Monday, October 13, 2008


The driver's lounge at your garage turns into the scene of belligerent feuds between our browbeating Russian dispatcher and a handful of west African drivers, over adjustments made in the daily lease rate and early bird special, as well as whether he's fibbing about the commission having threatened him with summonses for allowing us to surpass the 720 minute continuous vehicle operation limit.

Upholding your idea of what is a good cabdriver, you tune into the traffic report nearly 15 times an hour, in case someone gets in the taxi who wants to get somewhere affected by roving construction, an accident, or just plain volume. In between, the radio blares out snippets about the potential for solar powered desalinization plants to cover the world's deserts and the theory about terrorism being a symptom of alienation (and degradation of the environment being its cousin). You take this extracurricular taxi idea home by using Google to compile upcoming NYC events, planned street closures, and the schedule for Javits shows as well as cruise itineraries at piers 88, 90, and 92. This is recommended for all cabdrivers to do if they want more lucrative shifts and/or care about improving the yellows' reputation for conscientiousness, or lack thereof.

Got your fix of Autopanethnic news via Caracol (Colombia) and Mabat (Israel). After the recent riots in Akko, an Arab apologized for driving through the Jewish quarters with a loud radio during the strict holiday of Yom Kippur. But no record of a Jew apologizing for hurling stones at him and his little son. Your latest You Tube fixation lasts an hour. In those 60 minutes you and dad watch clips of near catastrophic airplane take offs and landings. Dad injects his engineering background into every scene in attempts to explain what went wrong.

A landscape architect from Argentina in lavish Oxxford suit over drank and lost his cell at one of the bars. It's 4 am and he wants to know how much you charge to Orange (16 miles into NJ). "What the meter says, plus double rate from the state line, and tunnel toll." He says never mind and begins to exit (as if you resemble a con artist). Wait, what did you expect to pay? "It's always $100." You guarantee the meter will total out cheaper and even let him call his phone with yours. 25 minutes later the bright red digits read $80.10 and he hands you 120, smiling and staggering out into a dusky October dawn.

Chip came for a ride in the cab last week, but it was too close to the 5 pm shift deadline. Instead of cruising in search of itinerant people to give him a feel for this magnanimous profession, we had to return over the Queensboro bridge to drop off the cab. Chip looks healthy even though he complained of Candida complications. He stuck to his ironclad diet in tupperware while we had veggie burgers and onion rings at the local diner. Speaking of the 5 pm shift cutoff: it sometimes calls for maneuverings and negotiations to maximize time, space, and monetary efficiencies. For example, it's 3:30 pm and a mom/son duo from the Satmar sect wish to go over the Billy bridge to prepare for the sabbath.

You can see inbound traffic backed up beyond the horizon, so it seems like the end of your shift by default. Who would've ever thought these last 90 minutes would see so much action though. You begin up Bedford Avenue towards Long Island City a little bummed out at having been booted from Manhattan so early on, yet too late. But then in the heart of hipster district a girl jumps in and requests Fort Greene. From there it seems best to use the Manhattan bridge, which nearly never sees a jam, and work your off-duty Queens bound again. On the corner of Tillary and Flatbush stand a crew of young Spaniard tourists awaiting a lift back into the island of money. And then another instant turnover further uptown that leaves you a 1/5 mile from base. What a chain of luck. An extra $45, all thanks to the hub at Williamsburg.

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