Monday, March 27, 2006


Tonight was one of those rare nights when everyone seemed to want my cab. I haven't had a good shift like this in a while. And I needed it. Somehow, even during the slow patches when all the other cabs were empty, I got jobs, and decent ones at that.

Early in the evening I had a passenger to JFK, and I waited in the taxi hold lot (pictured above) for just under an hour, which, for JFK, isn't bad. I've been so screwed at the airport lately, I half expected to have to sit there for at least two hours. I got a sandwich, used the bathroom, and read a book while waiting.

When I got to the terminal, I got a guy going to 87th and Broadway. At the end of the $45 trip, he didn't tip. Not one single penny. This pissed me off, but only for a little while, because I got my rhythm back right away and had generous, friendly, non-aggravating passengers for the rest of the night. They more than made up for this guy's tiplessness.

Even on my way to the airport, when something bad happened, a good thing turned up to balance it right out. The guy pictured above was driving one of those Air Link vans and he tried to cut me off sharply so he could jump to the head of the long line in the left turn lane going onto South Conduit off Cross Bay Blvd. He just sort of came over into me and I had to swerve left, nearly hitting the median. Then he stopped and began cursing me out. When he saw me taking pictures, he pulled out his shitty camera phone and we engaged in a ridiculous little photo war.

My passenger, who was on her way to Las Vegas, asked me what I do with these pictures. I said, "I put them on the internet. It's the only form of revenge available to me." The guy finally pulled away and cut off the car at the very front of the line to make the turn. We talked about what an asshole he was and I said, "Yeah, the only thing that really sucks is, if he complains about me to the TLC, I'll probably have to pay a fine, even though he was the one who was wrong. And if I complain about him to Air Link, most likely nothing will happen." She agreed that that did indeed suck.

When we got to her terminal, she gave me a nice tip and her business card and said, "Take this and call me if he complains about you. I'll gladly be your witness. That guy was wrong, and I believe in justice."

I sincerely hope this woman wins big in Vegas.

Monday, March 20, 2006

More cable television

It was a weird night. I waited almost three hours at the garage for my cab to come in, and when I finally got out, it seemed like there were fires breaking out all over the city. Around 6:00, 3rd Ave was closed at 26th St with fire trucks and cop cars taking up the entire avenue. It stayed that way for the next few hours, but the radio didn't have anything to say about what was going on, so I don't know the story. Then an hour later, the fire trucks descended on Lafayette and Astor Place. I had a passenger, so I didn't stick around to see what happened.

Meanwhile, last night there was a fire in the building across the street from mine. When I told a few of my passengers about all this, some of them had recent fire stories of their own. One said that she entered the subway this morning and it was filled with smoke, but the train came anyway and she got on. Another said her office building caught fire yesterday. Is it fire season or something? What the hell?

Anyway, around 8:00 I picked up the guy pictured above. He was going to a hotel on the east side and I didn't pay much attention to him until I heard him talking on the phone. His voice sounded oddly familiar so I turned to look at him when we were stopped at a red light. I recognized his face from somewhere but couldn't pin it down just yet. I said, "I hope you don't think this is weird, but you look really familiar." He answered, "Well, I'm an actor, it could be because of that."

Right when he said that, I realized he was the guy who played Brenda's boyfriend for a while on the HBO series "Six Feet Under." His name is Justin Theroux. When I got home and looked him up online, I realized I also recognized him from David Lynch's Mulholland Dr., in which he played a movie director.

I felt a little weird, calling him out like that, but he didn't seem to mind. I apologized for it and said, "You probably get people saying stuff like that all the time." He said, "Yeah, sometimes. I imagine you get the same thing in a different way, with people always commenting on the fact that you're a female cab driver."

I was kind of surprised that he realized this. Most people just get in and think they're the first person in the whole entire world to observe that I'm a female cab driver. What they don't know is that I hear some version of "Oh, a woman!" or "You're my first female cab driver!" or "What's it like to be a female cab driver?" somewhere between 20 and 30 times a night.

