Tuesday, July 25, 2006
On Ninth Avenue tonight, two guys were walking in the middle of the street. When I pulled up behind them, one of them turned around and, instead of getting out of the way and walking on the sidewalk like a normal human being, said, "Calm yourself, you fucking CUNT."
This was so out of nowhere and so utterly uncalled for, I snapped. I was, at that point in my shift, just so sick of the abuse, sick of the idea that some idiot crossing in traffic can turn around and use some shitty sexist slur against me, and sick of the fact that it even bothered me at all. But it did. In fact, I'd rather be called an asshole, or even a motherfucker, but cunt? It hardly fits.
So, yeah, I lost my cool. Despite the fact that I had a passenger in the backseat -- a circumstance under which I usually have much more restraint, since the point here is to work and make money and not let shit get to you -- I yelled out the window a very boring and tired old "Why don't you come back here and call me a cunt to my face, you fucking retard."
The guy, of course, returned my unoriginal question with his own very unoriginal move of grabbing his balls at me. At that point I had unbuckled my seatbelt and was reaching for my camera, but just then the light turned green and I remembered I had a passenger, remembered that I was working, not playing some stupid ego game, so I pulled myself together and just drove away.
I felt pretty stupid and weird and pissed off, and I felt I had to say something to my passenger so he didn't think he was riding with some psychopath -- though, at that point, he was. I said, "Sorry about that. I'm just sick of these guys who walk in the middle of the street and then think that I'm like trying to hit them or something, and then say shit to me like I shouldn't be driving on the street they're walking on."
The guy didn't seem phased, saying only, "Oh, it's okay." Maybe he really didn't care, but I have a feeling he might have been scared of me, and I ended up feeling like a total fool. Maybe even a bit of an asshole, but definitely not a cunt.
Later on, my last job of the night, I took a middle-aged heavyset guy to Glendale, Queens. The entire ride there we talked about the rising price of gas and he explained to me in complicated detail the mechanics of our economy and how gas prices were going to exceed people's need for the stuff and eventually prices would go down, etc, etc.
After a while, he asked if I was a student. I get asked this one a lot since I look a lot younger than my 30 years. I said no. Then he asked, "Well do you do something else besides driving the cab?" I've learned over the past few years that people really like it if you're doing something else. They don't like to hear that you're just a cab driver, they want you to be working towards something.
I've started to tell people different things, but a lot of times I just give some vague, weird, embarrassed answer like, "I guess I'm trying to be a writer these days," or something like that. Sometimes I'll even tell them about the blog, but most often not.
This guy got all excited when he heard this answer. He went on and on about writing and then said, "You should use the internet to leverage that -- have you heard of blogs?"
I said yes, and was about to tell him I had one, but I couldn't really get a word in as he quickly went on to explain, again in meticulous detail, how I could start a blog and get Google advertising on it and get twenty- to thirty-thousand hits a day (not likely) and make a ton of money. By then we were in front of his house and talking with the meter off already, so I didn't really feel like getting into it and prolonging the conversation. I just let him talk himself out until finally he paid me, wished me luck, and jumped out.
I probably really should start a blog, shouldn't I.
Wednesday, July 19, 2006
A few months ago -- in fact, it was May 18, "Taxi Appreciation Day" -- I got a ticket by the Taxi & Limousine Commission (TLC) for making a turn during daytime non-turning hours. I figured it wouldn't hurt to fight it, since the fine was for $150, no small amount of change, so I went down to the big TLC building in Long Island City last week and -- guess what? I lost.
I don't know why I ever thought for a second I might get out of it, since I was indeed guilty and the TLC is definitely not renowned for forgiveness, but I was determined to try nonetheless. When I got into the hearing room, the ticketing officer recognized me right away. He had seen his own picture posted on the site and amiably complained to me that he looked like he was sleeping in the shot. He wasn't. He was simply looking down, writing my ticket.
We chatted for a few minutes while the administrative judge finished up the case just before mine, and then we got sworn in. The officer gave his testimony, I gave mine, then showed the judge pictures of how there are no signs at the intersection of 49th and 2nd Ave warning drivers that, if they turn on 49th, they'll be trapped on a "Thru-Street," meaning you can't turn off until Park. This didn't really matter, I guess. I still made the turn, even though I didn't mean to break the law.
The whole thing took about ten minutes, and when we got out of the hearing room, I joked with the officer, saying "I hope I never see you again." Then I spent close to an hour waiting for the decision, and here I got to observe the unruly chaos of the TLC adjudication floor. Men streamed in and out of hearing rooms, chatted loudly on cell phones in the waiting area, and cheap lawyers in shiny suits "advised" drivers about how to plead.
Finally, my name was called over the loudspeaker and I approached the information desk. They were handing back decisions, and when I got up to the front, the woman behind the counter handed me a piece of paper and said, "Go to the cashier. Have a nice day." There was no joy in her voice, just a not-quite-polite monotone that seemed to come from repeating the same words over and over all day everyday.
