Tuesday, May 19, 2009


In my three years of taxi driving, I've taken only one somewhat famous individual in my cab. Actor Patrick Carroll was headed home from nightclubbing early one morning, in the months after his film had come out. He was genuinely affable and even offered me a handful of the Edamame snacks he was chewing on. To me he had been just another random street hail and I happened to be the nearest stray yellow bullet the moment he'd flung his hand in the air. However, I had been in a talkatively grandiloquent mood that shift and so I think this made him feel inclined to ask if I recognized who he was. I had no idea, nor had I heard of him, or much about the movie(s) he was in.

I've also taken the endearingly cordial parents of Tim Long, comedy writer and executive producer of The Simpsons, from La Guardia to their hotel in Midtown. They were in from Canada for a few days to see their favorite Broadway shows. I can totally see where his sense of humor comes from.

And I've had the honor of taking Judge Ralph Fine, of Wisconsin's Court of Appeals, to the airport. Jenine was my front seat co pilot that morning and together we embellished him with fresh inspiration not to lose conviction in what little, yet profound impacts each of us can have on humanity.

This morning I witnessed a cop in a three wheeled golf cart pull up alongside a yellow cab and scold the driver through the window, with his self-righteously incriminating finger pointed high in the air. I noticed the taxi had a brake light out and then I immediately noticed that the Interceptor had one of his out too. When the cop took off I pulled up and sure enough that was the hypocritical beef he had with my fellow yellow. You see I don't have a problem with the police unless I see their egos go out of control. Sadly, this is the case most of the time. Another common example is when they ask you a rhetorical question and then demand the answer, knowing one does not exist, and belittling you for not having it. I always see scenarios like this while sitting through traffic lights.

I took an Italian tourist couple to the Metropolitan last week and they asked me if my name (they had been staring at my hack license on the partition) was Italian. I could not believe it. I mean people have always assumed this when they heard my last name [Avineri], but I never expected Italians proper (who live in Italy) to ponder that. It's a Hebrew name and it means "my father is my candle (light)".

There were 4 Floridian women. 3 generations of them. It was 1 family trip to New York that they've dreamed about and promised to do together for so many years. Here they were, finally, on a Manhattan street corner, and oblivious to the fact that trying to catch a cab at 4:30 pm is not a simple task. Like most of my 14,000 colleagues, I was off duty, on First, and bound for Queens. These women looked so disoriented that I did not have the heart to not stop and see if I could fit in one last fare. They only wanted to go a few blocks over to the H&M by Rockefeller, but they had no clue as to how close or far it was. The whole ride I charmed them with my nonchalant, nothing new under the sun brand of New Yorkerness. A dismissing commentary for every little ant hill of activity and traffic quirk around us. The meter read $5.30 and I was told to keep the crisp 20 I was handed and to "tell your parents they did a good job". Speaking of hailing a cab when it's not so easy, here's one blogger's unique account.

1. Captain of a tugboat on the Los Angeles harbor and NYC tourist for the weekend.

2. Man with a twisted leg. He was making deliveries on a nimble scooter last year when a bus door opened right into his path. Now he has to take cabs for the smallest errands. Currently undergoing a string of surgeries.

3. Two Hindi ladies wrapped in saris kept requesting me to slow down more and more until we were literally going 5 mph. In between they'd just go on yapping away aristocratically. Then they requested the A/C, on this 80 degree day in May, from a driver who spent nearly a decade in the sweltering summers of southeastern TX. At the end they tipped 80 cents. And mind you I did everything they told me with politeness and care.

4. One very nice Algerian was aboard the cab for 15 minutes. We spoke about traveling across northern Africa and he said it's totally doable with an American passport, as long as I acquire visas. Problem is I doubt Israel would let me in if I had stamps from those countries. But I would absolutely love to walk the ancient streets of Tunis, Tripoli, and Alexandria.

Sunday, May 17, 2009


Passengers ask if I'd prefer a hybrid or Vic. The answer is always honest, raw, and unexpected. I'd rather drive a Corolla, or any of the compact models that they use in developing nations, with a roof rack to handle airport cargo. I like a simple, economic and highly maneuverable vehicle that isn't brand spanking new and ostentatious in appearance. They get by just fine with Rios and Rondos in the 3rd world. SPEAKING OF FOREIGN TAXIS AND THEIR AWESOMENESS: YOU MUST READ THIS BRIEF ARTICLE ABOUT THE CABS OF BOGOTA.

In this culture we have one day each year in which we're encouraged to take our children to work with us. There's even a TAKE-YOUR-DOG-TO-WORK day. But what about dad? Mom never comes, no matter how many times I invite her. Dad's come to work with me before, but we've neglected that sincethe last time he was unemployed (about two years ago), which was during the time he moved to NYC from Florida. But his Brooklyn contractor laid him off this month.

He's been an electrician for almost 3 decades, in 4 states, and 2 countries. He's the best one there is. But he was too much of a newbie in New York to stay afloat amidst this breaking wave of an economy. It looks as though he might end up back in TX, where we lived during most of the 90s.

The lady on the roof cone advertisement says, "college is expensive". And her eyes seem to have lost their soul. I think it's trying to show that just because she has to work as an exotic dancer to make ends meet does not mean that she is a bimbo. And the soulless eyes seem to represent how degrading it can be for women to have to be dependent on rich sleazeballs with penises for a living.

An executive made his bellman close my back door, walk around to the street side, and open that door.... all because of this small rip in the seat cushion. It might look daunting from your perspective because I zoomed in, but it's really not much of anything if you were to see it in real life. But that executive thought it might ruin his suit by cutting into it if it got caught. Comeon now. Gimme a break.

Here is a link to that article on how cabdrivers feel about TAXI TV, in which I'm repeatedly quoted. Oh, and one more thing. I just discovered a new taxi blog and this one is a keeper. It's out of Boston, very well written, and enticing to read.