I try to be gracious about it, but it gets grating after a while. Usually around number 15 is when I start to lose it and say snarky obnoxious things like, "I really don't know what it's like to be a female cab driver as I have nothing to compare it to, you know, because I've never been a man." One time an elderly man, in response to this, said wryly, "Oh, you haven't? Are you sure? Well, there's still time."

I did not ask Justin Theroux what it was like to be a male actor, but I did almost forget to collect the fare from him. Almost. He paid, tipped decently, and got out. I drove away and spent the rest of the relatively slow night trying to avoid the fires.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Italian food

Speaking of The Sopranos, I had a guy in my cab the other night who grew up in the town of Verona, New Jersey, which is apparently the town the show is based on. He was a guitar-player-turned-money-manager and I picked him up from the Allman Brothers concert at Beacon Theater. He told me that growing up Irish in a predominantly Italian neighborhood was no small feat. In fact, most of his friends and neighbors suggested he change his name by taking the "O" from the front and putting it on the back, going from O'Corman to Cormano, to make him sound more Italian.

He also told me a story about how his best friend's old Italian grandfather stole their next-door-neighbor's pet rabbit from the backyard, skinned it, cooked it, and ate it. Was that customary in Italy in the old days? I doubt we'll ever see any meals of cooked pet rabbit on The Sopranos, though it'd certainly be more fun than watching the characters eat all that boring old pasta.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Feng Shui

It's sort of sad how a "television event," such as tonight's Sopranos season premiere, can cause New Yorkers to spend an unseasonably warm Sunday evening at home in front of the tv instead of going outside and actually, you know, doing something. This explains why the city was a total dead zone after 8:00 pm tonight. The only people out were the cabbies, the cops, and the garbage men, as well as a few random stragglers and tourists.

The Hustler Club (shown above) certainly had good reason to be closed, and there was a strange absence of shady characters outside the Port Authority Bus Terminal. I guess everyone, including the regular strip-club patrons, the loiterers, and the homeless, managed to find their way to a cable-equipped television tonight.

Notable events of the night: Not many actually. I got stuck for 20 minutes on Mott Street (seen above) and renewed my utter and complete hatred of New Jersey and its "drivers." They are usually the ones to blame for my traffic woes, especially this evening, with Holland Tunnel traffic on Canal overflowing on all possible side streets. If I were king, I would close the tunnels completely and say good riddance.

When I finally got out of this mess, I picked up a Feng Shui instructor who was visiting from San Francisco. Feng Shui is the Chinese art of placement, which means that where you put stuff in your house is important and helps with your "flow," or something like that.

We started talking and I said, "I read somewhere that if you put money in the northeast corner of every room in your house, it's supposed to increase your money flow. Is that true?" He replied, "Actually, it would be the southeast corner, since the sun rises in the southeast and has the most energy and pull in the morning. And you should really only do it in a room where you pay the bills or take care of business. You can also use stuff other than money, basically anything that signifies abundance in your life."

I responded by saying, "Well, in my apartment, that would be cat hair." Then he said something that I didn't really catch but sounded like something to the effect of, "Yeah, that would [something inaudible] your pussy." I was a little taken off guard and just paused for a second before saying, "Um, what?" But I guess he didn't feel like clarifying because he just said, "I have a dog."

Friday, March 10, 2006


It seemed like everyone was driving like a stroke victim tonight. Either they were on the phone and swerving all over the place, like the asshole above, or they were drunk. Depending on my mood, it can really make me crazy getting caught behind all these fuckfaces who don't know how to drive, and I sometimes find myself wishing I had something other than a camera to shoot them with.

Speaking of murder, this girl got into my cab tonight and was like, "Oh wow, a female driver. I'm so relieved. I stopped taking cabs since that cabbie murdered that girl by the Belt Parkway." She was, of course, talking about Imette St. Guillen, and referring to the week-old headlines that suggested a livery cab driver was behind the slaying.

