Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Serene on the Seventeenth

At 4:30 A.M. I depart the depot and come over the Brooklyn Bridge. Several vacant cabs hog the main off-ramp (Civic Center), so I opt for the Park Row exit instead. A vacant cab heads straight onto Barclay, so I go left down the Canyon of Heroes. Just before Bowling Green, I pick up my first fare. Up Avenue of the Americas. Right on 34th. Have a nice night (day).

Just a few feet ahead I stop for Craig, my second fare. We take Madison and Broadway all the way up to 161st Street. My taxicab is the friendliest, most non-judgmental one he's ever ridden in. His advice on heterosexual romance is the most omniscient and non-intrusive that a drunk, homosexual passenger has ever offered. By the time we get to Harlem, he feels so comfortable that he politely asks if he could sit up front, and I instinctively let him. He tacks on a $20 tip to the $19 fare and disappears into the predawn abyss.

As I make a U-turn for downtown again, I am hailed by a man trying to get to his hotel on 125th and St. Nicholas. It's his birthday and his "lucky night." At the first red light he rolls down his window and asks a woman walking on the sidewalk if she has a cigarette. She comes over and he opens the door. She steps right in and they start making out. I haven't had my cup of coffee yet and I'm entirely unsure of what's happening. She pets his head and tells him to relax. She has a thick New York accent and he sort of does, too. He rounds the tip to the next dollar and they step out.

Minutes later I scoop up two buff men on Central Park West at 105th, heading up to 171st and Fort Washington. As soon as they exit the cab, a vulnerable young transplant from San Luis Obispo runs over and hops in. He's going to 96th and Amsterdam. With that, my predawn roll in upper Manhattan ends. It isn't until after sunrise that I find my next fare, and only due to swift stratagem.

I'm cruising up 4th Avenue and vacant cabs infest every possible route, except East 10th. As I complete that long and potentially treacherous right turn, a man in my peripheral vision steps out of his apartment building. I slow to a crawl and poke my head out the window. Mere eye contact yields a trip to Flushing Avenue and Bogart (Brooklyn). I return via Metropolitan, which yields a pleasant fare back over the bridge to 9th and C, followed by okra on rice for breakfast, at the Punjabis on Houston St.

Around 8 A.M. I transport a Tudor City trio to Newark Airport ($55). After returning through the Holland Tunnel I pick up a Jewish trio in TriBeca, en route to Friends Seminary for their teen's exam. Upon dropping off, I turn the corner onto Rutherford Place and stop to jot down a few notes. Soon I hear whistling from behind. One of them needs a brisk emergency ride back to TriBeCa to grab documents they forgot at home, and then come right back. I do it all with a smile. He says, "I want you to have lunch on me." That's two $20 bills and $10 from the initial trip. $50 in 25 minutes. Or $105 in justsengers, bridges and tunnels, driver philosophy, exceptionally sweet passengers, food, income, lower manhattan, mid and uptown over an hour. That alone covers the (fixed) lease!

Second half of the shift coming soon to a blog near you.....
Stop in at the tips blog for today's digest: Wishful Yearning (Citizens' Band)


  1. gil, i love the blog! your steady hustle and unflappable goodness are an inspiration to us all!

    let me know when you're in providence again.

  2. Get the name of the kid from SLO?

  3. No Zubin, sorry. No name. I told him about you, and he did not recall your name or any pizza delivery drivers that had been friends of his in SLO.


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