Wednesday, December 10, 2008


Cabdrivers never quite know where along a random route someone might appear with their hand in the air, and where they might want to go. It's fascinating to come home after a long shift and use one's list of all the passengers who occupied the back seat to create an intricate map. It's like GPS tracking at the TLC, only more colorful. For example, the map on the uppermost center of the collage uses brown lines to depict when the taxi's meter was engaged and blue for the vacant moments. That was a busy day, apparently.

I had my first 'double shift' ever on Monday. That means I got to keep the cab for 24 hours instead of the usual 'twelve'. Carl Scorza was one of my 42 passengers that night/day/night, and one my favorites ever. We were talking about how heartbreaking it is to think of all the people twice and thrice our age who were slumbering in the 7 deadly degrees of wind chill. Somehow we got around to the topic of art. He paints panoramas of our city for a living. I told him about my collage journals and he agreed that some of these galleries wouldn't mind displaying blown up versions of my illustrated taxi routes on their walls. It's only a matter of style pattern proliferation and some self marketing. But whatever. I'm not quite the business mind. I don't scheme or contemplate things too well. I'm more of a doer. A determined donkey with a limited arsenal of unharnessed will power, geographic savant syndrome, and the kind of innate bounteousness that would take a bullet for you.

The least likable fare of that shift was this conservative German Jew who entered the cab around Turtle Bay at 15:30 and said, "I live near JFK so get on the QMT." He engaged in an avalanche of emotional discussions on his cellular the entire 90 minutes aboard, and even shut the partition on my face when I tried to communicate. From what I gathered, his wife was in the hospital, both daughters at home with a fever, and his father-in-law was not satisfied with the $5,000 donation he had made to their synagogue that morning. He interlaced his English with some Yiddish and even French at one point. It turns out his destination was Cedarhurst, a tiny suburb just on the Nassau side of the border. I wasn't entitled to have refused him, but he had known just how to manipulate me anyhow. He proceeded to pay with a credit card, but somehow brought the transaction around 180 degrees while I was paying attention to his disconcerted spiel, and printed a cash receipt. I found out at the end of the night. I'd been cheated out of almost 60 dollars.

The fare that followed him nearly made up for it. From Long Island I'd gone straight to the central holding lot at Kennedy. There must have been 400 cabs ahead of me, yet I was out on terminal 3D with a Korean Los Angelino in under half an hour. A hotel in Teaneck (NJ) was his destination and his googlemap printout said to take the Whitestone to the Cross Bronx (perhaps the most congested 'express'way in NYC). My radio was scraping in and out of clarity so I'd have to do without the reports. I took the GCP over the RFK, up the HRD, and across the GWB. Miraculously smooth in spite of the afternoon rush. That fare came out to 98 after his generous tip. I turned in at 23:00 that night. Could have stayed out until 5 am. Oh well.


  1. Nice, Good Karma brother. My garage won't let me do a double , how'd you pull that off?

  2. Some garages do doubles and some don't, I guess. My old garage in Brooklyn never had such a thing. But now I'm in Long Island City. On 22nd and 43 AVENUE. Across the street from midtown taxicab corp and literally under the queensboro bridge upper level off ramp. But I had to work the normal shift for months before they considered me for doubles. Now they ask if I want one every time I come in.

  3. "gastropodous entourage" Heheheheh. What a turn of phrase you've got there!

    And a fascinating blog. Just browsing through some of the gems on every page, and I know I've struck gold.

    I was in NYC a few weeks back - why didn't I get into your cab?

  4. nice info their, mine never lets me do doubles. You might have seen me scouting around there. is that the one with the blue stickers with red letters and numbers across from silvercup studios? i'm at vernon and 45th rd, hope this doesn't get around, i want to remain anonymous, but nothing too bad to say about them, my place gives a very clean and good cab 90% percent of the time. I saw a lot of wrecked spare parts cabs over @ 22nd st, and i got scared. I'm still looking for the hybrids.

  5. Jenine1/28/2009

    Cedarhurst is in the next town over from the yeshiva I attended. It was a forty minute bus ride every morning with the other pick-ups. I had to leave for school at 7 AM since age 5. That fella sounded discombobulated, overwhelmed, confusing, and (intentionally?) rude!

  6. Love your blog, and love your "maps". I have often thought of trying to do a similar thing for one of my shifts here in London. But I have no artistic talent at all so would probably have to "outsource" the actual drawing. My wife and I came to New York in August for our 10th wedding anniversary and LOVE your city. Can't wait to come back some day. If you're ever in London, I'd be delighted to show you how us black cab drivers operate.

    Richard -

  7. Samara Tulipomanic4/06/2009

    gil yr colorful cab maps are brilliant and you should sell them t
    o a fancy gallery for $1000s each.

  8. I can help you a little bit by publishing your maps! Love them.


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