Friday, December 5, 2008

VESTIBULE OF LOLLIGAGGERS

Every so often a cabdriver will run out of change because an unbroken succession of passengers pay with 20 dollar bills. Other times a cabbie might have accumulated a thick wad of singles, fives, and tens... to the point it don't even fit in the crevices of the cockpit or shirt pocket anymore. But when all you have is large bills, you can't pick up another passenger until you've parked and gone inside an establishment to break a Jackson or two, or maybe even a Grant. The hot dog and donut carts are quite often unwilling and it can take forever to find legal parking. So my instinct is always to jump out of my cab at a red light and bum rush every taxi on the block, which usually works after the fourth or so try.

What I've discovered though, is that the nicest cabbies in New York are the ones from Tibet. Without fail, they're always ready to help. May their unique language and culture survive the onslaught of now almost 6 decades of foreign occupation. In this city there is a united nations of taxi driving. There are very few countries I haven't seen represented. I have close friendships with a Guinean, a Turk, an Uzbek, a Paraguayan, a Belorussian, an Algerian, an Honduran, and an Afro-Chinese American. We'll periodically call each other to warn of new police traps and bustling taxi stands. Or we run into each other at the airport holding lots.

If it were up to me, I'd be backpacking around the world right now. And that has been the plan ever since I graduated from high school. But no one on my mother's side of the family had completed college yet, so she badly wanted me to not waste time. I spent 5 years earning a degree and another 3 working odd jobs to pay off the loans. And now that the coast is clear, the economy is nearing collapse and my immediate family needs my financial assistance. So instead of using the taxi income to save for travel, I'm having to give every bit of it to my parents, so they don't go bankrupt. They can barely keep up with their debts and I feel as if I'm repaying them for having provided me with such a fantastic childhood. Meanwhile, my little sister is almost half way through college and plans to be the next Jean-Paul Gaultier or Vivienne Westwood. And she wants to utilize her fortune on improving the lives of others (including us), if only those filthy rich with a fashion sense still exist after she graduates.

Last week a Haitian woman who lives in the Pacific Northwest jumped into my cab at Kennedy airport. As we approached the Van Wyck Expressway I saw the total traffic standstill that awaited us up ahead. So I let her know that I taking the Conduit as an alternate. While trying to hear what 1010 am had to say about the L.I.E. and the BQE, so I could then choose between Woodhaven and Atlantic, she interjected with what would become a long metaphysical rant about using mind to manipulate matter. She more or less blamed my lack of spiritual strength for every thickening of cars we'd encounter. I do understand that our thoughts have more power than we give them credit for. Having studied Kabbalah for years, the concept of mind over matter isn't alien to me. But this woman seemed to lack a sense of humility about it all. She was almost conceded in her mannerisms, no matter how much I tried to not pass judgment. She instructed me to check out Ramtha and read up on the double slit experiment. Here's a cartoon video demonstration that effectively blew me away.

A couple days ago I was idling on Madison Avenue in the mid 40s. I always remain in the same spot when a passenger leaves. I jot down worthwhile observations or read a few lines for a minute, to advance in my book, and then glance at each mirror and window for prospective fares. If no one shows up within 60 seconds I'll merge back into the flow of everlasting fiberglass. But often enough someone does get in during that short span. In fact it's usually a better tactic than to instantaneously jackrabbit back into the continuum like most cabbies do.

This particular time four suits from Chicago knocked on the shell. I popped the trunk and walked back to load their luggage. All four of them were so happy-go-lucky and wide eyed, but started scratching their foreheads when I reached for their bags. In such a routine operation, I hadn't noticed that I'd forgotten about some cargo of my own. Two dusty old chairs that I'd salvaged from a dumpster were occupying the large tub of usually empty space. As I set them out unto the sidewalk to re abandon them, these lovely Illinoisians suggested that I place the chairs on top of the luggage. "But they're dirty!?!" They consulted each other for an instant consensus. I was going to end up keeping the chairs that I needed for the table I 'd found weeks ago in Queens. You see my mother had donated much of our furniture to the college kids who moved into our old apartment in Brooklyn. So we had to re scavenge the curbs.

Jill, an investment manager, got into the cab by where the viaduct sucks Park Avenue up into the Helmsley building. She was headed to a doctor's appointment precisely where the viaduct ends on the south side. We crawled above Vanderbilt and 42nd for almost 10 minutes to go the 4 blocks. She said something on the phone, so nonchalant and ruthless that it reverberates in my head. "....so did we get Margaret laid off yet? We've got to that a.s.a.p. if we want to remain...." No remorse. No human being on the receiving end, on the verge of losing what we, in this society, base our self worth on. Don't take me for a hopeless altruist or even a bleeding heart. I am one of those who believes that our economy has been based on air. On speculation and debt, as opposed to something more substantial, like resources and brow sweat. Perhaps it will take a total meltdown for us to rethink our roles and our purpose in life. Speaking of learning to appreciate what you have, Chop Shop is the best film I've watched this month. It's about this homeless kid in Queens who makes it work by being really resourceful and he even helps his older sister out.

The other day I was waiting at the garage to be assigned a taxi. It was around 2:30 am and there were about 4 other drivers sitting in the lounge alongside me, hoping to get a head start on their day shift. I started chatting with an older guy from Bangladesh, who was enthusiastic to teach me everything he knew about the history of his country. The catchiest thing about his lecture was his repeated use of the number 3,500. That is how many miles lie between Pakistan and Bangladesh if you go by sea, which is what they used to do when it was one country, because India was enemy territory. 3,500 is also the amount of princes in the Saudi government and the amount of nukes possessed by India, if I understood him correctly. Back when his country was known as East Pakistan, he served in the Pakistani air force. But one day they put him in a concentration camp on suspicion of being a spy. Long story short, we all were assigned cabs that morning and went on to toil and compete for customers on the streets of NY for more consecutive hours than your average human being can handle.

