A Descriptive lengthy blog:
The Images: 4/15 Photos
To get to the garage I walked solitarily with my Ipod in hand to the Lexington Avenue subway line as usual. The weather was very pleasant at this hour of 1am. And just as I arrived at the garage in Long Island City, by the East River’s edge, the rain began. It was a blessing, the most perfect time, the most perfect day, and the most perfect weather to be proceeded by a rainstorm. The day was rainy, all day, from the beginning of the shift to the end.
‘M,’ the dispatcher, told me he was going to get me a cab right away, and I was filling in trip sheet information in the seat of a 2006 extended cab Ford Crown Victoria within 10 minutes. My out time was 2:12 am to be exact; this means that I would have to return the cab no later than 2:12 pm. I had to make the money while it was begging to spend itself.
The miracles would continue, as I drove through Brooklyn to get to the Lower-East Side of Manhattan, I didn’t get any fares. I was free of the complex maze of un-timed lights and small side streets that is Brooklyn and on my way to Delancey Street in Manhattan, The south border street of one of the hippest youngest money spending crowds in the city.
--- ride 1
At Essex Street and Delancey I picked up 4 men of around 40 years of age. And they requested first to be dropped at Park Avenue and 85th, and then up to 87th. They sounded French, especially the man who sat to my right in the front. He would turn and talk through the partition’s window to the other three, probably giving them the city tour. He occasionally pointed with his left hand at various places I have no connection to, to my left. While pointing at least 3 times his finger would come close to poking out my right eye. If he were my friend I would tell him to stop immediately, but as a cab driver I take great pride in my tolerance. Often he would let out a laugh as if he were a dieing duck. His stomach would roll as if it were an angry mountain. The fare was 14.20, He paid 16, it was very expectable, and of no consequence, for the money a New York cabbie makes is more dependant on the number of fares than it is dependant on the tips. Time as they say is money, more than anything else.
---- ride 2
I drove down 88th street to get to a street that I felt should both flow well downtown, and possibly hold fares that are easy to obtain. I chose not to risk Lexington Avenue, this Avenue at night is pretty void of traffic, but at the same time, also only has two spots where fares may be. Second Avenue also has two spots in my mind, but it flows right into the East Village, and lots of people hail cabs from an unpredictable amount of corners from time to time. The Avenue is also full of cabs all going the same way, with all of the same ideas. I only go around the corner and find two Mexicans talking to a cab in front of me. The cab in front has it’s off duty light on, so I assume he will eventually say no, sure enough he does, and then we begin.
2 guys- “Will you take us to Queens?”
Me- “Where in Queens?”
2 guys- “Roosevelt and one oh three.”
First of all, they were welcome to enter, but I wanted to be sure I knew where to take them. I’ve heard this destination before, I refused it the last time I heard it because I didn’t know where it was, and because I wasn’t exactly sure where he was telling me to go. Was it 103 Roosevelt Avenue, or was it Roosevelt Avenue and 103rd Street? Besides, that last time I was already on the border of Queens and Brooklyn, and there are few things worse than getting lost with a passenger: getting lost while you were already lost to begin with, and also taking someone to the wrong destination due to miscommunication is very embarrassing for everyone.
The rain fell harder as these two stood out on the rich black pavement of Second Avenue. I looked at the map, and I knew I’d find it this time, I didn’t want them to wait out in the rain so long, and their English was pretty understandable, they wanted 103rd Street and Roosevelt by the subway station. I am a Mets fan so I knew that it was only one stop before the stadium. I found Roosevelt Avenue and ways to get to it from either Astoria Boulevard or Northern Boulevard, I kept them waiting out in the rain even longer while I Searched for a way from Queens Boulevard to see which was closer. I figured whatever other questions I had, I could search for along the way, and I told them to get in. To my surprise only one got in, I guess the other was taking the subway, maybe he knew English better so he stuck around just to talk to the driver to make sure his friend got home. We were off to the next red light. I asked him if he wanted to take the Tri-borough Bridge, or the 59th Street Bridge, and he said 59. So I looked at the map every red light and found the most direct route. Northern Boulevard to Queens’ Broadway to Roosevelt Avenue. I wouldn’t miss the destination that way. Honestly I was quite bummed out that I had such a ride so far into Queens on such a ripe night for passengers.
The streets were going great with zero traffic, until I reached Roosevelt Avenue. It seemed as though it were the hell mouth of Queens. We crawled for blocks and blocks under an elevated 7 train line, which emitted darkness from underneath. An SUV with Georgia plates lead the line of slow movers, swaying from left to right, searching for an address. When the SUV finally turned off, we followed a ‘black car’ (car service which works on calls, but in the outer boroughs and in Manhattan above 96th Street may be able to pick up off the street), which of course moved even slower. At one point the Town Car pulled up to the right at a hydrant spot, but it didn’t stop there. This was abnormal, so I looked to the right to see if he was soliciting for rides, and that’s when I saw the New York I only saw in the movies. A Hispanic male about 28 with long black hair and a gold cross chain around his neck stood in an abandoned store. All the lights were off, and the produce shelves were disheveled, strewn all about the space. Most importantly, his face was dripping with 3 vibrant streams of blood down to his chest. He was speaking to 2 police officers presumably about whatever had just occurred.
“Holy shit,” I exclaimed.
