Thursday, July 30, 2009

News! Me driving a cab. No joke.

People! Do I have news for you. Or, rather, for me. For those of you who don't know, one of my all-time goals has been to drive a New York yellow cab. Well thanks to my friend Corinne, this goal is one step closer to being realized.

Last night, Corinne rode home in a taxi driven by Raja -- a friendly guy who's worked as a cabbie since the 80s. She told him about my goal, and he said he was game to let me drive his cab.

Let me repeat. He's game to let me drive! Oh yeah.

And to those of you who no longer feel safe knowing I'll be behind the wheel of a careening canary yellow sedan? Eat my exhaust.

Trust me when I say I'll keep you posted.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Hydration and hot dogs

I bought a hotdog from the street vendor. It was one of those days when the whole city breaks out its sunglasses and is in a good mood. The street vendor noticed me walking towards him and called out, “Hey baby.” He was pretty hot, until I noticed his yellow teeth. We chatted while he fixed my dog up with onions and ketchup. I handed him $2 but he smiled and said, “For you, baby, only $1.” Oh yeah.

Just then, a beat-up white van pulled up to the curb, the driver’s arm hanging out the window with $2 clenched in his hand. “Hey, give me a water,” he yelled. The vendor walked to the driver, gave him a bottle of water, and when the light chanced the driver peeled out.

And I thought, huh, this must be how taxi drivers get hydrated. No drive throughs in NYC, people. And no parking spaces to leave the cab while you jet into a deli.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Ads on Taxis

All taxis have ads on top. Today I saw cab with an ad for BrĂ¼no, starring sexy Sacha Baron Cohen as a gay Austrian in hot pants. Another cab had an add for a strip joint -- Scores maybe? Or did Scores close in NYC?

I digress. My point is that, since 90% of cabbies are foreign-born and with more than 50% from Muslim countries, maybe they'd prefer to advertise something less racy? (See the above dull airline ad).

Or maybe they're looking for their own Schniedelmeister.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Colombo, Colombia and a dead pigeon

Meet Colombo. He’s from Colombia and drove me to the airport on July 4th.

It was 7:30 a.m. and I was Colombo’s last fare of the night. He had plans to celebrate the 4th by going home, spending time with his family and then hitting a Colombian restaurant in Queens.

Then we hit a pigeon. Colombo felt bad. He had even slowed as he neared the flock, just hanging out in the street. At some point they generally fly away. This time they didn’t.

Dumb bird.

It was like hitting a little bump in the road. A gentle thump thump.

After lamenting the dead bird, he then told me he expected a crazy night of driving. Everyone, after all, came to the East River to see the fireworks exploding over lower Manhattan.

Then we talked about Colombia. “It’s much safer there now,” he said. “Now you can drive across the country. Before you couldn’t. Before were kidnappings.”

He grew up in central Colombia near farmland, but finds Medellin beautiful. Also, he raved about coastal Colombia, like Cartagena, and the nearby islands. I told him I’ve never been to Colombia, and he said I should go and experience its beauty.

Friday, July 3, 2009

A hold-up, hearing problems

We were in a cab, and the driver, Ullah, was telling us a story. The story exploded out of his mouth in bursts.

I couldn’t catch all the details. These factors worked against me:

1) He had a heavy accent and spoke broken English
2) He spoke rapidly
3) The closed partition muffled his voice
4) Wind rushing through the open passenger seat window was noisy
5) I had a sexy Frenchman in the backseat with me, and he was, needless to say, distracting

But here’s the gist of the story: Ullah pulls up to the curb to let some guys out of the cab. After getting out, one of the men walks up to his window. Ullah sees him reaching for something and cranks up the window. The guy pulls out a gun. The window’s up. The guy holds the gun to the glass, pointed at Ullah’s head. Yells at at him. Wants cash.

Ullah floors it. Escapes unharmed. Cash intact.

The lesson? “I never put the car in park. You never put it in park,” he said. I buy it, all the way.

Photo: both the Frenchman and Ullah have dark eyes, like these.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Mali vs. Toledo Ohio

My cabbie last night was born and raised in Mali. Here’s our conversation:

Me: What’s the most interesting thing that happened in your cab? Good or bad.

Him: One time a couple had sex.

Me: Did it last a long time?

Him: I drove them to Queens.

(aka, yes)

We got to chatting about hometowns. He’s been in the US for 30 years, and got his green card five years ago. He goes back to Mali every summer. It’s hot there. You know, the Sahara and all.

I told him I was going back to my hometown – Toledo, Ohio -- for a month this summer. Turns out, he’s been there. Insanity. We talked snow. Sadly, I was running late for a yoga class and had to jump out of the cab before I could learn more.

Pics of Mali vs. Toledo above.

New York Times Blogging Taxis

The New York Times saw the light, and journalist Peter Khoury blogged about taxi driver experiences. Not a bad idea, if I say so myself. Check them out.