Saturday, December 22, 2007


I must start keeping tape and scissors in the glove box from now on, because I love the idea someone had of posting an article on the wall at the JFK taxi hold that's relevant to cabdrivers, and watching them crowd around in a half circle and hullabaloo over its implications. The one hanging up this week was about undercover TLC enforcers hailing cabs just to see if we deter them from swiping a credit card. At 10 am the lot had 40% capacity and 'regular activity'. But still it took until 12:30 to get into a terminal. Too long of a wait that results in sub-minimum wage earnings by the end of the shift.

The young English couple I drop off at Millenium Hilton graciously add $10 to the flat fare, and switch places with a post-teen j.a.p. who is late to her afternoon shift in the Garment District. After stepping off the East River teleportation device unto 42nd, which vacuums the taxicab westward in 400 seconds, I let her off on 6 Av, and point her in the right direction. No need for either of us to agonizingly endure that specific crosstown street (39th) she had first requested. It only takes a couple seconds of pep talk for her to agree that 792 feet are completely walkable. Moments later Times Square yields a pair of Spaniards on route to the liberty tours heliport for an insanely priced panorama of New York. And just down a dusty road in far northwestern Chelsea two Germans hop in, needing to be rerouted to the other helipad, way downtown. The meter prints its final receipt of the day and, like divine geo-synchronism, the bridge home to Brooklyn awaits just up ahead.

With one red light on Water Street left to sit thru, I watch dozens of stranded people waving at me, and all the other off-duty cabs around. I roll down the window to ask the plainclothes lady nearest to me if she's going to Brooklyn, cause I'd take her free of charge. The only opportunity all day to bring carpool/ridesharing ideologies to life and she shreds it to pieces. "I'm a cop", she boasts. "What's your medallion number, I'm reporting you." It's true the TLC does make it illegal to ascertain a passenger's destination before they get in. However, that rule exists to keep drivers from being pick-and-choosy about fares throughout the course of a shift. Because everyone deserves to go where they need to go, regardless of distance (within the 5 boros).

Between 15:30 and 17:00 it's a whole other ball game. Cabdrivers MUST return the cabs to their respective garages so the night shift can go out. This is when it is essential that people on the streets of Manhattan understand something very clear and simple: negotiating patiently until you match the direction you're going with that of an off-duty cabdriver is the ONLY way to keep the first part of an evening rush hour from paralyzing NYC. Or do you like the 3rd world conditions? If so, keep dialing 3-1-1 like righteously ignorant gringos.


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