Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Private parts

After sitting at LaGuardia for an hour this afternoon (US Air lot pictured in my mirror above), I finally got back to a very slow city. Business was thin pretty much all night. But I did manage to have one interesting/strange conversation with a man who took my cab for five blocks. It went like this:

Him: "Let me guess -- you're an artist."

Me: "An artist? No. Why do you say that?"

Him: "Well, I'm an artist and you just strike me as one. You have very meditational eyes."

Me: "Meditational eyes? What does that mean?"

Him: "I can only see your eyes in the mirror, I haven't seen the rest of your face yet, but your eyes say that something needs to come out, like off your skin. Like sweat."

Me: (confused, turning on the air conditioner)

Him: "I just feel it from you.... You know, I'm married to a priest."

Me: "A priest?"

(At this point I decide I need to stop repeating everything he says because I'm annoying myself.)

Him: "Yes. We got married in San Francisco."

Me: "That's nice. That'll be $4.20 please.

Him: (counting) "One, two, three, five. Bye!"

Don't ask, because I have no idea.

The only other thing worth mentioning concerns the little girl whose parents took the time to teach her about her "private parts" while in my cab. It came up because she started talking very loudly about her "giny," screaming the word gleefully over and over again and, I assume, either touching or pointing to it.** Her parents gently told her not to talk about such things in public. When she insisted on knowing why, they responded, "Because it's private. That's why they're called your private parts."

I privately cringed and sped to their Upper West Side destination before the conversation could move on to bowel movements or some such other "private" topic.

Oh, and one other thing. I don't think I've mentioned yet that, ever since summer started, people have been jaywalking like crazy. It's out of control and I noticed today that it's finally taking its toll when I saw no fewer than five people hobbling around on crutches. Perhaps some people have learned their lesson? As someone who's been hit by a car and spent an entire summer on crutches, all I have to say is, just wait for the light. It's so much easier than breaking your foot on a car and ruining your summer.

** A little update to prevent any confusion over how this special word is pronounced, because these things are clearly important. The closest phonetic I can come up with is jie-nee, like the word "tiny" but with a J instead of a T.
I hope I never hear this word ever again.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006


Since so many people leave New York for the summer, the taxi business gets slow. Which also means not as many interesting things happen in the cab. Or, at least, not my cab.

Last night, the big event had to do with my air conditioning. After driving for a short while, I noticed it was blowing out a funny smell and I was starting to feel a little lightheaded. I dropped off some tourists at the Apollo Theater on 125th Street and called Allen, an old-time driver, and told him I was having a problem.

Allen is a strange, funny, almost child-like guy. An orthodox Jew from Williamsburg by day and a human global positioning system by night, Allen knows how to get anywhere from anywhere in the five boroughs with block-by-block precision. He also has plenty of answers for any other question a younger, stupider driver like me might have, but his answers to non-directions-related questions can be hit or miss.

I got him on the phone and our conversation went something like this:

Me: "Hey, my A.C. smells weird. It's giving me a headache and making me a little dizzy. Do you know what that could be?"

Allen: "Oh I know what it is -- does it smell like coffee?"

Me: "Uhh, no. It's more chemical like."

Allen: "Okay. Does it smell like crap?"

Me: "No, it just smells sort of toxic, like I'm losing brain cells."

Allen: "Is it blowing warm air?"

Me: "No."

Allen: "Does it smell like plastic?"

Me: "Yeah, sort of. It's in that family."

Allen: "Oh, okay, yeah. It must've been the day driver ran over a plastic bag and it melted onto the pipe. You're fine. It's no big deal."

Me: "Okay. Thanks."

Allen: "I'll call you later to see what's doing."

Allen took the night off yesterday, but calling each other when we're not working is something we can't help but do. If one of us was supposed to work and didn't, we'll check in to find out how business is, to hear what the traffic is like, and basically to see what we missed. If we discover it was a slow night, we feel good for having taken the night off. If it was busy, there's a pang of regret that we missed out on it. I don't know if other cabbies do this, but I do it all the time with Allen and Diego. Last night was nothing special, so Allen should be happy to know he didn't miss much.

