Thursday, November 24, 2005


Since I'm not working tonight, I figured I'd post a brief list of some memorable passengers from recent months:

1. The young suburban couple who were "waiting for the mushrooms to kick in." They offered me $20 to let them smoke weed in the cab, but I wouldn't. Instead I showed them a relatively dark street near Grand Central, where I let them off, so they could smoke up before getting on their train.

2. The British manager of a bunch of bands, including the Pet Shop Boys and Tears for Fears. I took him to the Beacon theater, where Tears for Fears were playing later that night. He had lost his cell phone earlier that day in a taxi, but had managed to retrieve it in time for the show. He ended the trip by offering me free tickets and passes. Unfortunately, I had to decline.

3. The young well-mannered black guys who wanted me to take them on a long round trip, saying they were just meeting a friend for a second and there would be no waiting. Five minutes before we got there, one of the guys made a call from his cell telling their "friend" to be on the corner. When we pulled up, a preppy white guy walked up to the window of the cab. One of my passengers said, "Yeah, you wanted two tickets?" The guy said, "Huh? Oh, yeah." A discreet exchange was made through the window of the cab, and then I took the guys back to where I picked them up.

4. One of my very favorites, as you may have read in the Gothamist thing, was the oddly-mannered late-middle-aged lady who told me she only watched shopping channels on TV. She rattled off all the different shopping networks (QVC, ShopNBC, HSN, etc.) and described the merits and drawbacks of each one. When I asked her how much money she spent on home shopping, she said, “Oh no, I don’t buy anything anymore, I just watch. I used to buy from them. Ten years ago I drained a bank account, and a good bank account, too, but I don’t do that anymore. Now I just watch them.” I guess they warded off loneliness or something. Her husband, after all, was a Bush-voting, NRA-card-carrying Republican.

5. The rich young gay guy who voted for Bush and was dating the son of Decker, of the Black & Decker fortune. I took him to the Four Seasons while he told me all sorts of stories about his boyfriend. He gave me an $8 tip on a $12 fare.

6. Jim and Mim Herr, owners of Herr’s Potato Chips. They were on their way back to Pennsylvania and, since it was right before Christmas, they wanted to see the holiday lights on the ride to Penn Station. Traffic was pretty bad though, so I told them they couldn’t see the tree from the street and just took them through Times Square instead, since it was on the way. They were sweet and gave me a nice tip. Later, passing Rockefeller Center, I felt a twinge of guilt as I caught a spectacular view of the tree and listened to the blasting Christmas music while sitting in a traffic deadlock.

7. The 23-year-old gay guy who had lost his virginity the day before to a much older, self-proclaimed spiritual guru.

8. The middle-aged woman who got in at Lincoln Center and told me she used to be a cab driver in the early '80s. She quit driving because she went back to school and became a doctor.

9. The deaf girl who signaled for me to give her a pen and paper so she could write down her destination.

10. The woman who had just had dental work and was still numb from the novocaine. She got in saying, "Hheventy-Hhhiff and Hhirst," which I finally realized meant, "Seventy-fifth and First."

11. The psychic who didn't read my mind about what kind of tip she was gonna give me.

12. The guy who claimed he produced three Beyonce songs. I took him to Howard Beach and the whole time he was flirting with some girl on the phone. Then he hung up and called his mom and asked her to cook "platanos y huevos" for him.

13. The Japanese diplomat who was working at the UN to try to get Japan into the UN Security Council.

14. The young woman who worked as an oncology nurse, administering chemotherapy to rich people's pets.

15. The two gay guys from Brooklyn Heights, one of whom was planning on coming out to his entire family by way of a note.

Reading it over now, this list seems kind of tame. I suppose one reason for that is because I'm saving some of my better passenger stories for full posts of their own when I get around to it. And another reason is because there are just so many bankers and lawyers taking cabs in New York, and all of them are relatively sane and well-behaved. As one old-time driver from my garage told me once, "Manhattan's so boring these days, the cab drivers are more interesting than the passengers. It's just a jerk store out there."

Monday, November 14, 2005

Quarter back

Apparently I'm not the only one this happens to. I was amused to read this in today's New York Times Metropolitan Diary:

Dear Diary:

As a longtime taxi driver and avid opera buff, I always enjoy driving customers to Lincoln Center. On a recent rainy evening, a fashionably dressed Upper East Side woman hailed my cab and asked to be taken to the Metropolitan Opera. I asked her what opera she was going to see, and we began a lively discussion. This well-heeled passenger asked me if I attended the Met regularly. I informed her that I rarely go any more because the tickets are too pricey on a taxi driver's salary. She replied: "Well, I agree with you about how expensive the tickets have become. Even though I can afford it, I am very discerning about which performances I attend. My box seat is costing me around $300, and a Champagne dinner at the Grand Tier Restaurant will be close to $100."

