Saturday, April 18, 2009


Waiting in line at the Kennedy airport taxi hold is fascinating, but until now I have been unable to show people what I mean. This clip would have been more interesting had the lot been more full of cabs, cabdrivers, and had I captured more of the conversations occurring in multiple languages inside the cafeteria. Perhaps I was trying too hard to be covert. At least I didn't have to wait more than an hour to catch a fare back to the city that day.

Sunrise over the East River. When my partner Jenine comes along for a taxi ride in the front seat, she acts as the social lubricant that provokes my passengers to tip the living daylights out of me. On top of that, it's exciting to hear her recall the parts of the city that she is familiar with from past experiences. Her discernment and familiarity covers such an unfathomable range of categories. The privilege of spending time with her simply humbles me.

There were lofty ideas for this video, but they were postponed prematurely when I became overly self-conscious. I wanted to get the message across that not only am I one to safeguard the passenger's bill of rights, but that I adamantly believe there ought to be a cabdriver's bill of rights as well.

Thursday, April 9, 2009


These pictures were taken by Sunny Shokrae, a professional photographer who came on board the cab to gather material on behalf of Danielle Friedman, a journalism student at Columbia who has been interviewing cabdrivers (including me) for a story about how we feel about TAXI TV. Obviously, we are not OK with the same obnoxious blurbs being repeated each time a new passenger gets in. In case you didn't already know, the person in the 2nd picture is Jenine Bressner (mi enamorada). She was riding along with me that day.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

diurnal tachycardia

Hybrid taxicabs have crept up and infiltrated the iconic streams of Crown Vic for many months now. Though I remain the steer of an old school icon, I've become increasingly ashamed of not making the effort to find a garage that would lease me a hybrid. That was until now.

I just read something quite disturbing in the taxi newsletter. It turns out that just as compact fluorescent bulbs defeat their own energy efficient purpose when you repeatedly turn them on and off, hybrid vehicles emit more CO2 than conventional ones when used in the extreme stop and go conditions found in places like New York (nothing compares). I'm not sure this information is entirely accurate. It might be a ploy on behalf of traditionalists. I myself am what you'd call a flexible tenacity slicker. Therefore, although I adhere to my perspectives with passion, I'm simultaneously on guard for and urgently open to epiphanies, whether internal or imported, that could flip those views upside down, right on their ass.

Both scenarios involve the irony of the apparatus requiring more juice to start up and less to keep going. I've always had a splinter in my cortex about burning fossil fuels for a living. But every time I've expressed these concerns to eco-sensible peers, I've received the same comforting response. A city full of taxicabs is several times more sustainable than a city full of private vehicles. And on top of that, I do an unquestionably good job at it. By that I mean a stellar combination of....
-acutely galvanic maneuverings
-geographical acclimatization
-a voraciously assertive attitude
-blunt honesty about traffic patterns, ETAs, and fare estimations
-an overly accommodating approachability
(especially towards guests of our city)
-utmost respect for bicyclists and busdrivers
(minimal amounts for anyone else)
-the ability to navigate organically through swarms of pedestrians without costing anyone behind you the light (letting three cross the walk and then squeezing by before the next three)

All of these and a whole lot more are essential to a genuinely adequate NYC cabdriver. More than people want to give it credit for. We're not white collars. Nor are we blue. We're cadmium yellow light. Prepare for supersonic flight and the respite of an elevated kite.

I keep a pouch in the cab that contains both the free NYC condoms that I pass out to passengers and the Emergen-C packets that I occasionally pour into my jug of H2O. Sometimes I'll find myself accidentally having reached for the wrong one when my eyes must remain glued on the road. You can't pour a condom into your water. It won't boost your immune system. Speaking of that, I often bring a couple cloves of garlic on board to chew on, and its odor befuddles some of my fares.

I love it when the early parts of a shift line up perfectly like a row of Tetris cubes. Last Friday I hit the streets at 04:00. Off the Q Boro, I followed Lex to 23rd. Three dozen blocks on the tail end of a bar night and no fare? Time to get ill. One vacant cab split to the right. Another sped straight through. Up for grabs was the left. That Third Avenue light and I always synchronize with each other. Round the bend to the right stand two men hailing. Off to South Slope in the BK we go, all clubbed out and talkative. Less than a block away from where we said our goodbyes, in jumps un Mexicano con mariachi, meritoriously loud in his ears. "Roosevelt and Junction (Corona) please." That's not one, but two fares of $30 or more in under an hour. Eminence!

Fatigue overcame me early this morning while fare fishing in Carnegie Hill. I pulled over and laid my head down for 45 minutes, while remaining in the driver seat. During that time I had a dream about some lady with a dog on a leash that was looking for a taxi. She'd seen my vacant cab first, but then made a face and tried to run over to another cab. Each time the cab would become occupied before she could reach it. So she'd turn back reluctantly towards me. She repeated this cycle what seemed like a dozen times, until all of a sudden someone jolted me back into consciousness by knocking clamorously on my window. Standing there outside my hovercraft was a statuesque executive with a uniquely deep voice, asking if I was available. As we pulled away from that nourishing curb, I noticed how fresh the nap had made me. But I could use a taxi dream interpreter.

Actually, something somewhat similar to that dream occurred within a couple hours of that nap. An older Japanese couple from Rhode Island opened my back door and began to step inside, only to suddenly step repugnantly back out. It had been raining and this couple was profusely reiterating that the seat was wet, while escaping over to the taxi behind me. While that driver was refusing to take them for having an outer borough destination, I was wiping off the back seat (merely moist) with my stash of stray napkins. They noticed my effort and came bouncing back again. I smilingly let them know that they could have simply brought the 'wetness' calmly to my attention and waited 5 seconds for me to address the problem. No need to run off and try to catch another cab. After all, they were merely going on leisurely visit to their daughter's condo in Brooklyn. It turned out to be a real enjoyable ride for them and I alike, full of fascinating conversational points. They asked why I hadn't become a limo chauffeur, like the guy who drove them in from the Ocean State. Thought bubble: "Because then I would have been too busy kissing your delicate buttocks to have any time for an intriguing, down-to-earth chat like this."

On a shorter note, one of Ben Harper's tour managers jumped in my cab on Avenue C and begged me to rush him up to his Upper West Side hotel. I must say, that was one of the most delightful fares I've had in a while. We talked about growing up on the southwestern quadrant of the Los Angelino sprawl. I lived in the part of that vicinity known as Lomita from ages 4 to 11, and it really helped shape who I am today. He was born, raised, and still lives a few neighborhoods over, in what is known as Inglewood. He mentioned growing up on the same block as Pharcyde and watching them go from inconspicuous jam sessions to stardom in a matter of months. Our conversation immediately led to a thorough mutual listing of the Jazziest horn samplings from Hip Hop's golden age, of which we are both very fond.