Friday, November 30, 2007

Q) Where U from? A) My mother

Bobo, the apologetic Haitian dispatcher reports zero taxi vacancies this morning. "You don't believe how many drivers I send home already." It's looking like Sabbath is forced to be my 6th working day again this week. It's the peak season in which cabbies maximize their turnout. Days leading up to this have had the widest range of revenue. Anywhere from $30 to $230 in the pocket per shift. Boiled dogs in the lunch bag save a Lincoln from those sidewalk carts .

Noteworthy/heartwarming riderships this week:
An older businessman mutters "happy holidays" and hands me a Hamilton for a $4.10 fare. An upbeat mid age suit eagerly points out Tavern on the Green as the secret shortcut (I never knew about) to avoiding Columbus Circle bottlenecks. A Mexican florist going just two East Village blocks with cardboard carrying trays containing efflorescence that cover 100% surface area back seat and trunk. Some fuzzy French dude in a furry trenchcoat: says he's counting his cash when I 'mistakenly' ask him what book he's reading. The fidgety Italian couple, late to Conde Nast and in need of a lecture: sitting in traffic with the meter running is not as lucrative as it might seem.

The easygoing Californian exhibitioner from Javits Convention Center to Penn Station while everyone else in line was an obvious airport fare. The wide eyed no-English Chinese kid whose jaw was in his lap as I delivered him from the Manhattan Bridge to Borough Park in supersonic speeds, rebounding to Boerum Hill so the night driver can start on time. The prosecutor of organized crime that I couldn't see at first in that thick pre-dawn darkness, until his pale hailing hand stuck out inches from my cab. The clan of proud Boriquas and their conga drums rolling around the trunk as I Willieburg bridged away from the LES. Clerk of an architectural firm who chats about DOT's lack of utilizing known traffic patterns to solve problems.

Early Sunday morning drunk professional who hides it well from Flatiron to Astoria, followed immediately by a Roosevelt Island bound fare with an odd language on the cellular, and then a Brette Favre look-a-like back to Manhattan, closing a lovely circuit all before the sun even comes out. The undocumented supermarket employee who realizes he forgot a lawyer's form that allows him to be seen at the doctor's appointment in Bay Ridge. I expedite him all the way back to Bronx and then Brooklyn. I browse the atlas for 95th street, spot it in Brownsville, but later learn of the huge mistake. It's the other 95th. The one by the Verrazano bridge. A journey in which I lost money, disengaging the meter, for it wasn't his fault. The whole ordeal due to the fact that he was struck by an SUV while on his bicycle last week.

And a few random tidbits... an Access-a-ride bus blocking the taxi stand at port authority during rush hour and the orchestra of horns that blared behind it. The six o clock hour with 96.7 FM, an unlicensed station, broadcasting jewish pirate radio: debates in hebrew with arabic accents and ashkenazi ones disagreeing on everything, but the reception is bad. Later on in the day I witness a man's green cloak get caught in the sliding door of a Sienna mini van taxi across the median on Park Avenue. Slow motion moment when the light turns green and he gets violently yanked to the ground. Something inside says he probably needed a good reality check like that.

Each dawn I pedal my red Peugeot or hop on the B38 down Dekalb to Flatbush and walk over to the taxi garage. Afternoon same deal. Radio says it takes 3L of H20 to create 1 bottle of bottled water. There are only 31 or so female firefighters in the FDNY. Regular unleaded holds steady at $2.25/gallon.

Monday, November 19, 2007


Bushwick was the first neighborhood I called home when I moved to New York. And in that same corner of Brooklyn is where I found housing affordable enough to establish a suitable address for my little sister, her two schoolmates, and our mother... all new transplants from Florida. Living under the same roof since August, we've adapted well, and maximized the occupant capacity with the arrival of my father. It's a commonwealth consisting of three college students, an electrician uprooted from the tropics thanks to economic upheavals, a social worker/housekeeper who can't live without her adult children, and a yellow cabbie who has postponed world travel plans to provide the aforementioned people with general sustenance until they can stand on their own ten feet.

It's been seven months since I jumped back into the taxi profession full force, and a lot has changed since I first got my hack license (last year). GPS is now in the cabs and well, every handful of shifts feels like a half decade's worth of hands on experience with a vast spectrum of socioeconomic anthropology and urban clockwork in this unique city. I keep a notebook of mentionable adventures and serendipities encountered while on duty, which I plan to share on this blog, inspired by fellow cab driver Melissa Plaut, who posts her stories on

So here we are, embarking on our first full winter season ever as a family unit. We've come along on a counterclockwise rotation around the nation. From L.A. in 1984 to Houston in 1993, to West Palm Beach in 1998, to a post 9.11 big apple. And all the while there was nothing I wanted more than to circle this planet on a bicycle (so to speak). The first rain check that got in the way was college. Then it was paying off college loans as 'steadfastly to avoid interest' as possible. A quick glimpse of South America and now it's back to work, cause I won't allow financial trouble in the family to prevent my little sister from going to the best university for the field she wants to study. And now matters are made worse with the advent of higher monthly mortgage payments and a recession in Florida that is making remunerative employment scarcer for working class people like my parents.

Luckily, being a yellow cabbie in New York is so magnanimous and temerarious that it eases, or numbs the psychological burden of a seventy some odd hour workweek. Upcoming entries will zoom in on genuine moments inside (and outside) the 13,087th taxicab as it expedites human beings uptown, downtown, and across town.