Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Cow catcher



It almost seemed like the usual last-two-weeks-of-August empty-city curse might have been lifted when I got stuck in massive throngs of people walking in the traffic lanes near Penn Station, but, alas, the curse has hit, and hard. It took me 45 minutes to find my first passenger tonight, which is just frustrating. That's not supposed to happen in the beginning of the shift, and it makes the night look hopeless.

I often tell myself, All I need is the first one, and then everything will fall into place, which is usually true, but when getting that first passenger proves to be more difficult than it should be, my outlook starts to look real dark. Of course, eventually, someone deigned to get in my cab and pay me to drive them somewhere, and slowly but surely, other fares followed, but the damage was done. The night proved to be dead slow, worse than usual, and I spent a lot of time by myself between jobs.

Sometime during rush hour a man and his teenage son got in the cab. They were visitors from Canada. Shortly after getting in, the man commented on the "Passenger's Bill of Rights" posted on the partition. We laughed at how ridiculous it is, and how sad. And also what it says about how the city feels about its taxi drivers, and so on.

We also got along because, when a bunch of genius pedestrians walked in front of my cab against the light, the man suggested I invest in something called a "cow catcher." He explained that it's that slanty thing seen on the front of locomotives and they serve to move animals and objects out of the way and off the tracks. I agreed that I absolutely needed a cow catcher. Especially today when the pedestrians seemed particularly suicidal.

They told me they were visiting the man's brother and leaving tomorrow. The son had never been here before, the father hadn't been here in over 20 years. We had a pleasant ride together and when they got out, they left me a decent tip.

Anyway, when my next passenger got in, he handed me a wallet and said he found it on the backseat. I immediately knew it belonged to the Canadian man. It contained only a Canadian "Operator's License" and a credit card, nothing else.

Now, I have to admit, had this guy been a dick, I might've taken some pleasure in throwing the wallet away, but he hadn't been. So I found the 800 number on the back of the credit card and called the company. I explained what happened and gave them my number. I felt bad for the guy. There was no way he was gonna be allowed on a plane tomorrow without his ID.

A half hour later, he called and asked if I could go back to where I dropped him off and return the wallet, telling me he would make it worth my while. Those words are like magic. They just make it a lot easier to go off-duty during rush hour for a complete stranger. It's like, at least the person knows you're going to be losing time, which equals money in this business, and they don't have an unhealthy sense of entitlement, which many New Yorkers definitely seem to have when it comes to cabs. But it's also a gamble, because you never know at what rate a person values your time.

Still, at that point, it didn't really matter. This guy deserved a favor, and I was happy to do it, even if it ended up as a loss for me. I hit my off-duty light and, of course, that was the moment when a hundred people decided they absolutely needed my cab, but I was on a mission to do a good thing and be a good person for a change, so I ignored their hails.

When I finally made it back to him, I jokingly told him that I only did a little shopping with his credit card at Circuit City and Best Buy, but I hadn't maxed it out yet. He was so relieved that I came back, he just laughed. Then he handed me fifty bucks and said, "You're my favorite New Yorker ever."

The whole interaction, plus the generous reward, pretty much made my night. So, ultimately, I came out way ahead.

I'm totally gonna use that fifty bucks as a down payment on a cow catcher.

84 comments:

Steve State said...

Wow, I wish I was back in your city NYH. I adore it. The way you describe things is so New York, yet you seem unaware of this which is great. I can sense the city just from the way you write. Truly magnificent.
Steve State.

Anonymous said...

Such a perfect idea! Heh, heh. Good for you.

Julian said...

好人有好報..

Sicilian said...

You are my favorite New Yorker too. . . I am glad you were rewarded for your honesty.
Ciao

Takin'pictures said...

The only reason they used cowcatchers was because cows were valuable and intelligent animals. Seems like the cows were more intelligent then those people crossing against the light.

thaREALdmoney said...

See how great Canadians are :D

We RULE!!!!!

Christopher Robin said...

I have to agree with Derek, leave it to us Canadians to both entertain and be thankful for kind gestures.

Great blog by the way, I've enjoyed reading it for some time.

Katy said...

See honesty PAYS and its good Karma.

Michelle said...

Such a great story, I think I'd do the same thing. It's great to do something like that for someone who seemed like a decent person.

Love your blog, you don't update enough!

Anonymous said...

Wow, kudos to you M.P.! You are my favorite New Yorker too! And what a nice gesture the man have - amazing! And of course, be careful always.

Drunken Master said...

There is still some hope left in this world. One good turn deserves another, M, and not everything good involves getting a lot of money.

Here's to a bunch of better days!

Dana said...

