Wednesday, August 22, 2007

The Human Computer

As part of maintaining a hack license, every three years cabbies have to attend a 6-hour defensive driving course. With September 11th being -- among other things -- the third anniversary of me becoming a cabbie, I recently took the class at my old taxi school, LaGuardia Community College's Taxi and For-Hire Vehicle Driver Institute.

Of course, six hours is a long time to sit in a classroom and I wasn't looking forward to it, but when I got there at 9:00 AM, I was pleasantly surprised to find that I knew the teacher. His name was Jim and he briefly had a great taxi blog of his own a while back but he took it offline for reasons unknown. Jim was a good, lively teacher, but that didn't make the day of traffic questionnaires and outdated videos go by any quicker. The boringness was only made worse by the fact that the classroom they had assigned us on this hot day in August was too small and the 20 or so guys (plus me) had to pack in there like sardines. Needless to say, the room smelled pretty ripe by 4:00 PM.

Over the course of the day we discussed such topics as the speed limit and why it matters, the effects alcohol has on the reflexes, and whether or not we thought of ourselves as good drivers. We also watched a couple of movies about road rage.

But really, the shining moment of the day was meeting a big Russian cabbie who called himself "The Human Computer." This guy had been driving a cab for ten years and his unique gift was that, if you told him your date of birth, he could instantly calculate which day of the week you were born on.

On one of the breaks, he took the opportunity to show us all a laminated New York Times article about himself that he'd brought along, and then he demonstrated his talent on each person in the room. When he got to me, he said in his thick Russian accent, "September 1st, 1975? --Have a happy Monday!"

Then he continued, "Now you tell me the birthday of your first, second, and third husbands, and I tell you which day they have." When I answered that I wasn't married, he said, "Oh, I'm sorry, I have very bad news for you: All good things must come to an end!"

Eventually, the million hour class came to its own end and I drove home with the knowledge that cars are dangerous weapons and I was born on a Monday.


Anonymous said...

Some people never cease to amaze me with the "talent" they have.

Green said...

Growing up in NY, as soon as I turned 16 I promptly started taking Defensive Driving classes. Lower car insurance costs and all. Plus a refresher never hurt.

Hey, I saw you mentioned in ... was it Glamour? Cosmo? a couple of weeks ago. Yay for your mention!

Gin said...

Happy upcoming birthday. Mine is Sept 1, as well, though I have thirty years on you.

Anonymous said...

What in the hell did the mad Russian mean by that?

Oh, and um,... is that all we get from you for this month?

Ha, Your new book will be here in a week, so I'm fine with that.

Be Well,

Paradise Driver said...

"Oh, I'm sorry, I have very bad news for you: All good things must come to an end!"



Plan on getting married in the near future?


Any word from your publisher as to the number of pre-release sales?

Wishing you all the best.

Anonymous said...

Three marriages for you, wow, life sounds exciting for you. Bet you can hardly wait.

Gaurav said...

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Turtleface said...

"Some people never cease to amaze me with the "talent" they have."

Actually, it seems like a rather complex calculation if you consider all the different variables one has to consider. He's probably some kind of math whiz.

So how come you don't have a man-lover? Or at least not one that is mentioned on this blog.

Jim said...

Glad to see you back, hack - now that the book is out, please post more often!

Janelle_Ryleigh said...

Hey MP I'm sure you're just so excited the book comes out so soon!!!!! Next Tuesday; I have my running shoes on the boogie down to Borders! Anyway, I'm so thankful you survived the 6 hours of hell......and I personally hope you post more......have a most awesome birthday - too bad your release date for your book wasn't September 1st. However, selfishly I'd have to wait another 4 days.....and so would you.....and I'm sure neither of us really want to......have a great day! Sincerely, Janelle_Ryleigh

Andrea said...

Hey MP, With the heads-up the Russian gave you (about 3 marriages)you now have the hindsight to prove to him and all that know nows your so called fate how wrong one can be. I preordered your book & I got a confirmation that it will arrive 3 days after it comes out. Wow, the number 3 must have some kind of power. I can't wait until the book arrives. Have a Happy Birthaday!!!


Cool....the man who could tell you your birthday. you think getting married three times is in your future?

John said...