In light of that, I felt no regret at quitting only seven hours into the shift as the chemical fumes from the A.C. were starting to turn my head around. I returned the cab and called it a night.

Meanwhile, the driver of this cab clearly had a more eventful night than I did.

Sometimes it's just better for it to be boring.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Yes, I do own the road

I don't really have much to report. Nothing all that interesting happened tonight. There were no celebrities in my cab and not one person gave me the finger. Of course, the same old out of state drivers pulled the same old idiot moves, which is nothing new, but it made me think some introductions might need to be made. You know, like, "Connecticut, meet the gas pedal," and "Pennsylvania, meet the turn signal," and of course, "New Jersey, meet all of the above, as well as the 'end call' button on your cell phone." It almost seems like these states require their drivers to be either brain dead or a meth head in order to get a license. I'll never understand it.

Oh, and around 2:30 am there was one crazy, possibly drunk, lady in a Nissan Maxima. She pulled up alongside me at a red light and started yelling at me. My window was up so I couldn't really hear what she was saying, but it sounded like she was telling me I was disgusting. I just ignored her, but when the light changed, she veered directly into me, forcing me to swerve into the other lane to avoid getting hit by her.

I still have no idea why she did that. I did nothing to provoke her. But I was sufficiently pissed, so I, in turn, pulled the reactionary asshole move of getting in front of her at the next opportunity and slowing way down, ultimately stopping at the green light. It was late, I was tired, and since business was slowing down, I had nothing better to do. It's not my usual way of handling these things but I couldn't resist the impulse to annoy her for a minute. She was trapped behind me and leaned on the horn, which was somewhat gratifying. But eventually I got bored of that and got away from her.

That was about it by way of excitement for the night.

Earlier in the evening, I saw the best sign ever. It was on this cabbie's rear windshield:

The picture didn't come out very well so you may not be able to read it. The sign says, "Yes, I do own the road." I think I need to get one of these. I'll probably get the finger a lot more that way.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006


So after a week with an ear infection, I got back to work and was greeted by the wanna-be thugs pictured above. They got mad at me because I wouldn't let them cut me off when their lane of traffic was blocked. At the next red light, they pulled up next to me and yelled, "Asshole!" Determined to try and stay cool for at least one full shift (which, for some reason, has been a lot harder these days), I just laughed and said, "That's very original."

This must've pissed them off even more because one of them said, "If you were a guy, I'd spit on you." Then they gave me my favorite finger, so I pulled out the camera. The best part of all this was, as others have done before him, the finger-giver held his pose for the camera. In fact, I almost didn't get the shot and said, "No, wait!" So they rolled the window back down and he politely held on for another second until I got the shot. Of course, afterwards he said, "You want a picture of my dick?"

I replied, "Sure, right after I get a picture of your license plate." The light finally changed and, just for the fun of it, I actually did take a shot of the plate (but not the dick). As I took the picture, I saw that the plate had the little wheelchair symbol that indicates that the driver of the car is disabled. I realized then that the symbol was probably there to warn other drivers about this guy's handicapped mental abilities. Though, on second thought, it's too bad I didn't take him up on his offer of the dick shot, because perhaps that's where his disability lies.

The shift continued on and traffic was refreshingly light. But just as I was wondering if anything interesting, other than dicks and middle fingers, would ever happen in my cab again, the guy pictured below got in.

Recognize him? I did immediately, and I don't even have cable. (It's Jon Stewart of The Daily Show, in case you weren't sure.) Much to my own surprise, I was a bit starstruck. So much so that I actually forgot to turn the meter on for about 15 blocks. He was on the phone and remained oblivious to me for the entire ride until finally, as I dropped him at his destination, I worked up the gumption to interrupt his conversation. And you know what? He was cool as hell. So many cabbies have celebrity stories where the person turns out to be a total asshole, but not Jon Stewart.

I sputtered away at him for a minute and finally told him about the blog and asked if I could take his picture. He graciously posed for me and was incredibly modest and nice. And thank goodness, because it would've been depressing if I had to write about one more dick.

Oh yeah, and he tipped well, too.