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.