift. They should have brought you rum or pirates' booty or Pirate's Booty.

If you're still unwilling to donate the shirts (or wear them when sleeping or convert them into rags), I like your wall art idea. Please send a photo if you go that route.

Finally, stop worrying that your friends think you're fat. If you're a Medium, you're medium-fat at most, which is fine.

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