Monday, October 31, 2005

We interrupt this program

One thing I forgot to mention about last night is that, though it was "Mischief Night," or "Hell Night," or whatever you want to call the night before Halloween, I was happy to have absolutely no trouble. I did see a few people in costumes, but my favorite was seeing someone's dog dressed up as a punk, complete with pink mohawk and army shirt. I guess I got in my egging quota a few weeks back.

Meanwhile, a local college radio station rebroadcast the original radio adaptation of "The War of the Worlds" from October 30, 1938. This radio play, performed in honor of Halloween by Orson Welles and his theater company, semi-accidentally convinced people there was an alien invasion in New Jersey (I wish). Since most people missed the disclaimers at the beginning of the broadcast, the program inspired widespread hysteria and panic. Listening to it now, it sounds so completely outlandish, it's hard to believe it had such a real impact. But, from what I've read, America was pretty tense in the days before WWII, and many people thought the aliens were a metaphor for the Germans. I'd never heard it before, so it was good entertainment for one of the slow late hours in the shift.

Aside from that, the oddest moment of the night was when three rabbis -- real rabbis, not Halloweeners -- got in the cab and had me take them to Borough Park, Brooklyn. It was exactly like the beginning of a politically incorrect joke: "Three rabbis get into a cab..." Too bad there was no real punchline to the ride.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Here's my card

I had minor surgery yesterday, so I probably won't be working until Thursday night. Meanwhile, I forgot to mention in my last post that I happened to pick up the CEO of a very useful website that I've consulted in the past. It deals with city traffic and it's called We both got so excited about our common interest (traffic, and how to avoid it) that I almost forgot to collect the taxi fare from him. He also gave me his business card so I could give him my opinion about his upcoming site redesign. This card is the newest addition to my business-cards-given-to-me-in-the-taxi collection. At some point along the way, I decided to save them, along with pamphlets and flyers, instead of just chucking them. Here is a list of some of the company names that have appeared on these souvenirs:

Amazing Builder, Inc.
DG2L Technologies
Knowledge Movers
Massage your service, Arturo (photocopied flyer)
Pre-Paid Legal Services: Protection... Security... Peace of Mind (pamphlet)
The Hetrick-Martin Institute, Home of the Harvey Milk High School
The Jewelry Queen, Designer Jewelry
Composer, Bassist, DJ, Multi-Instrumentalist (personal business card)
Moneyworx, Solutions for Today's Financial Needs
Makeup Artist (personal business card)
Flushing Town Hall, Flushing Council of Culture and the Arts
Deutsche Bank
Fountainhead Films
Swiss Effects
The Dead Betties (band flyer)
Affinia Dumont, An Executive Fitness Suite Hotel
Flashdancers Gentlemen's Club (handed to me by the doorman there as I dropped a passenger off in front)
NuTech Integrated Systems
Sly Bar
Guy Carpenter & Company
The Museum of Modern Art
Prudent Protection Service, Inc.

Monday, October 24, 2005

On tipping

Somebody fucked up, but, thankfully, it wasn't me. This piece of work was dragged into the garage this afternoon when I was waiting for my cab.

Overall, it was a boring night. I drove around, picked people up, dropped them off, and sat at traffic lights. Apparently, people weren't in the mood to tip tonight. I guess it's time I addressed this, so here are a few helpful tips on tipping for clueless cabbers:

1. Most basically, tip like you would if you were in a restaurant. This means add about 15 to 20 percent of what's on the meter, or even more for exceptional service. This means if your fare is $15, don't just tack on a single precious dollar. Give at least two, but three or more is preferable and customary.

2. Try not to ask for a quarter back. That's just cheap.

3. If you ask your cab driver a million questions about his or her life, and he or she is nice about answering you and pretends like you're not the millionth person to ask these questions, give a little extra. Remember, most of the time we are just humoring you so that you'll give us more money. We are not necessarily driving around looking to make friends, though, if that happened, it'd be a nice bonus. However, this is a rare occurence. Driving a cab is an exhausting job, made even more so when at least half of our passengers ask us the same tired old questions night after night, expecting some sort of entertainment. A nice friendly conversation is one thing -- and that is certainly welcomed and helps us get through the day -- but being repeatedly grilled about who we are, where we come from, and why we are doing this job, well that's something entirely different. And please don't get offended if your driver doesn't want to answer all the personal questions you may be asking. We might just be too tired and bored with ourselves to be able to force ourselves to answer.

On a related note, do not ask your cab driver about the money he or she makes. We will not tell you the truth. It makes us nervous, mainly because we don't know if you're just innocently asking, or if you're trying to figure out if we're worth robbing.

4. If you need a cab to wait for you, compensate. We do not, by law, have to wait for passengers, since this means we will basically be losing money. Yes, the meter is running, but it is running at a much slower rate than if the cab was actually moving. The meter adds 40 cents for every two minutes of waiting time. This translates into $12 an hour. If we sat with the meter on for the entire 12 hour shift, we would ultimately end up paying out more money in lease fees and gas than we made for the night. Additionally, do not act like it is your god-given right to have a cab wait for you. It is not. If you ask nicely, the driver will probably do it, but don't feel entitled to it.

