Nearly every American of age has had some sort of bizarre experience in a taxi cab and the San Diego International Airport is going to the extreme to ensure that their reputation isn’t soiled. Literally.
The San Diego Regional Airport Authority is forcing the cab drivers who frequent their property to conduct a body odor test, among more than 50 other checkpoints of criteria.
For years, inspectors with the San Diego Regional Airport Authority run down their checklist for each cabbie — proof of insurance, functioning windshield wipers, adequate tire treads, good brakes. Drivers are graded pass, fail or needs fixing.
Anyone who flunks the smell test is told to change before picking up another customer.
Leaders of the United Taxi Workers of San Diego union say the litmus perpetuates a stereotype that predominantly foreign-born taxi drivers smell bad. A 2013 survey of 331 drivers by San Diego State University and Center on Policy Initiatives found 94 percent were immigrants and 65 percent were from East Africa.
Airport authority spokeswoman Rebecca Bloomfield said there is “no standard process” to testing.
Others drivers question how inspectors distinguish between them and their cars. The checklist has a separate item for a vehicle’s “foul interior odors,” which Bloomfield says may include gasoline, vomit or mildew.
“If they want to bring their smell detector, they can use it to test the customers and the drivers,” said driver Negus Gebrenarian, 39, from Ethiopia. He, like other drivers, said the stench is just as likely to come from the back seat as it is from the front.
Inspectors have been smelling drivers for years. There was no controversy until a union employee waded through a 568-page airport board agenda and noticed the checklist, which had been approved in July for revisions unrelated to the body odor test. KPBS reported on the practice last week.
Does this sound like discrimination or decontamination to you?
Let us know your thoughts on the matter in the comment section, as well as any smelly cab stories you may want to share.