The trip was less than a mile, a short hop in the middle of the night from Old City to a Columbus Boulevard apartment.
It took little more than a minute, just long enough for the passenger to exchange holiday-season pleasantries with the cabbie. The fare came to $4.31 and the passenger paid with a credit card.
Cabbie Oumar Maiga was stunned when he looked at the receipt: It included a tip for an inexplicable $989.98.
"I've heard of some large tips before, but nothing this big," said Everett M. Abitbol, cofounder of Freedom Taxi. "It couldn't have happened to a better guy."
Abitbol said the cab company, worried the passenger had made a mistake, waited 30 days for the credit card company to process the fare. On Wednesday, with the fare OK'd, the company broke the news of the magnanimous tipper on its Facebook page.
Maiga, who works the night shift, was not immediately available for comment.
The identity of the generous passenger remains a mystery.
"We've tried to get in touch with him, but the credit card company won't divulge his name," Abitbol said. "The fare was not disputed. That's all they would say."
Maiga is originally from West Africa and has been with Freedom Taxi since its inception in 2011.
"He's a quintessential taxi driver," Abitbol said. "He works six or seven days a week and is very consistent. He works very hard to put food on the table for his family, and sends a good amount of that money to family that remain overseas."
Maiga was trawling for fares on Dec. 13 when he was flagged down about 1:15 a.m. by the man at Second and Market Streets. The passenger asked to go to a building on Columbus near Race Street, then asked how Maiga's night was going.
"A little hectic, but not bad," Maiga said, according to Abitbol.
The passenger responded: "I'll make it a great night."
When they arrived at the destination, the passenger swiped his card and entered the tip.
Confused, Maiga asked the man whether he had meant to include such a large tip, Abitbol recounted.
"I know what I did," the passenger replied.
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