That is a mathamathical trick I can't remember what book its in.
Try Maths mystery and magic,
If you really want to do it go to Tannins magic and ask one of the guys who works there. They will find you the book for you.
Happy birthday!
Suppose this also means you will continue to drive you big yellow taxi, to book promotions at least

Anonymous said...

I also took the class a few weeks ago. Your cab is like a loaded gun that you sit in which make your back hurt.

info said...

This comment has been removed because it linked to malicious content. Learn more.

jeepgirl said...

It wasn't CharterJames who was teaching your class, was it? He sometimes used my crazy drunk patients from the ER as teaching points. Happy Birthday as well! I look forward to buying your book!

Nancy Swett said...

Great post, and I love the way you write your observations but refrain from "driving" everything home, leaving us to marvel at a big, smart Russian man from Coney Island Avenue and Avenue J with an irregular talent and a lecture on road rage to a group of cabbies crammed into a small room on a hot day. Priceless.

meh said...

According to this guy, the number one song on the Billboard Hot 100 on the day you were born was "Rhinestone Cowboy" by Glen Campbell.

Tableside Hack said...

I just got an e-mail confirmation from Amazon that your book has been shipped and should arrive to me on your birthday- September 1!
hahaha- happy birthday to you...I guess I'll get a present too!

Mary said...

I hate classes. Why do I never get these interesting cabbies when I'm in town?

Anonymous said...

Melissa --

I read about your book on the magazine on the flight from Chicago to Washington (American Airlines). I then went to and saw great editorial reviews. I then went to your blog. I will place the ordre via

Happy Birthday. September 1 is always my favorite day. It is the beginning of the next calendar year for me (and end of summer). Usually it relates to Labor day which is always a good way to plan the next year. I am happy for you.

Here is hoping that you will be on the Colbert show and the Daily show. May be on NPR weekend edition.

PS: How does one get to ride on your cab (anonymously) if one is visiting NYC?

Best Regards.

Anonymous said...

Melissa --

In the previous note, I forgot to include the magazine link (where I discovered your book title). I am new at this, excuse please.

American Way (August 15 edition), American Airlines Magazine

Best regards.

Anonymous said...

Here's a one-up on the Russian guy's calculation.

Your date of conception was on or about 9 December 1974 which was a Monday.

You were born on a Monday
under the astrological sign Virgo.
Your Life path number is 5.
You were born in the Chinese year of the Rabbit.
Your Native American Zodiac sign is Bear; your plant is Violets.
Your birthstone is Sapphire.
Your birth tree is Pine Tree, the Particularity:
Loves agreeable company, very robust, knows how to make life comfortable, very active, natural, good companion, but seldom friendly, falls easily in love but its passion burns out quickly, gives up easily, many disappointments till it finds its ideal, trustworthy, practical.

Doesn't really seem so amazing when there's actually such a calculator on the internet

But hey, now you know how you can hack back. Happy Birthday!

Gray Haired Poet said...

Hooray! Just got word from Amazon that my copy of your book shipped this afternoon. Can't wait.

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Laurie said...

Denver Public Library has your book on order!

ileen said...

Daily Candy featured your book today! I was so excited, and felt special because I knew about it before them. I also feel like I know you, so I was happy to see you getting publicity like this. Weird, I know. Either Colbert or Stewart would be great, but I'd love to see you on Conan as well.

Lugosi said...

There's an article about you in USAToday.
Oh, and you're gay!?! Well, there goes another perfectly good fantasy down the drain.

Chatón said...

From one blogger to another, congrats to you on your book and shout out in USA Today.

Please check out my blog if you have time. It's at:

disgruntled world citizen said...

Next time you see him, you should take the laminted copy of the USA Today article about you! That'll show him...

lizard said...

Congrats on being featured in the front page of the USA Today's Life section!

Chris K said...

It's actually easy and quick to learn. On the interwebs, just look for the doomsday algorithm. The hard part is remembering if 1900 and 2000 started on a Tues, Weds, or what.

Mark said...

Nan Patience said...

OK, an educated, female NYC cab driver who is also gay and jewish? What next? dislexic, suffers from tourette's, and tap dances?

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kaycee said...

The Human Computer is funny but I guess you had fun talking to him.