Friday, April 27, 2007

I hate Second Avenue, but I still love New York

So, I finally drove a cab again after all this time.

When I showed up at the garage for my first shift back yesterday afternoon, my buddy Sam updated me on the situation on the streets these days. This is what cabbies do at my garage. They tell each other where the cops are waiting to give tickets, where there's construction, where they found good fares, and so on. But yesterday, knowing I hadn't driven in a while, Sam warned me about the recent surge in traffic, saying, "When you get out there, you'll find it a lot harder to move than the last time you worked."

I caught my first passenger right away, at the bottom of the 59th Street Bridge. He was a young, hipsterish-looking guy with long bleached blond hair. He was going to Central Park West and 73rd and when he got in, he politely asked me if he could eat his sandwich there in the backseat. I said, "Sure, as long as you don't get it everywhere." He promised to eat it over his bag, and I felt lucky that my first passenger in all these months was a nice guy with good manners. Though I was trying to keep my expectations low, it made me almost hopeful for the rest of the shift.

Of course, things took a turn slightly for the worse an hour later when I had my first near-accident/near-death experience of the shift. I was on Third Avenue and 23rd Street and there was a shitty Hyundai on my left that was running into a construction area and decided it wanted to be in my lane. It looked like they were about to rail right into my door but I had no room to get out of the way, so I just slowed down, leaned on the horn, and braced myself for the hit.

Luckily, at the last second, they skidded to a stop in front of the orange cones and waited for the flow of traffic to break so they could get in. It's a totally regular occurence on the streets of New York but still, I hadn't driven a cab in so long, I wasn't used to the aggression other drivers direct towards cabbies and I found myself a little shaken up.

Then around 5:30, I decided that I despised Second Avenue. It was the third time in less than two hours that I got caught in a bad jam there and I realized Sam wasn't kidding about the traffic. The only saving grace was the increase in the waiting time/traffic time on the meter that happened back in December. It made a significant difference and allowed me to relax a tiny bit despite sitting in hellish traffic. Without that increase, we would all be screwed and I don't think there would be many cabbies left in New York.

But things perked up again a little later. I was taking a guy to a screening at the Tribeca Film Festival downtown on Chambers Street and along the way we realized we both grew up in Rockland County, New York, about an hour north of the city. He was fifteen years older than me, but we had both gone to the same junior high and high schools and chatted about that for awhile. He was running late and we were trying to figure out the best way to the theater from SoHo and we agreed we absolutely must avoid Canal Street. It was just past 6:00 PM and Canal is always backed up because it lead in to the Holland Tunnel. It's seriously like a recurring nightmare for any cabbie.

So we went down Mott with the idea we would cross west at Worth, but Mott, of course, was backed up so we were like, fuck it, and turned down Canal anyway. And -- will wonders never cease -- Canal was clear! We were psyched, and we laughed about how sometimes New York can really suprise you. But, seriously, how pathetic is it that the big gift New York offered us last night was merely no traffic on Canal Street at 6:00 PM?

At 7:00 I passed another female cab driver as we were inching down Broadway, but she looked miserable and so I did not say hi.

At 7:45, I was turning past a couple standing on the median on West Street and overheard them say, "She's kinda young to be driving a cab."

At 9:30, I dropped off a passenger in Elmhurst, Queens. I called Diego to chat on the way back since I was empty but, turned out, he was dropping off just a few blocks away from me in the same neighborhood. We decided to race down to JFK since the hotline said they needed cabs there and it would give us a chance to hang outside of our cabs.

When we got there, it was like a big family reunion. I ran into Joy (pictured above), a female (obviously) cabbie I met three years ago, right after I got my hack license. We used to call each other every now and then but then lost touch. She seemed to be doing well and it was nice to see her again after all this time.

Then Diego and I went inside to get some food in the cafeteria and it was a madhouse as usual. Being in there is sort of like being a Moroccan souk or something, with the Greek guys behind the counter calling out prices and food items as fast as auctioneers and a motley crew of drivers mobbing the coffee urns and registers. I managed to skip most of the line since I only got a bottle of water and a bag of pretzels.

Outside again, I ran into another cabbie I knew. He does a Reggae radio show late night on 93.5 and I met him through another cabbie buddy John who does a radio show on WBAI. We all stood around talking shop and bitching about the TLC -- the usual. It's moments like that when I realize that I didn't so much miss driving the cab itself these past few months, but I missed the drivers, I missed the culture and ultimately, I missed the city.

Anyway, I got a good job out of the airport after only about a half hour and the night ultimately ended without any real mishaps or shake-ups. I considered it a good welcome back.

