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 Jim was a good, lively teacher, but that didn't make the day of traffic questionnaires and outdated videos go by any quicker.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.