5. Obviously, overtipping is very welcomed. Just know that when you give even just a dollar or two more than the driver might have expected, it has a huge impact, not only financially, but mentally. I will never forget the people who surprised me with amazingly generous tips. But even just mildly generous tips have helped to revive my ever-fledgling faith in humanity. On the other hand, it's also hard to forget those who leave no tip at all.

6. If you fart in a cab, tip extra.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

First lady

Some asshole driver clipped my mirror tonight. Traffic was heavy going up 6th Ave and he was trying to get over into my lane, which would've been fine and all except I already happened to be there. I had no room to move, but he must've thought my cab would just magically fucking disappear once he decided to move over because he just came straight at me. When my cab didn't dematerialize for him, our mirrors met. Luckily, Ford Crown Victorias are extremely resilient and my mirror just sort of sprang back into position. I got out and checked the doors and fender, but there was no mark that anything happened. Not that it would have mattered since the guy drove away as fast as he could. Still, I was pissed. And the Texan tourists in the backseat seemed a little freaked.

Meanwhile, I have no idea what is wrong with this cab driver. He was driving really weirdly and was kinda pissing me off, fucking up my rhythm. When I pulled up next to him, the problem became obvious: He was counting his money.

The most notable event of the night was when two classy black ladies got in at 5th Ave and 25th. They were making two stops and talked politics the whole way. One was middle-aged, the other was older. After I dropped off the older one, the other lady said, "That was the former first lady of New York City that just got out of the cab." I said, "Really? Wait, what?" And she said, "Do you remember David Dinkins? He was the mayor before Giuliani. He was the good mayor. That was his wife." So, yeah, I had Mrs. Dinkins in my cab. Does she count as a celebrity?

The other thing that sticks in my mind from this shift was when I picked up a young couple and the guy informed me that I had driven him home last week. That's actually happened to me two other times, where I've met the same passenger in the cab more than once. The first time it happened with some old French guy who I didn't remember but who remembered me, and the other time it happened with a young woman who I did remember. More recently, I was approached in a book store by a young man asking, "Excuse me, are you a cab driver?" I had driven him home in a blizzard last winter and, since it took a while, we got to know each other. It's kind of astonishing each time this happens since there are about 13,000 cabs in New York.

Monday, October 17, 2005


One of my predecessors. According to the dictionary, a hack is defined as:
1. A horse used for riding or driving; a hackney.
2. A worn-out horse for hire; a jade.
3. a. One who undertakes unpleasant or distasteful tasks for money or reward; a hireling; b. A writer hired to produce routine or commercial writing.
4. A carriage or hackney for hire.
5. A taxicab.

Tonight I mostly felt like a combination of 2 and 3a. Add to this the fact that my sore throat and cough is back, and I become a stupid play on words, a hack with a hacking cough. Either I got sick again or I never fully recovered from my illness of last week. Whichever it is, it put me in a bad mood for most of the night.

The one really nice thing that happened tonight was when some people I know randomly got in the cab at 42nd and 8th. This is Nico and his friend Nadia.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Some gentle suggestions for drivers and pedestrians

No pictures today as I’m not working, nor will I be around much until next week. So I figured I’d just post this list I’ve been compiling of suggestions for how to walk and drive in New York City. It’s a work in progress, so I will probably add to it as more issues arise.

1. Use your turn signals. I promise you, this is not the hardest thing in the world. Simply locate the little lever to the left of your steering wheel and push it down if you’re turning left, or pull it up if you’re turning right. It takes the most minimal amount of energy, and when you get good at it (after only a few days of practice, or even just minutes if you’re a precocious learner), all you need is a quick flick of the fingers.

2. If you’ve almost missed your turn and are in the middle lane of a busy avenue, do not stop and try to turn from where you are. It’s not worth the accident you will probably cause. Since most of Manhattan is a grid, it is all too easy to drive two more blocks and make that left you were originally after, or simply turn right at the next block and box around (this means, make three rights to get back to the block you wanted), making sure this time around to position yourself in the proper lane for your desired turn.

3. Do not cut off a yellow cab.

4. If you must cut off a yellow cab, at least try to warn the driver by using your turn signal (see number 1 above for instructions). This really does make it better as it gives the car you’re cutting off time to hit the brakes.

5. Additionally, if you cut off a taxi, and the driver honks at you, DO NOT give him or her the finger. Remember, YOU were the one at fault and a good angry honking was only in order.

6. If there is space in front of you and you see a taxi signaling to get over into that space, do not speed up so as to not let it in. I will never understand why people do this, but if you do it, you are an asshole. What, do you really need to be First? Does it affect your ego that much to be driving behind a yellow cab?

