Wednesday, May 26, 2010

real life cartogram radio robot dance

Photo Credit: Marilynn K. Yee/ The New York Times

Ever since I was little my geographic imagination and infatuation with ultra urban landscapes has been off the wall. Whenever the daydreamer in me stares at cracks in the sidewalk, they look to me like tributaries leading to rivers and so on. If the cracks are straight lines they represent streets, especially if there are ants navigating along them in both directions.

Many of us taxi drivers who keep blogs tend to include a blog roll for our network of fellow taxi scribes. These rolls are often set up to display the one that most recently posted an entry, and so on down the line. In essence, we take turns jumping to the front of the pack, just like taxicabs in traffic. Those of us who take a nap on the curb or at the airport end up remaining in the same spot at the back of the line. How analogous.

I'll never forget my dad's story about a waiter who asked him if he wanted soup or salad. He thought they said, "would you like super salad?" When he answered, "yes please!," the waiter got annoyed and asked again. "Soup....or salad?" There were so many other options through the course of the meal that my dad was the one who became annoyed. Sometimes I feel like the waiter, and I assume the passenger feels like my dad.

Do you want that in the trunk?
Do you want to go up Sixth or Eighth?
Do you have a crosstown street that you prefer?
Do you want the left or the right side?
Do you want the near or the far corner?
Are you paying cash or credit?
Do you want the receipt?

1) In the Flower District I was hailed by a trio with lots of nursery merchandise, including a mid-sized tree in a large planter that had to fit across the floorboard, over their laps, and out the window. It all worked out just fine.

2) A couple got in with their newborn infant and joked about how they don't want to wake the baby because if he started to cry the cabdriver would kick them out of the taxi. That always-present initial ice broke right then and there. I didn't even have to make an effort. The rest of the ride was sweet and hilarious. It was nice to be reminded that there are people out there who still think of cabdrivers as human-- not a robot you can switch on and off, who emotionlessly listens to the re TV ads behind his head all day (which make it nearly impossible to have symbiotic communication with the passenger). A robot who can't make or receive any phone calls either, obviously because robots don't require any sort of interpersonal interaction. 12 hours of complete isolation a day? No problem!

3) A strung- out filmmaker hopped in on Bedford in Williamsbug. He had a cow in the backseat when he realized he spilled lens cleaner all over his video camera, because the cap came loose inside of his bag. He called up a colleague and the destination changed from somewhere in SoHo to the camera shop on Canal and Walker.

Valerie Smaldone, the graceful radio personality on news talk 710 am, aired an interview she conducted with an awkward, less-than-eloquent cabdriver on May 13th, during her lunchtime program on the hidden little facts of New York. The lucky cabdriver to be featured that day happened to be me. Here's a link to the on-demand podcast. My two minute segment of audial fame can be found toward the end of the show, around 75% of the way through.....



  1. Great representation of our industry in that interview.

  2. nice post, insightful and funny notes, all over the place and somehow all composed well as usual. And may I add congratulations on the modest and proud interview you gave. I am also impressed by your modesty to mention your spot on the radio near the bottom of your post. I should take lessons on such modesty.


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