Hey MP, Nothing like restoring your faith in humanity.I imagine you and your fare felt the same way after your interaction with eachother. You need to have one of your fares take a pic of you. Looks like you are our favorite New Yorker as well.

Peace

Megan said...

Nice to know that kindness pays! Also, kudos to the passenger that gave it to you and didn't just take it for himself, as well.

Pat T Hat said...

Just when I'm sure every other person out there is a heel and a shmuck you write this! Thanks, ya made my day!!!!

Anonymous said...

Doesn't it feel good to do a good deed????

EverJack1 said...

A great ending to a great post, Melissa. Sometimes, good deeds Are rewarded.

EverJack1

Anonymous said...

It's about time something nice happened to you for a change and no one tried to whip their dick out at you! Nice!

Anonymous said...

that's about the best i've read...hope i have you as my cabbie when next in NY....

Green said...

That's great! I guess this means we can't make jokes about Canadians for the week, huh?

suckingchestwound said...

Canadians are very nice. Fat Boy says they even leave their doors unlocked at night. Not all Americans are so nice. Have you bought a Glock 27 yet, as I suggested in the recent past?

Anonymous said...

I definitely need a cow catcher for my bike - pedestrians cross in front of me against the light all the time.

dlin said...

good story. there's hope for humanity after all ... in nyc of all places.

mariasoledad said...

I think you are honest enough, becouse you mix honesty with money.
Not everybody speak so openly. I would love not have a slight idea of your age.

Be safe!

mariasoledad said...

I wanted to mean that I really would love to have an idea of your age. Just an idea melisa.


Be safe.

Gabriel said...

Next time I see a cab retrofitted with a cowcatcher on w 57th street - I'll make sure Im standing on the curb or hustling over to the other side! Didn't Mad Max have one of those?

Windjammer said...

They're also more well known as brush guards. I think it's funny to see Hummers and immaculate SUV's tinkering around the city with brush guards on when you know darn well their vehicle never goes off road or ever actually saw a farm.

legal Alien said...

A very true post , I study in Canada and people are just wonderful.

L.A.

recatejr said...

nice story...i wouldve picked up afare on the way to return the wallet if possible....anyway...need more pics of your incidents as they occur and maybe one of you on occasion..i agree with the blogger who said you dont update enough..maybe you are bus writiin that book...lol

Gibs said...

I had forgotten how much I miss being a hack. Thanks for the reminder. Love your blog

CharterJames said...

Cool story!

I get to be proud of being:

a Canadian,
a New Yorker,
and a New York Cab Driver!

Melissa said...

Canadians do rock from time to time, but I'm biased.

wil said...

Life is like a wheel.

What goes around, comes around.

~*SilverNeurotic*~ said...

Whenever I seem to lose faith in humanity, I just have to read a story like this for it to be restored...at least temporarily.

Yenta said...

Hey great story... Love to see when you update...

did ya give that guy this web address of your blog?

Galt-In-Da-Box said...

Far out!
That's just awesome.
I got a wallet back to someone once and got $20 for less than an hour's work.

godzilla1000 said...

you are so cool,you make me can't wait to read you next.................chilly billy from a different city.

freddybeach cabby said...

good for you!! Its a nice feelin aint it? you will be paid back for it (other than the $50.00) I turned a wallet in last weekend it belonged to army guy who could get fined for losing his milatary I.D. card. and by the way I don't lock my house or car doors...no need to!

infinitesimal said...

Thanks for taking the time to tell me your stories.

I like coming here and visit at least once a week.

I recently found the site postsecret.blogspot.com

it's pretty interesting concept. I thought I would pass the site on to you.

hope you can check it out.

epitaphforacentaur said...

i adore nyc and although there's plenty of lil' angry men flailing their penises, there's also lots of decent folk like you! blunt, curt and good.

kudos!!

tangerine said...

So glad this story happened to you.

But it raises a good lesson to everyone out there
in the blue nowhere:

Be nice to everyone. You never know who is going to be in a position to make your life easier.

It could be that guy you were a schmuck to yesterday.
......................
Do unto others as you would have done unto yourself.

Chez Bez said...

In my professional experience, Canadians tend to be great for kind conversation and dreadful for tips. Glad you met one of the more generous and aware ones.
I'd have taken a gamble for someone as nice as well.

squire said...

Keep that up and you will gice "cabbies" a bad name. lol

jo said...

Honesty is the best policy - although there have been times when I have found a 10 or 20 pound note lying on the ground and have pocketed it. I would never pocket something which had proof of who it belonged to - that would be dishonest!!

Hope your reading went well??

xx

Rockenheimer said...

