I permanently moved to New York City on May 30th,
2005, just 14 days after my undergraduate commencement. In the 7 years, 8
months, and 23 days since, I’ve seen and been through quite a lot. While this week marks no big anniversary or anything, a few
incidents over the past few weeks have inspired me to write a couple
of posts that deal with city living, in particular city living viewed
through the eyes of yours truly. This is part one of a three-part series on living in NYC.
By Gregory Jacobs-Roseman (Composer-Lyricist)
If you know me well, you know I like taking shortcuts. Now I don’t mean skimping in places where quality is concerned or anything like that, but if there’s a way to get something done in a more efficient, time-effective way, I’m all for it. It’s for this reason that I love to take taxis rather than the subway (unless it’s rush hour – then by all means the subway will get you there faster).
I have been lucky enough to be able to travel a lot by taxi over the years, and after nearly eight years living in this city and countless cab rides, I have learned a few things traveling the streets of this city by taxicab. Like how the traffic light on 2nd Avenue and 35th Street short-cycles and has made me five minutes late to NYU for almost a decade. Or when hailing a cab from Manhattan to Brooklyn and the driver seems even the slightest bit shaky on where to go, you better whip out the turn-by-turn directions on your Google Maps or you’re just asking to have 40 minutes to an hour shaved off of your life.
But perhaps the most interesting thing about taxis are the drivers themselves. Now, this post is not intended to be a dig a New York City taxi drivers. These poor men (and sometimes women! Lived here almost 8 years, I take at least two cabs a day, I think I’ve had maybe four or five female drivers total in all that time) have to put up with a lot of shit on the job. Imagine if your job was to stay up all night, trafficking around NYU students sloppy on Red Bull & Peach Schnapps and giving head in the back of what is essentially your office. And yet, I have come to identify some archetypes of New York City taxi drivers over the years. Here now, is a brief overview:
This cab driver is the worst. Especially when you need to be somewhere quickly. He will stay in one lane, no matter how backed up it is, while the lanes to left and right of you whizz by. At best he is not paying attention, mumbling something unintelligible into his Bluetooth headset. At worst, he’s just completely clueless and unaware of his surroundings. You can shout to him: “hey buddy, how about switching lanes?” and he might, but once that lane gets backed up a few blocks down, he’ll once again remain where he is. Driving in New York is all about knowing when to be aggressive, and this guy just doesn’t get it.
On the flip side of The Steady-As-She-Goes is The Meanderer, who, if you don’t give him explicit turn-by-turn directions, will take whatever turns he damn well pleases. I once hailed a taxi from Midtown east heading to Chelsea, and the driver took every turn he possibly could. Right onto 53rd, left onto Lex, right onto 51st, left onto Park, right onto 49th, and so on. This is a waste of your time and money. Give these people directions.
Okay, unless I’m wasted at 4am and in a good mood, I don’t want to talk to you, dear cab driver. And yet, there’s always the one who in the middle of the afternoon wants to know how I’m doing, what my day has been like, where I’m from, what I think of the Yankees or Mayor Bloomberg, etc. I try to make it clear to them by my kurt, one-syllable answers as I stare at my phone that I’m not interested in having a conversation, and that sometimes works. But even worse than a Talker is a special subset of Talker I call: The Complainer. These are the guys who have a serious gripe with the world and want you to agree with them. Someone cuts them off in traffic: “HEY! Fuck you! Did you see that fucking guy?!? What the fuck is his problem, huh??” I recommend silence in these situations.
The Scam Artist
I’ve encountered a few of these and wow, are they a miserable lot. The driver who after you’ve already paid by credit card says there’s a $25 minimum and you have to pay in cash. The guy who claims there’s a surcharge for leaving Manhattan. Or the dude who just lies and takes the longest route possible to get to your destination so the percentage of his tip is larger. If you ever feel you’ve been scammed (the credit card thing is one I’ve encountered on more than one occasion) write down the cab’s medallion number and report them to 311.
Aww yeah, boyeeeee. These are my favorite. Fuck speed limits and red lights and traffic laws and the safety of the general public. I got somewhere to be! These bad ass drivers weave in and out of lanes, bust through traffic lights, and put the pedal to the metal so you arrive on time. What’s a little whiplash along the way? So what if you get a little carsick and need to spew? Who cares if you’re sitting in the back seat, grasping that rubber/plastic strappy thing above the window, praying you make it out alive? He’s got the need for speed, and no traffic-laden Manhattan avenue is gonna keep him down. Hail to the cab driver, cab driver man.
Some other assorted taxi tips, all from personal experience (seriously):
- If your cab ever crashes into anything, get out and find another. You don’t have to pay the fare.
- If your driver ever stops the cab to get out and physically fight someone, get out and find another. You don’t have to pay the fare.
- If you ever hail a taxi and discover it’s one of those super awkward handicap cabs with the huge empty space between the seat and the partition, embrace the experience. Variety is the spice of life.
- If you ever hail a taxi and it’s a van cab, and some bridge-and-tunnel douchebag is like “dude, I got five people, that cab’s ours” ignore him. You got there first, and legally taxis can only take 4 passengers. And yes, that goes for van-like cabs as well.
- While the laws on Livery cabs are changing, if you’re hailing a taxi during a busy time of day/night and a Livery cab stops for you – haggle out the price of your trip in advance. Then, if you get in and a police officer pulls the car over after a block (Livery cabs currently aren’t allowed to take street hails), you’re allowed to wait in back while the officer writes him a ticket before he gets back in and you head on your way. If you opt to stay, the previously agreed-upon fare still applies.
- If your taxi breaks in the middle of your trip (say for example, the advertisement on top of the cab falls off and whacks your window (pictured) – or maybe the tires blow out while halfway across the Queensboro Bridge...) you can get out and get another taxi (though I don't reccomend it in the latter case).
- If you find a lost cell phone in the back of a taxi, the best thing to do is to try to reunite it with the owner yourself. It’s easy and it’s good karma. Go through the phone’s contacts, find a number that says something like “Home” or “Mom’s Cell” and call and leave a message. The phone's owner will be so elated that their cell isn’t lost that they’ll usually come to pick it up immediately. If you give it to the cab driver there’s a good chance the owner will never see their phone again.
- If you leave your phone in a taxi, call it, and the driver returns it to you, make sure you bring him a tip (say, instead of meeting him on the curb in your pajamas, having left your wallet in your apartment). That is, unless you like being cussed out in a language you don’t know.
- If your driver turns the wrong way down a one-way street, it is perfectly acceptable to shout: “dude, WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU DOING?!? BROADWAY RUNS DOWNTOWN, YOU IDIOT!!!” once you notice his mistake (again, I must reiterate that these anecdotes are all from actual experience).
- And finally, if you ever got the cash cab, I am totes jealous of you. After all these years I had yet to find it, and then I heard last spring that the show got cancelled. Boo-urns.
That’s all for now. Tune in next week for Part II.
GREGORY JACOBS-ROSEMAN is a composer/lyricist and theatrical sound designer currently developing Save The Date: A New Musical Comedy. www.gregjr.com
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