The paper read as follows:
The Inspector credibly testified that, during an assignment at the corner of Lexington Avenue and East 49th Street, on May 18, 2006 at 4:02 pm, he observed the driver/respondent in a taxi approach the intersection in a westbound direction and make a left onto Lexington Avenue (southbound) from East 49th Street. He testified that a sign was posted (facing east on 49th Street onto Lexington Avenue) stating "No left turns Monday thru Friday, 10:00am - 6:00pm." He then stopped the vehicle and personally issued summons to the respondent.
In her testimony, the respondent stated that the testimony of the inspector was accurate, but that she did not intentionally violate the "no turn" rule. She testified that she did not see the sign due to the volume of traffic.
Even though the respondent may not have intended to violate the "no turn" rule, this is not a valid defense to a violation of TLC Rule 2-21B2, as set forth in this summons.
Accordingly, a violation of 2-21B2 is sustained.
I guess the judge wasn't interested in my little "lack of a sign on 2nd Avenue" defense. (Note to DOT: Put a damn sign up there already.) But my main problem with the whole thing was that I'd rather get a ticket for something I actually meant to do, rather than just for some stupid mistake I made.
I paid my $150 at the cashier and vowed to never make that stupid mistake ever again.
Tuesday, July 11, 2006
So things went a little better tonight. The afternoon consisted of passengers that were eager to talk about the building explosion on the upper east side (photo above of the blocked-off end of 62nd Street at Park Ave). The radio was going on about it over and over, so I was able to give everyone up-to-the-minute updates. It's funny to see so many reactions to a bizarre local news story. It seemed like most people were mildly amused by the whole thing, mainly, I think, because no one died and because the guy was clearly a lunatic.
Anyway, later in the evening I picked up a well-dressed French man going to a hotel in SoHo. We chatted for a bit and, of course, the World Cup came up. I'm not a big soccer fan or anything, but I did happen to see the final game on Sunday. The poor guy, I actually felt a little bad for him. He talked about the game with deep regret, saying, "It would've been better if it was the Germans, not the Italians."
Just to be sure, I clarified. "You mean, you would prefer to lose to Germany than to Italy."
He laughed a tiny bit and said, "Yes. That is correct."
In other World Cup news, near the end of my shift, two girls and a very drunk guy got in at Ludlow and Stanton. The girls entered the cab by the curb, but the guy entered street-side. When he got in, he took one look at me and started yelling, saying, "Oh shit! You look Italian! Are you Italian?"
Then he started singing, but the whole time, his door was wide open and cars were starting to zip by with only inches to spare. A few more seconds like that and I knew the door would be gone. But when I asked him to close it, he refused. He just sat there staring at me and yelling that I was Italian. (I'm not.)
I turned around and threatened to kick him out of the cab if he didn't calm down and close the door, but the girls persuaded me not to. Then they took a turn yelling at him to shut the door, and finally he did.
I was, by that point, considerably annoyed. The two girls were sweet, though, and began apologizing for his behavior. I was ready to let it go, but he continued yelling, and finally went to reach through the partition. As far as I'm concerned, this a big no-no. With one hand on the wheel, I reached back with the other and slammed it shut in his face. He drew his hand back in time but, unfortunately, I could still hear him. He turned to his friends and said, "This is the worst cab experience ever. Isn't it?"
They said, "No, Neil, it isn't. She's just doing her job and you're being an ass."
I was happy that they understood where I was coming from. I was also happy that it was only a short ride. Neil continued acting like a dick, singing Pearl Jam songs and demanding I put on Hot 97, until we finally reached St. Mark's and First Ave. I opened the partition and said, "That'll be $4.60." The girls apologized again, handed me a ten, and told me to keep it.
Then, as they exited on the curb side, Neil, staying true to his asshole form, got out on the street side, flinging the door open on to oncoming cars. Me and the girls yelled, but he ignored us and continued exiting as cars swerved around us up First Ave.
When my next passenger got in, he said, "Do you smoke?"
I said, "Yeah, why do you ask?"
"Oh, someone left a full pack of cigarettes on the seat."
He handed me a brand-new unopened pack of cigarettes. I was sure they were Neil's and felt gratified that he at least paid some small price for his stupidity, and that I got a little something extra out of the deal, in addition to the nice tip.
My gratification turned to disappointment, however, when I noticed the brand: Marlboro Light Menthols. I would've happily smoked just about any brand, especially when it's free, but you have to draw the line somewhere. Of course, it made perfect sense. Only a dick named Neil would buy those -- and then lose them, unopened, in a cab.
Friday, July 07, 2006
Last night was a total bust from beginning to end. I made a number of mistakes and bad decisions, the first of which was showing up to work at all. When I got to the garage, the first thing anybody said to me was "Did you gain weight?" I'm not a big person and I don't think I'll ever manage to be overweight, but still. The question is tough to hear. No one wants to gain weight, even if it's just couple of pounds from too many burritos.
Granted, the question was asked in a well-meaning way, followed by a "No, I mean, you look good!" But the damage was done. I mean, how could someone notice if I gained a few pounds when there are a bunch of fat cabbies hanging out not 10 feet away. Anyway, I just woke up and checked myself out in the mirror but I don't seem any different. A few nights ago I wasn't anorexic enough, and now this.