Good! Taxi Chick Finally Gets a Break! Courtesy of a Fellow-Canadian. I love when one of us makes the rest of us look good.

God bless you and keep you. May He cause His face to shine on you and be gracious to you.

Paige said...

I want to invest in a cow catcher..it sounds AWESOME!!

Vernon said...

How was the radio show? Any feed back? Good going on the good deed.
If ever i go to NYC, I hope I end up in your cab.

Anonymous said...

So you met some nice Canadians? What is so strange about that? They met a caring cabbie...is that unusual? Perhaps... I'd love to tell you all Canadians are like that but that is not true. Some nasty ones exist but they live in NY.
I'M KIDDING!
I love your blog...keep the meter running.

Paul
Halifax, Nova Scotia
Canada

Anonymous said...

Being deployed overseas in the Navy
and hearing a NY story. Does not get any better. (Could use a dirty water hot dog over here though. . .)

lugosi said...

Welcome to August. It's the slowest month of the year not only for cab drivers but a lot of other businesses. Everyone's on vacation, and there just aren't enough tourists to make up for the loss of business travelers.

Imagesmith said...

Your momma would be proud

Woozie said...

My checking account was in sore need of about $200, that would pay my bills current. Had a few bucks in the small savings I had. So feeling depressed I decided to go treat myself to an ice cream but I needed to go to the ATM. I drove to the nearest one to my house. And there in the cash slot was $200!

But someone was testing me so I took it to the police station and turned it in. At least I hoped it had been a test and not a gift cause I sure could have used it!

Coming to you from Texas
SussieQ

Left Coast Sister said...

What a great story... you actually made the effort to call the 800 # and wait 15 minutes for a cust. svce person?! I'm sure your integrity was worth even more than the 50 bucks!

Anonymous said...

Canadians have made it to # 1 in the area of nonexistent or pathetic tipping world-wide. At one point in time, they ruled the ranks of Euro-Trash. Lucky you met a half-way decent one.

george the atheist said...

Who is John Galt?

(Answer: check out www.therightperspective.com)

David. said...

I don`t know if you are aware of it but your blog got a mention on a British TV show called Richard and Judy. As per usual, they referred to you as a "he". I must admit to falling into that trap the first time I read your blog.
Fantastic blog and good luck with the book, please give us details when you have them.

Anonymous said...

why is it you're the only nice driver in nyc? every time i get in a cab when i visit the city i get someone who a)smells, b)drives like a maniac, and c)doesn't speak english very well. it's not fair!!

thank you for being an honest person!

itsybitsygod said...

Niceness has very little to do with how someone smells or if their accent is regional.
I think the streets should be lined with gates that spring up when the light turns. I had to pull a co-worker out of the street today or he could have been killed. Who just steps out in the street without looking?!
Asshat co-worker, that's who.

Anonymous said...

Melissa how did Rock Sullivans go, can we get an update on that of what happened on the night. Did any of your blog readers turn up. Loved the radio broadcast.

Anonymous said...

Locomotives had two kinds of cowcatchers; the steam engines had the kind that pushed the cows off the tracks, the Diesels have built-in snow-plows. The olde-tyme streetcars, however had just what you need.

http://contentdm.acpl.lib.in.us/cdm4/item_viewer.php?CISOROOT=/coll6&CISOPTR=5464&REC=16

Scoop 'em up and make 'em pay the fare..

tin412 said...

I love to be in NYC! But never got the chance though and probably never ever. City is seem busy all the time. You have to be thankful that at least despite of how busy the city is. There are still kind people who are not busy enough to make your day complete.

bklynd said...

since I dissed one of your recent posts, let me also say that this is a nice story. Thanks.

Tim said...

Hey, that's great. 50 bucks, what a cool guy. Glad it worked out for you.
Love your blog. I put you on my blogroll.

Anonymous said...

You're a real tool for taking any money from the guy for returning his wallet

justbeinganidiot said...

Heard your mom on that broadcast....she sounds hot , is she single? Can I Cowcatch her ?

Nicole said...

It's good deeds like these that restore people's faith in New Yorkers. We have a bad reputation, but I think we are a pretty honest and good bunch of people, in general.

I'm glad you are out there saving our reputation one wallet at a time!

Penny said...

I've just moved to the city from Australia but started reading your blog before I left. It's been great to get a sense of the city in preparation.
Now that I'm here I keep looking into cabs to see if you're driving but they're mostly men!
I couldn't make your reading last week due to prior commitment. Hope it all went well.
I've started a blog too about my experiences as a newbie to New York.

n.l. said...

I'm at a blogger class at the yosemite writers conference, and Erin Hosier just mentioned your blog... We're in the class right now. Your book sounds cool...

www.nbelardes.com

Greg said...