7. The speed limit on most New York City Streets is 30 mph. Do not drive slower than this unless you have a good reason. And, no, having an important conversation on your fucking cell phone does not count as a good reason. Which brings us to:

8. Do not talk on your cell phone, hands-free included, while operating a vehicle in New York City. People who do this drive worse than most drunk drivers. I know this sounds hypocritical coming from a taxi driver, since many taxi drivers are on their phones throughout an entire shift, but, perhaps because of the amount of time they spend on the streets, these drivers seem to be able to handle it. Personally, I am not good at talking on the phone while driving, so I avoid doing it. Civilian drivers are not good at it either. They weave and swerve and go too slow. They try to turn from the middle lane of an avenue without using their turn signal because, whoops, their conversation was just too important to think about actually paying attention to how they are driving and where they are going, not to mention what the other cars around them are doing. Either pull over or hang up. Thank you.


1. When waiting to cross the street, wait on the sidewalk, not three feet into the intersection. You never know when a car may have to swerve to avoid something on the other side, which might cause that car to hit you instead.

2. If you see a car coming, do not cross in front of it against the light. It’s just rude.

3. If you are crossing in the middle of the street (i.e. not on a marked crosswalk), do not get angry at a cab for actually driving on the street where you are crossing. Also, do not give the finger or threaten to punch the cab driver in the face for driving on the street where you shouldn’t be crossing. Can you handle that, tough guy? You won’t be so tough when the brakes don’t work or the driver doesn’t see you (because you shouldn’t be there in the first place) and you get hit. Despite what you may believe, cab drivers really don’t want to hit pedestrians, so let’s all work together on preventing that, okay?

4. Do not point or wave to your friends while standing on the edge of the sidewalk. This is the universal signal for “I want a cab.” If you must point or wave while standing on the edge of the sidewalk, do not look disdainfully at the cabs that stop in front of you expecting you to get in.

5. If a car gets stuck in an intersection due to heavy traffic, do not cross in front of it, thus not letting it move safely to the other side. This puts both you and the car you are crossing in front of in danger until the light changes.

6. If you must cross at an intersection against the light (see number 2 for pedestrians above), please hurry the fuck up. Also, do not run halfway across and then slow down to a walk for the rest of the distance. Lackadaisical pedestrians are selfish and stupid and are likely to either get hit or cause an accident.

Like I said, it’s a work in progress. I’ll probably have more to add when I get back next week. In the meantime, study this list carefully and be nice to cabbies.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Recession Special

My cab smelled like puke tonight. I actually gagged a little when I first got in. I considered asking for a different one, but I didn't want to deal with the potential wrath of John the crazy Romanian dispatcher. I wiped down the floor and seats with the bleach wipes I usually use to clean the steering wheel and buttons, and pulled out with all the windows down. The whole night, the smell was there, like an annoying passenger that wouldn't get out. On top of that, it was a slow night. This picture is an illustration of what I saw in front of me for most of the shift: empty cabs.

I stopped at Gray's Papaya to eat around midnight. It's crap food, but it's quick and cheap, and there's parking right in front. I usually get the "Recession Special," which consists of two hot dogs and a juice for $2.75.

Monday, October 10, 2005

The blur

This was my view for most of the night: blur. The shift was relatively uneventful, despite my shitty wipers. I did have more drunk passengers than usual, but they were just happy and sloppy and in good spirits, for the most part.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

More assholes, and where you shouldn't put them

Take a good look at this cab. I wish I had the daring to have photographed the driver himself, because he is an ASSHOLE. Notice his position in relation to the double-yellow line. This photo was taken on Avenue A. Traffic was a little backed up approaching Houston, and business had just drastically slowed down, so this asshole decided that it was important to drive like, well, an asshole. He tried to pass me on the left, using the oncoming traffic lane as a passing lane, and came within, literally, an inch of hitting me. And the stupidest part of it was that he was gaining zero advantage from doing this as there were about five other empty cabs ahead of us further up the block. This is the worst part of slow business. Cab drivers get desperate, and this makes them vicious and irrational. Perhaps this is why everyone thinks cabs drive like maniacs. Because sometimes they do.

I would like to point out, though, that, contrary to popular belief, cab drivers are actually in the minority when it comes to assholic driving. This guy, for instance, felt that closely cutting me off wasn't enough. No, he had to give me the finger as well. Then, when he saw me taking pictures of his macho truck (and his wimp-ass Florida license plate), he decided to get out and yell at me. Mind you, a cab driver would never do that.

Meanwhile, this sign has always puzzled me.* It's posted in the US Airways taxi lot bathroom (which is unisex, sort of) at Laguardia. I have no idea what the writer was trying to say. Don't get on the toilet? Please sit in the toilet? I'm never quite sure what to do when using this bathroom because, apparently, the rules are different here.

*(Sorry about the blur. I was in a hurry.)

Monday, October 03, 2005


I think this is one of the last checker cabs in the city. From what I've heard, this guy just drives around giving people free rides. I have no idea why he would want to do such a thing. Apparently the TLC (Taxi & Limousine Commission) got after him in the past for accepting tips, which is against the law if you don't have a medallion. Or something like that.