Anyway, when I pulled out of the garage, something smelled funny. I couldn't tell if it was coming from my cab or just from the area I was in so I continued on over the bridge. When I got to the other side, I knew for sure it was my cab. This time it smelled like some kind of horrible toxic oil was burning. I thought maybe it was something spilled on the engine and that it would burn off after a little while, but it never did.
I checked with a few of my passengers to see if they smelled it to, in order to make sure I wasn't going crazy, and they did. But when I checked under the hood, the smell wasn't there. After about an hour, I realized it was coming from somewhere underneath the car, and it didn't seem to have any plans of going away. Now slightly dizzy, nauseous, and with a small headache, I went back to the garage to get it looked at.
I know nothing about cars, but apparently the "rear end was blown out." Or at least that's what it sounded like Lincoln, the head mechanic, said. Then I think he was playing with me because he said, "You ruined my car!" I said back, "Your car ruined my night!" But my night wasn't ruined enough yet, apparently. Walter, one of the cashiers, set me up with an SBV (stand-by vehicle), which is a back-up cab that borrows the medallions from regular cabs that are being worked on. At that point, I didn't want to work anymore -- my rhythm was gone, my head felt weird, and I had lost heart, but Walter, who is a buddy of mine, had no intention of letting me get away with that. What he did say was that he would give me a hundred dollar discount (which I'm sure he would never really do, but it's worth a try) if I mentioned him on the site. Hi Walter!
I lost over an hour of my shift to that stupid car, and when I finally got back on the streets, it was spotty business. Two hours later, I got a lady going to Queens. When I dropped her off, I got another fare deeper into Queens. And here's where the mistakes really start to stack up. It's almost as if I was a brand new driver last night, because when I finally dropped those last people off, I tried to head over to LaGuardia (mistake), but ended up getting lost and taking a long stupid way there (mistake).
When I got there, I pulled into the Delta lot (big fucking mistake), and sat there for over an hour. When I finally got to the front of the line, bad luck kicked in and I got a fare going to Far fucking Rockaway. It's called "Far Rockaway" for a reason, as it's a million miles from the city, but what it is near is Kennedy Airport. So after I dropped off, I made my biggest mistake of the night and drove into the Central Taxi Hold lot at Kennedy.
By this time it was midnight. The lot looked promising as it was only about 40% full, which is usually a good thing, but not last night. I sat there and waited. And waited. And waited. I got stared at by some disgusting, pervy cab driver, who wouldn't even stop staring after I took his photo (featured above). I sat in my cab and read a book, bought a buttered roll (that lacked much butter), talked on the phone to Allen and Diego, and smoked a ton of cigarettes.
Finally, two and a half hours later, I couldn't take it anymore. When you pull into that lot, you get trapped in a lane, with cabs parked in front of you, next to you, and behind you. But by 2:30, a bunch of the cabs in the lanes around me had given up and reversed out of there empty. The lane next to me was now clear, so, being tired, frustrated, and utterly disgusted with the piece of shit night I had been having, I gave up too.
I pulled out empty and drove straight back to the garage, but, of course, not without having to take the long way, since the Van Wyck was closed for construction. But I guess that was just a little extra bonus for me, courtesy of the Department of Transportation.
The only good thing that happened last night was that when I got back to the garage, I stood around bullshitting for a while with Merrill, Abe, and Allen. In the post-shift delirium, those guys made me laugh so hard, I think I actually may have lost those few extra pounds I had supposedly gained. So maybe the night wasn't a total bust after all.
Tuesday, July 04, 2006
It was a hot, glorious day when I left the garage and drove over the 59th Street Bridge into Manhattan. The only problem with this Monday afternoon was that the city was virtually empty. The usual rush hour business was nonexistent, with most people either taking the day off of work or gone out of town. The whole rhythm of the night was affected and it was just a weird pace for the entire shift. I had little clusters of passengers and then would spend up to 30 minutes driving around empty looking for work. But with the holiday, those who were left in the city decided to go out and as the night wore on, it began to look more like a weekend night than a Monday.
Of course, the later it got, the drunker everyone became. Luckily, everyone, drunk or not, seemed to be in a good mood. Two girls got in the cab outside of an Irish bar on the upper east side wanting to go to Bowery Bar on Great Jones and Bowery. After gossiping for a few minutes about some friend of theirs who they suspect has an eating disorder, they noticed me. One of them leaned up to the partition and said, "Hey, is that place any good, Bowery Bar?"
I replied, "I'm not sure. I was there once or twice a few years ago, but I don't know what it's like now. What was wrong with the bar you just left?"
"It was full of ugly guys."
"Yeah, they should call it McUglies, not McFaddens."
Then they grilled me for a few minutes about what it's like to be "a female cab driver," and, when I gave them my boring, routine answers, they went back to trash talking about their anorexic friend.
I guess I didn't look skinny enough to hold their interest.