There was no reply from the backseat. Perhaps this happened every Saturday night? Perhaps it is of no consequence, and of no mind to another. Perhaps it was just a particularly bad night for some. This ride was taking forever; I continued to follow the Lincoln down the dark main corridor of what I believe to be Corona Queens. We then pulled over multiple times to make way for police cars and an ambulance. Eventually we would get there and it was an even 21 dollars. He paid me exactly 21 dollars, which was surprising. Usually people who work for the restaurant industry who are usually working illegally, tend to pay very good tips, they also tend to take taxis in groups so they can split the cost; this one was odd.
-- ride 3
Oh no, but it doesn’t end there my friends. Now I was out in Corona Queens, and I was damn sure not going to go back down Roosevelt Avenue to get to Manhattan. So I turn a Ueey at 103 Street to go through Roosevelt and perhaps take Northern Boulevard. I was fucked man; I was out here, when it was so good in Manhattan. A miracle of monetary proportions then came down to shine on me. Two white guys, one was about my age more or less, and the other was in his 40s. The young one moseyed over to my right window.
This guy- “Do you know Bay Ridge?”
Me- “Uhh, yeah, I know around where it is, I’ll get you down there.”
I wasn’t going to let these two get away from me. I was bubbling inside with enthusiasm. From Corona Queens, to Bay Ridge Brooklyn was a two borough tour, a slow ride across multiple expressways, and from out of a bad far out neighborhood, to less far away, much better one. The young one was standing around still trying to negotiate the ride, the 40 something, opened the door, and in the Brooklyn brogue said;
“What are you doing man, don’t just stand there, get in!”
We then discussed the directions the routes; they had faith in my sense of direction even though I was looking at the map. It seemed they didn’t care how they got there, just that they did. I told them that the most direct route seemed to be up Roosevelt to the BQE but since there is a lot of shit going on, and bad traffic, that we should hang a Uee once more and head south to the LIE and from there transfer to the BQE and then The Belt Parkway.
“Hey no prob. Sounds good,” the older one remarked.
“Do you guys live out here I asked?” I knew the answer, but I wanted to know what the hell they were doing out here.
“No, we just wound up here, we don’t even know where we are. Do you know what neighborhood this is?”
I told them of the neighborhood, and of what I saw, and the older one said that he heard it was one of the worst neighborhoods in New York.
“Really?” I was always under the impression that East New York in Brooklyn was the worst, and after where I was this past weekend, I feel as though lots of places in Brooklyn can be worse, but I suppose the real facts behind a bad neighborhood is the violence, not the economy. When people party in a place called Corona, one can only imagine what happens by the end of the night. I told them that I figured it was a side effect of alcohol, and that during the day, it was probably a nice place.
The rain kept up of course and I wasn’t taking any pictures, I had to be very careful watching street signs and my map. Then I found the LIE (Long Island Expressway) and held the wheel real tight and watched every mirror intently keeping a steady foot on the gas and space between the other vehicles. I varied the timing on the windshield wipers constantly. The conversation was over. They watched the road intently too. On certain underpasses I would hit the gas and take the left lane while the road was dry, then I would take the middle again and set a pace for the road.
The meter kept running up past 20, then past 25. We eventually reached the beautiful Belt Parkway. This was the first Parkway built in New York, before the Expressways. Back when this car centric theory of urban development was in its birth phase, the parkways were built to emphasize beauty while driving, engineered for vacationing motorists to escape to Long Island and see Jones Beach. We traveled smoothly alongside New York Bay and came to the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge. This bridge was once longest span suspension bridge. This was also around the area of Bay Ridge, and the rider told me he would inform me of which exit to take. I checked the rear-view, and as quite common place, they were both asleep. I tapped on the glass, tapped the brakes, turned on the light, swayed to the right lane (The parkway was empty), and knocked on the partition once more,
Me- “Hey! We're at the Verrazano-Narrows! Where do I go?”
These 2- “Oh hey, oh we'll get off here, oh no, you’re doing great just go one more exit. Yeah man, you’re doing fine.”
That’s odd, of course I’m doing fine, why wouldn’t I be doing fine, but I was glad that they were on my side. We got off the parkway and drove north for a bit. They showed me street by street where to go; I was totally lost and just following directions. We stopped at an ATM and me and the older one talked some more. We talked about the neighborhood we were entering, it turned out they we were going to Bensonhurst. He told me that it was the neighborhood where the filmed ‘Saturday Night Fever,’ I faintly recalled this, and I also told him that even though I hadn’t driven too many costumers down here, I once went bowling in a nice bowling alley on the border of Borough Park and Bensonhurst. Also I knew some people who lived in Bay Ridge although I never drove them there. I didn’t want to say that I was totally unfamiliar with the place. So we traveled north quite some ways till’ the meter was at 50.80. They thanked me for the ride and handed me 3 20’s a 10 a 5 and 4 singles.
“Thank you, thank you very much,” I said
We then discussed that the fastest way to get back would be to get to 65th street and enter the BQE. It was an overly detailed explanation, but I didn’t want to act as though I was too familiar with it, since that might not justify such an expensive ride. Fact was they told me Bay Ridge, we went there, and then they went up to Bensonhurst. I got back into Manhattan within 25 minutes, and the rain fell harder. It was 4:30am I had just been on the job for 2 hours and 15 minutes, and I made 116 dollars; however, the lease price was 103 dollars, and the gas would be 35. Still it was nice to be so far out of the hole so early into the shift.
The day would never let up with rain, and the customers would continue to pour in. The traffic was eradicated for the day too. It was beautiful.
Click here for images from this rainy Shift: 4/15 Photos