I half-jokingly said, "Oh, I doubt it was a cabbie. It's all just part of the campaign of hatred against us." She asked me what I meant, and I elaborated, saying, "It just seems like every time something bad happens to someone, a cab driver is always somehow implicated. I once read an article about a guy who lost his leg after getting hit by a regular car and the author suggested the car lost control because a cab must have been speeding nearby, even though there was no evidence to that effect. It was ridiculous." And it's true, every time I read the paper, cabs are mentioned in what seems like every other article, no matter how remotely they might be connected to the story, and they're usually referred to in a negative light.

I reconsidered this woman's fear, which I originally thought irrational, as I was walking home after my shift just a little while ago. The streets were relatively deserted when, a block from my building, a silver livery cab pulled over right next to me. Two men were in the front and the passenger rolled down his window and said, "Taxi? Taxi?"

What the fuck? Did these guys actually think I was gonna get in the car with them? I was just walking on the sidewalk, clearly not looking for a cab. Would they have approached me all unsolicited like that if I was a guy? It made me so mad that, after a 12 hour shift, I suddenly had to worry for my safety a block from my house. They were still rolling alongside me, so I summoned all my anger and yelled, "Do I look like I want a fucking taxi?" They peeled out down the avenue and I continued home.

Maybe the killer was a cab driver after all.

Monday, March 06, 2006

So a gay cowboy gets in my cab...

This is Elliott and Allen, two of my friends from the garage. They're standing in front of a retired roof ad for a band I never heard of but I thought it was funny -- and kind of stupid -- that they're called "Train" and their album is called "Cab."

On one of the lockers behind them is this old sticker advertising the defunct NYC Taxi Drivers Union. Believe it or not, taxi drivers once had a union that sort of protected them, sort of not, according to the old-timers. Apparently the union lost what little power it had and faded away after the taxi leasing system was put into effect. The quote above the image of the hands says, "It's nice to be nice." Perhaps the union would've survived if their slogan told drivers it pays to be nice.

As for my shift tonight, it wasn't great. In fact, it was pretty fucking slow. Early on I picked up a middle-aged guy from Penn Station who unloaded a whole story about how he just broke up with his boyfriend of 15 years. When I asked why, he told me that the boyfriend had begun doing a shitload of crystal meth, staying up all night having sex on the internet, and just generally acting like an asshole. I asked, "How'd he get into doing crystal?" He explained simply by saying, "We have a house in Fire Island." That explains everything. (For those who don't know, Fire Island is a predominantly gay beachfront party town on Long Island where lots of guys go to get away from the city, relax, have sex, do drugs, and/or engage in other forms of debauchery.)

Once the big awards show was over, a very drunk gay cowboy flagged me down. I'm not kidding. He was wearing a cowboy hat, a fringed suede jacket, and cowboy boots. He was so wasted, probably from trying to drink away the pain of losing to "Crash," that he could barely tell me where to go. I said, "Where to?" He responded, "Down the street." I might've enjoyed having a gay cowboy in my cab, or even this city boy dressed as a gay cowboy for Oscar night, but it's just no fun when people can't tell me where to go. "Okay, which street? Do you know the address?" He was having trouble speaking, but finally managed to slur out an intersection that made sense.

When we pulled up, he said, "Where's the gay place?" When I told him I had no idea what he was talking about, he replied emphatically, "The gay place. There's a gay bar around here somewhere." I looked around but only saw some shitty bar & grill type place that definitely looked straight, so I just said, "I don't know, but good luck finding it." It was a bit rude of me, but there was no way I was gonna get stuck driving around looking for a bar with someone that drunk. He spilled out of the cab mumbling some unintelligible jumble of words and I just drove away. The incoherent drunks are always annoying, but I guess if there had to be a theme to my night, I'd rather have it be "Brokeback Mountain" than "Crash."