This makes me remember something else Sam said yesterday afternoon at the garage: "This job is like being a drug addict. You have one great night and you're hooked and keep coming back for more. But when you have those bad nights, you just wish you could quit."

I had a decent night. I'll be coming back for more.


Dino aka Katy said...

cool pictures glad you had a good night - i am glad you are back behind the wheel since that means you are back to writing for us

Pat T Hat said...

How 'bout that?
It's great to see the people we didn't even realize we missed ain't it? Glad you had a swell night!
Thanks for sharing it!

trashicon said...

wee hoo... glad to see your back at it.

nice post,

Trashicon - Australia

Green said...

Glad you were able to ease back into it smoothly.

Ummm.... Rockland? For some reason I think you're my age (30) and if you're from Suffern we may know some of the same people. (I feel slightly like this is similar to when I went to an upstate SUNY school and would meet kids who'd say 'Oh, you're from Long Island? Do you know a girl named Jen?' but whatever.)

Andrea said...

Hey MP, So happy for you that your runs were good. But, even happier to be able to read about it.

Paradise Driver said...

Sam has a good handle on the cab biz.

Welcome back!

Anonymous said...

it's really nice to have you back. looking forward to the book and hope you keep up at the blog.

Philip said...

It's great to have you back in the cab with real job stories, and well illustrated.

This, along with your book, is what I've been waiting for.

Anonymous said...

Why on earth would anyone want to drive a cab? Really?

PJ said...

Cab driving is soooo much easier today than it was when I drove. It’s still a battle of wits and skill but, there are a lot more things working in your favor than there were two decades back. Believe me!

schrodinger said...

So glad to hear you had a good first shift back. I love reading your tales. May your cabbing be filled with great tips, less traffic and happy moments

Anonymous said...

Welcome back!

As always, enjoyed reading your stories.

John said...

I hope you gave Mr McDonough my number.

DinaLove said...

Seriously, Second Avenue can suck it.

Janelle Ryleigh said...

Hey MP -- clearly most of us live vicariously through your addiction - it's contagious
clearly we're all hooked on reading your blog -- thanks so much for sharing; I too am
happy for you that your "first night back" was good to you......

take care & drive safe,

Randall said...

Thanks for posting. Book cover looks great. I'm glad I checked back with you. Happy Cruising.

Anonymous said...

Great to see you back on board. L love reading your blog regards driving a cab in New York. I love Nerw York and your accounts breathe a true feel to it, you are in touch with the people.

Drunken Master said...

I just got back from New York after spending a long weekend there now that I'm back in school in the Deep South, and it was amazing - just like you wrote in the post. Felt like I never left, and while the smell in the subway and the bustle in the streets was irritating initially, I got used to it.

Welcome back

Rafael said...

Welcome back to driving!

Tremere said...

We missed you! It's really great to have you back. Can't wait for the book!
Again, thanks for being back.

Anonymous said...

The Cab Driver Goes to Heaven

A cab driver reaches the Pearly Gates and announces his presence to St. Peter, who looks him up in his Big Book. Upon reading the entry for the cabbie, St. Peter invites him to pick up a silk robe and a golden staff and to proceed into Heaven.

A preacher is next in line behind the cabby and has been watching these proceedings with interest. He announces himself to St. Peter. Upon scanning the preacher's entry in the Big Book, St. Peter furrows his brow and says, "Okay, we'll let you in, but take that cloth robe and wooden staff."
The preacher is astonished and replies, "But I am a man of the cloth. You gave that cab driver a gold staff and a silk robe. Surely I rate higher than a cabbie."

St. Peter responded matter-of-factly: "This is heaven and up here, we are interested in results. When you preached, people slept. When the cabbie drove his taxi, people prayed

G.S. said...

Welcome back. Here are a few chronic traffic hot spots to avoid if possible: the 59th Street Bridge has repair work every night and you never know if it's on the Upper or Lower roadway until you're stuck in it. I would gamble on the Upper. Houston Street at Broadway - some kind of construction in the intersection, take Mercer. And avoid Houston between Broadway and Essex on Friday and Saturday nights (nightlife traffic). Take the FDR.

Anonymous said...

Who is the red eyed chick?? Meow!! :)

Paradise Driver said...

I put your book ad up on my sidebar. May generate a couple of extra sales.

If you get the chance, would you please update your link to Paradise Driver. I've moved URLs.


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jiiink said...

Nice to see you are back driving ur cab, your NY stories are always amazing.
A hug from Italy

jay said...

I'm so glad you're back... I feel back in touch with NYC. Keep up the write.


Now living in Florida

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I thought it would be interesting to read what you have to say. Our worlds are very different, but then, I've visited NYC on several occasions while I doubt you've hit central KS. Keep writing. kansas prairie