Tuesday, June 20, 2006
Since so many people leave New York for the summer, the taxi business gets slow. Which also means not as many interesting things happen in the cab. Or, at least, not my cab.
Last night, the big event had to do with my air conditioning. After driving for a short while, I noticed it was blowing out a funny smell and I was starting to feel a little lightheaded. I dropped off some tourists at the Apollo Theater on 125th Street and called Allen, an old-time driver, and told him I was having a problem.
Allen is a strange, funny, almost child-like guy. An orthodox Jew from Williamsburg by day and a human global positioning system by night, Allen knows how to get anywhere from anywhere in the five boroughs with block-by-block precision. He also has plenty of answers for any other question a younger, stupider driver like me might have, but his answers to non-directions-related questions can be hit or miss.
I got him on the phone and our conversation went something like this:
Me: "Hey, my A.C. smells weird. It's giving me a headache and making me a little dizzy. Do you know what that could be?"
Allen: "Oh I know what it is -- does it smell like coffee?"
Me: "Uhh, no. It's more chemical like."
Allen: "Okay. Does it smell like crap?"
Me: "No, it just smells sort of toxic, like I'm losing brain cells."
Allen: "Is it blowing warm air?"
Allen: "Does it smell like plastic?"
Me: "Yeah, sort of. It's in that family."
Allen: "Oh, okay, yeah. It must've been the day driver ran over a plastic bag and it melted onto the pipe. You're fine. It's no big deal."
Me: "Okay. Thanks."
Allen: "I'll call you later to see what's doing."
Allen took the night off yesterday, but calling each other when we're not working is something we can't help but do. If one of us was supposed to work and didn't, we'll check in to find out how business is, to hear what the traffic is like, and basically to see what we missed. If we discover it was a slow night, we feel good for having taken the night off. If it was busy, there's a pang of regret that we missed out on it. I don't know if other cabbies do this, but I do it all the time with Allen and Diego. Last night was nothing special, so Allen should be happy to know he didn't miss much.
In light of that, I felt no regret at quitting only seven hours into the shift as the chemical fumes from the A.C. were starting to turn my head around. I returned the cab and called it a night.
Meanwhile, the driver of this cab clearly had a more eventful night than I did.
Sometimes it's just better for it to be boring.