Monday, December 10, 2007

I'd rather live in Sunset Park

A combination of radioactive diarrhea and wet, quasi-frozen street surfaces kept me from opting for 2-wheel transportation today. Besides, buses allow for further readings of The Brooklynites, an awesome book with images of 'random' people who live in this borough and captions that capture their voices. And now we dive into that yellow cab. Fastforward the reading tempo: This matter-of-fact kind of person asks to be delivered from the spotlight of a street lamp in SoHo to an underground parking garage in NoLita. It's a 2.5 minute long fare that might seemingly exasperate a cabbie, but to me it's nothing less than the first trip of the shift, a great warmup calisthenic (12 hours yield 20 to 35 fares total). Then a suit comes bouncing smugly round the corner. The moment I turn left, his grin makes sudden sense. He's beat someone with lots of luggage, to my taxi. There goes an early airport fare (extra miles mean meter multiplicity in pre-cockcrow trafficlessness). The next 4 uncarpooled fares (ecological karma descending fast as the ascending national debt) materialize as 4 sterile suits. All display similar behavior: a gray area between 'best bud' and genuine prick. One tries swiping his debit card over and over while the bellman opens and closes, and opens his door in utter confusion. Another standoffish, but potentially flamboyant suit is expedited from Battery Park to Central Park South.

I love how after a certain hour the suits are all in their conference cubicles and everyone hailing a cab from that point on is a character of some sort. An elder whose life brims with synchronicity and she glows because of it. The Guatemalan futbol fanatic who brings me up to date on global preparations for world cup 2010 in South Africa. An rt gallery assistant who promises to teach me Mandarin. The Scottish dancer on crutches who lies on the phone about being 5 minutes away for her doctor's appointment, and the FDR Drive that facilitates it from being too far from the truth. Some down-to-earth guy with a feathered hat. An immaculate expedite (minimal use of brakes for any reason and wise grid navigation by maximizing use of traffic light patterns) of a young lady from Essex Market in the LES to the Film Forum in NoCa is rewarded with an 80% tip. An NJ girl appreciates the bright blue jacket compliment, which I spot a 1/2 block away. It's the 1st time she "successfully hails a cab from across 14th street like that".

Finding myself surrounded in a sea of empty cabs with numbered roof lights brightly lit is like having my tail between my legs. Independent, yet humiliated... and seeking to go off on a tangent, ASAP. Technical tip for fellow cabbies: cruise up the Bowery from Delancey to Houston for droves of art zealots exiting this recently opened venue. That one goes out to Aziz, the Moroccan cabbie I met at LGA, who's trying to write a better guide for NYC taxi drivers than the one that's currently offered. He confirmed the intuition which led me to believe that Arabization of northwestern Africa was heralded by the Yemenites. But that does not take away from the fact that the world's greatest accordionists and Salsa musicians are Colombian. And don't forget: no left turns from 57th unto Broadway between 8 and 19:00, unless it's Sunday.

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