9 comments:

  1. Hey Gil , you'll love this. I had a 50'ish investment banker get into my cab friday night, with a cast on his leg from a similar injury that I had ....I commented on his injury and asked what kind it was, and it was an extremely rare injury that I shared with him and started to explain how to rehabilitate the injury correctly ...he dismissed me immediately even though I was a former EMT and was halfway through Paramedic school before I injured myself. I KNEW WHAT I WAS TALKING ABOUT. However, drunk dialed someone and went on and on about how some middle class guy in his firm whom he named and which firm he represented and how this middle class dude didn't deserve the money he was expecting because he was not of the same pedigree, AND he even asked the SB (scumbag) on the other end if he had it in writing even though this middle class dude brought a 10 million dollar deal to the firm. I being in finance during the day and have a database at my fingertips to look up anyone in the industry found the guy he's trying to sandbag immediately, and will call him in the morning to warn him. Hopefully it will be a victory for the hard worker and not a trust fund baby or as my co-worker calls them , the lucky sperm club member. Hopefully it will be part of a new balance to the system...I don't know...but it's a start...and with guys like me and you Gil, its a damn good start. Peace my brother.

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  2. hmm, about the brute nature of humanity, i guess it's hard not to surrender to it, lots of tests of character in the daily hodgepodge of life.

    and all those dot rules: I remember early on I wanted to place all the rules on a map so that i could remember where they all were, but then I had to also note when. It was all just too complicated. Then I figured I wouldn't get the hang of it, and just would work weekends, to have a lot less rules to remember.

    Isn't it interesting how all the rules are about what NOT to do, rather than what we should do? With a little positive rather than negative reinforcement, maybe rules would be followed more?

    I like the idea of waiting for a minute after each drop off. Overall the tortoise beets the hare, unless the police are nearby writing tickets.

    by the way, my new url didn't work, so i'm back to the old nyctaxiphoto.blogspot.com

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  3. Checked out the links - i'm amazed that with your schedule and responsibilities you can still find admiral shit out in the ether to broadcast to other beings. GOD BLESS YOUR SPIRIT. Chop Shop looks like an amazing film.

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  4. well, i'm still using blogspot, just with a simpler web address.

    I figured with a simpler name, it would be easier to remember. the frustration involved with making it work though, might not have been worth the trouble.

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  5. yeah so, sorry about that, i finally did get the address switched again over to.

    www.nyctaxiphoto.com

    It actually works now!!

    I'm just hoping this way if i ever tell anybody about my blog they'll remember it easier.

    thanks again

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  6. Jenine1/21/2009

    I know this is a late response, but does your family still need furniture?
    My folks have an abundance of stuff and I think their houses are 17 miles apart.

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  7. Daina Thomas3/12/2009

    Sweet Jesus. This is one of my fav updates to date. You are giving me the jolt of energy I need at 6:44 am! God bless you my friend!

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  8. Juliette Louis3/12/2009

    hey gil,
    i'm sorry that your travels are not yet underway and i admire your courage to put your dreams aside for the well being of your family. Keep in mind that although it is honorable that you help your family, they are also adults and have made their own decisions to be where they are in their life and as adults they must face the reality of those decisions. Just because they raised you doesn't mean you owe them servitude, only respect and maybe love. Sorry if I am stating my opinion where it is not asked for but you share your life with me in these emails and it's hard to remain impassive to what i read sometimes. Soon, I hope, soon you will be out in the world beyong new york cabbie life...

    I wanted to comment on the Haitian woman who gave you a hard time. Why was it not her spiritual strength that was lacking and directing you towards traffic blocks rather than yours? I too feel sensitive to the powers of the mind over matter and I too give it a lot of importance but, come on people! I find it equally important to not dictate or preach to others and to have humility and respect for other's differences. In any case, if you want to check out Ramtha try this movie Nathan and I rented a while ago called "What the Bleep do we Know?" It also talked about the double slit experiment which was pretty mind blowing as well as an experiment in which water molecules were subjected to negative and positive words and the outcome of their subsequent chrystalization. Interesting stuff. Of course, the movie wasn't very well put together and was almost entirely funded and produced by the cult of Ramtha. While i was at first dazzled by the "scientific" aspect of it as it went further into its theories it started to fall apart. This blog posting sums up the the movie and my thoughts on it pretty well... http://skeptico.blogs.com/skeptico/2005/04/what_the_bleep_.html hence my thoguhts on Ramtha altogether. I'm always amazed that people will listen (and give money) to any quack who promised enlightenment but they will not do the simple things like say hello to their fellow human beings or help a hurt animal. fuck that shit.

    anyway, hope you are well. much love to you.

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  9. Christian Gutierrez3/12/2009

    awe gil! i love your blog!
    i never have time to read it but i'm glad i made time today!
    i really enjoyed the two slit experiment also!
    i appreciate how nice you are to people and you were right about that arrogant lady that assumed you didn't know about positive thinking!

    but sometimes people like that speak from our destinies anyways. maybe positive thinking is needed for your transition to the next phase of your life. maybe not. its for you to decide.

    we are still at 123 we have not had electricity for 2 months. we just got it turned back on this week.

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