Pete Hankins

Damon Runyon

Poor Pete Hankins was a fine man. He drove the truck six years for Gene Carson the laundryman. Then Gene Carson died and the big Snow White laundry people got all Gene Carson’s business. There was no job for Pete. It was a shame. He was a very fine man.

Pete went to New York. He got a job as a taxi driver. He was always a very good driver in Our Town. He never had an accident.

He is forty years of age and has four children in their teens. He has three girls and one boy.

He has a tough time getting along.

He wears a mustache and in the winter it collects icicles.

Pete owns his own taxicab but by the time he pays for his license, gas and repairs out of his earnings, he does not have much left for himself.

The cops are very mean to Pete. In New York City the cops are very mean to all taxicab drivers. The cops call all taxicab drivers by the same name. It is Hey You.

Some of the people who ride in Pete’s taxicab are also very mean to him. They always think he is trying to cheat them out of a larger fare on the meter when he happens to go a block out of the way.

The most Pete could cheat them out of even if he tried is about six cents and he never tries. He is a very honest taxicab driver. He has a little sign pasted up in front of him in his taxicab that reads honesty is the best policy.

Pete is always telling his son little Pete to live by this motto. Little Pete is sixteen. When his father tells him honesty is the best policy little Pete says, You have got something there, Pop.

One bitter cold morning around two o’clock when there was snow and ice in the streets, Pete delivered a fare to the Stork Club and then picked up a lady and gentleman in evening clothes who wanted to go to Jimmy Kelly’s away down in Greenwich Village.

It was so cold Pete had more icicles on his mustache than usual.

The lady had on an ermine wrap and many jewels. The gentleman wore a high hat. They seemed in bad humor. When Pete’s taxicab skidded a little on the ice the lady screamed and told him to be careful. The gentleman called him a bad name.

Pete said he was sorry but it was the fault of the ice. The lady wanted to know if he was trying to kill them. Pete thought of his children at home and said no, he did not want to kill anybody because he might get killed himself. The lady said she guessed he was just ignorant. The gentleman called him another bad name.

When Pete took a slightly longer route to avoid some bad streets going to Jimmy Kelly’s the gentleman said he was trying to swindle him. Pete said all right if the gentleman thought that, he would knock off any difference the gentleman thought proper on the meter.

The lady told the gentleman not to argue with an ignorant taxi driver.

When they got to Jimmy Kelly’s the gentleman paid just what was on the meter and would not give Pete a tip. The lady said, That is right, George, he does not deserve a tip, and Pete went back to his stand up our street wondering why the lady and gentleman should be so rude.

He happened to look in his cab and there on the seat was the lady’s purse and when he opened to see if there was an address, he found it contained two thousand dollars in money and a big square diamond ring, but no address.

So Pete jumped on the seat of his cab and drove back to Jimmy Kelly’s but the lady and gentleman had gone somewhere else and the head waiter thought it was El Morocco.

So Pete drove away uptown to El Morocco looking for the lady and gentleman. They were not there.

He drove all over town stopping in every night club. Finally he found them in the Club 18.

He called them out and returned the purse to the lady. She had not missed it as yet. She looked at Pete very suspiciously as she examined the contents and counted the money.

By this time Pete’s mustache had so many icicles on it he could hardly open his mouth.

The gentleman looked at Pete very suspiciously too. Then they both went back into the Club 18 without even saying thank you to Pete. He thought they should have offered to pay him for the gas he used up looking for them.

The next day Pete was getting ready to go to work in his taxicab when his son little Pete came along and noticed the little sign pasted up in the cab and read it out loud and said, Pop, you have got something there, all right. Honesty is the best policy.

Pete just drove off to work.