When we arrived at Lincoln Center, she told me how much she enjoyed the ride and that I was a great cabdriver. The meter read $6.70 and she handed me $8. I thanked her profusely, thinking she intended for me to keep the change.

She then said, "I'd like a quarter back, please."

As I drove away, I wondered if that quarter was going to help pay for that $300 opera ticket!

Davidson Garrett

I always wonder what these people are gonna do with that quarter, make a fucking phone call? I've been considering carrying around pennies and giving them out in 25-cent batches when these rich cheapskates want their precious little quarters back. And it's weird, because it really only ever seems to be people with money who do this. No regular working person would ever be so petty about some change. And if they were, it'd be excusable, because they're NOT RICH. The problem is that rich people probably don't even remember what a penny looks like. I guess it's up to me to remind them.

Monday, November 07, 2005


This is a picture of the trash left behind on McGuiness Blvd in Brooklyn after the big NYC Marathon today. I went to work late in order to miss most of the traffic caused by all the street closures, and I got lucky and was able to stay away from what was left of it after 4:00 p.m. I had no accidents or middle fingers tonight, so I guess it was a pretty uneventful shift.

But back to the aggravation. Sorry the picture's so shitty. I'm a little freaked out about taking pictures of cops because cops are scary. But come on, do they need to be blocking the entire fucking street just so they can chat while sitting in the comfort of their cruisers? What the fuck? This picture is from 14th Street, facing east, just past Broadway. And, in case you can't tell from the photo (try clicking on it to make it bigger), there are two cop cars blocking both lanes of the street, and one is facing the wrong direction, so their driver's sides were closer, making for a better conversation, I'm sure. All eastbound traffic basically had to swerve halfway into the oncoming traffic lane to get around them.

I see cops breaking the law all the time in a variety of ways (and I'm sure everybody has seen the one where a cop abuses his lights and siren by turning them on to get through a red light, just to shut it off again once he's through), but it infuriates me when they needlessly put everyone in danger like this. They clearly think they are above the law. And, you know what? They are. Who's gonna give these guys a fucking ticket? Themselves? Their dangerous, bad behavior has effectively caused me to have zero respect for them. And it sucks, because, as with people's opinions about cab drivers, I realize I am judging the many by the behavior of a few. But still. So if you, or anyone you know is a cop, you can make it all up to me by giving me a PBA card. Thanks.

Friday, November 04, 2005


I got screwed at the airport not once, but twice tonight. It was extra busy in the city with a slight shortage of cabs due to it being the last night of Ramadan, but I was not to benefit from this. At 4:30 p.m., a half hour into my shift, two guys got in and wanted to go to the airport shuttle bus by Grand Central Station. When they realized they missed their bus, they asked if I would take them to JFK. Sucker that I am, I said okay. Traffic, as usual, was a nightmare. I arrived at the airport at 6:00 (not good) and pulled into the taxi lot. At 7:00, I was sent up to the Delta terminal and got a "shorty," which means it's a short-haul ride to anywhere in Queens or Brooklyn from JFK (from Laguardia, it's just Queens). The taxi dispatcher gives out little tickets that allow you to get on a shorter line if you return to the lot within 90 minutes. I was back in 15. My next passengers, luckily, were going to Manhattan, and I was back in business by 8:30, four hours after I left the city.

I had steady fares for the next few hours until I got taken out to deep Bay Ridge around midnight. I was close enough to JFK, so I called the airport taxi hotline to see what was going on in the lot. The message had just been updated to say the lot was at zero percent, so I jumped on the Belt and raced over, figuring I'd get lucky, that JFK owed me something good tonight. When I pulled in, there was one main line in front of me, and two shorty lines. The picture above is of the rest of the lot, gloriously empty.

After about twenty minutes and no movement, all the cabs behind me started leaving. I asked another driver what was going on and he said, "There's only one more flight, we're not gonna make it." I called the hotline and found out the last flight was landing at 1:30 a.m. I didn't know how heavy the flight was, but by then there were three full shorty lines, and more coming in. All the shorties would get out before me. That's about 45 cabs, plus the 15 in the main line in front of me. I said fuck it, and left. Fucked again. But, actually, I found out later, I fucked myself, because when I got back to the garage at the end of my shift, an old-time driver told me that the last flight to JFK is a 300-person Jet Blue plane from California. With 60 cabs in front of me, chances are I still would've gotten a passenger. Oh fucking well.

Meanwhile, this picture is just a continuation of the pissing theme. Some lockers were removed from the parking lot at the garage, and this is what was written on the wall behind them. I wonder if Billy had anything to do with this.