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."