Yesterday, I read a Daily News article about a late-night hit-and-run in Chelsea. A couple were hit as they crossed the street against the light; the man was killed and the woman was seriously injured. A cab driver started following the hit-and-run driver but he stopped because his four passengers were scared and yelled for him to slow down.

David wrote, "...your blog got a mention on a British TV show called Richard and Judy." I've heard about those two because Richard went off on Morrissey after Morrissey seemingly advocated violence against scientists who conduct tests on animals. The Britons who visit Morrissey Solo had a thing or two to say about them, in particular the story that some years ago, Richard was caught trying to take a bottle of wine out of a store without paying for it. He claimed he simply forgot to pay for it.

plantain said...

In Australia they're called 'Roo Bars' so that the kangaroo's don't ding up your truck when they come jumping out at you at night... (this would be in 'the bush' not in suburbia!...

Anonymous said...

You don't need ID to get on a plane. ID checks at airports are "revenue protection" measures put in place by the airlines to keep us from violating the non-transferability of airline tickets (since if we could resell our tickets, the airlines couldn't charge last-minute travelers the ungodly premiums they charge).

ID checks do NOTHING to enhance security. Every one of the 9/11 hijackers had valid ID. And even if their names had been on some gov't no-fly list, any college student could have helped them get fake IDs with different names. The TSA knows this, and it's the reason why at most airports (even with today's BS "heightened" security) the TSA does NOT check your ID--rather, a minimum-wage contractor hired by the airlines checks it as you enter the TSA's gauntlet.

That said, because so many people have been brainwashed into thinking that ID has something to do with security (including the ID checkers themselves), you're likely to be harassed if you try to fly without ID. And the airlines can in theory deny you boarding if they want to be jerks about it, although usually you'll just get an extra massage and hand-luggage rifling.

Also, since the guy was presumably flying internationally (Canada = another country), he probably had a passport.

None of this diminishes your good deed, or your deserving reward. But don't be fooled into the you-need-ID-to-fly nonsense so many buy into. No law exists on the books requiring ID to fly.

Further reading:
http://www.wired.com/news/technology/0,71115-0.html
http://www.papersplease.org/gilmore/case.html

DragonFly Designs said...

Another Canadian girl here...LOVE reading your blog and those cow catchers come in handy...=P

Geoff said...

semi unrelated, but check this out. album cover for 'spontaneous, in-the-cab recordings of the NY taxi driver'... bahahaha: http://www.flickr.com/photo_zoom.gne?id=30837422&size=o

The U.S. said...

you know, i read that passenger's bill of rights every time i'm in a cab. last saturday i hailed a cab on metropolitan in williamsburg and told the cab driver i needed to get to clinton hill, he refused saying he wasn't going to drive around brooklyn, that this was a manhattan bound cab. are you really allowed to do that?

Girla PurpleHeart said...

Your a fag.

wil said...

HAPPY ANNIVERSARY!!

New York Hack is one year old, today. The 29th of August.

Ms. M., did you even think that want has transpired over the last year was going to happen?

YOU GO, GIRL!

Best wishes and ALOHA!

Anonymous said...

All I need is the first one, and then everything will fall into place...is this the title of your book i have noticed that you have used this a couple of times in your blog'sxy

Greg said...

The U.S.: A yellow cab driver must take you to any destination in the five boroughs that you want to go to. Next time, get into the cab before telling the driver where you want to go. If he asks you before you get in, lie and then tell him your actual destination once you're inside. If he refuses once you're inside, threaten to complain to the TLC. If he still refuses, get the number on his hack license, then complain to the TLC by calling 311.

muse said...

great post
next time in NY, I must take a cab

Elizabeth said...

Way to go!....for all parties concerned! Nice to hear when everyone is rewarded (financial and otherwise)

R2K said...

People can be really dumb some times.

JA Firebrand said...

Canadians rock and so do you. Happy Anniversary MP.

Sölve said...

20 years since I last saw you and suddenly we ran into each other in town. The first thing I felt was like a kick in my stomache -how mean you were back then. Iloved you more than enyone and you just let me down. You loved my friends more than me. So in a sort of way you took them away from me.
But you just smiled like you didn't remember.
The next thing I felt was a that I just wanted to hold you and never let you go. Stay this time Helena, stay. I don't want to hear about your children and new husband. I want you this time.
I hate that I love you -but I hate you so much that I love you

Tommy said...

What a great story. Thanks for writing about it.

Anonymous said...

Wow, you live the life. Im not from NYC but, hope to visit there some day. I love your blog please keep posting about your events in NYC I love reading them.