Tuesday, October 2, 2007

9/30 review

This past weekend I only managed a Sunday shift. While I should have been sleeping I decided to read a little of my newly purchased book Hack. I’m not usually big on reading, as I tend to drift off with thoughts of my own and eventually lose all focus, floating off to daydreams. Basically I usually wind up creating a better story in my mind then a book provides. Not the case with Melissa Plaut’s Hack, which covers the intricacies of her story and human experiences gained from driving the yellow cab. I read the book straight through, only stopping to take a piss every now and then. A major factor holding my attention was that I have seen the author, and a few of the people whom she writes of at the garage. The words transitioned seamlessly between her own life, her on duty life, and her fraternization with others in the taxi business. After finishing the book I finally was ready to go to sleep. Waking up at 6 in the morning I decided I’d skip the shift since I was four hours late. The next day I was ready to go with extra determination and energy, and I had one of the easiest shifts of my progressing part-time taxi career.

Here we are at Park Avenue and 48th Street. It was either 4 or 5 in the a.m. and I decided after my usual bad fortune and reluctance to investigate midtown, the upper-east, and the upper-west sides, to head down Park and find a diner. 
Ever since I was a child I obsessed over this street layout around Grand Central Station. In picture 1, Park Avenue is raised and a commuter train passes under the avenue sending people to Harlem and then all the way to Connecticut. At 46th Street traffic passes through the Helmsley Building (probably some other name now) and then around the Met Life Building and Grand Central Terminal, traffic then finds Park Avenue again when a ramp lowers traffic from the terrace of the train station to meet the street (picture 2). We then have a further option to skip more street traffic and drive through a tunnel for 7 blocks. I decided to take the tunnel as I thought of a particular destination to pick-up and I didn't want to waste time. This tunnel was an old train tunnel long before I was born. 

One time last summer, a tourist actually complained when I took them through here. They asked me why I didn't just drive straight. I was quite perplexed, so perplexed that I remember the crazy lady to this day. There must have been a language barrier combined with very bad navigational skills she had. "Drive straight?" I thought out loud, "What do you mean drive straight?" apparently I could've found a better way, a faster way if only I had a bulldozer. Maybe someday we will drive through all the buildings.

So as I came out of the Park Avenue tunnel, a college student with a large rolling bag flagged me and wanted to go to JFK Airport. What luck! 

"Which airline?"
"Jet Blue."
"...uh, oh, oh yes domestic. New Orleans!"
"Oh wow. Do you know family there?"
"No, college."

Boring, conversation killer, and up 3rd Avenue we went. He asked once how much longer it would be as I approached the Van Wyck Expressway, but he was innocent enough, and didn't mean any harm by the question.

It took me 25 minutes to get to JFK, we didn't fool around, taking the Midtown tunnel which charged 4 dollars in addition to the 45 dollar flat fare. But getting back I still couldn't bare to spend my tip money to take the tunnel back. I sped through the back roads and swung around to the upper roadway of the 59th Street Bridge.

(pictures 3-7 : 59th Street Bridge / Queensboro Bridge)

I saw a beautiful sunrise, but endured the sight longer than I planned.  All traffic slowed to a bumper to bumper crawl when the lanes merged.

I drove around for what might have been an hour and  I looked for some situation such as a doorman looking for a cab to take his hotel guests to Newark Airport (hey, it happens), but no luck. I then aim for a NoHo corner that was fabulous for a few Brooklyn runs a few months ago, but the club got shut down. 

So as the sun settled comfortably above the buildings I pulled into the Cruise-ship terminal. I parked in the taxi line, the tenth to arrive, and found a familiar cabbie second in line. We talked first about how there was no one to find on the streets, as usual. Then I asked about directions to Newark Airport from the Lincoln Tunnel, I always get confused that way. He told me the same thing he did last time I asked a month ago, "Just remember exit 13 a,b...c, one of those, or was it 14, and then 57, rememeber 57." He goes over the sharp turn after the tunnel and talks about a merge left. It all doesn't matter to me, all the signs and basic directions I have no problem with. But when I am almost at the airport I get off at the wrong exit, placing an exit sign in the context of the wrong exit. Every time I take  the Jersey Turnpike to Newark Airport my heart skips a beat the whole way. We both agree that it is difficult to find one's way in New Jersey, since we hardly go there. We both also agree that taking the Holland Tunnel is easier and it doesn't make a difference in time or money, especially on sunday morning. 

Pictures 8, 10-12 : Cruise-ship Terminal, Manhattan (more words soon here)
We also talked about how being good to customers translates to better tips, much better tips. He is a firm believer in getting all the bags into and out of the trunk and making sure to collect the money after and not before, unpacking the trunk. He was then kind enough to tell me some of his special spots, each cabbie has his certain spots. He believed in going to smaller hotels without long taxi lines. I tried to shrug off his helpful suggestions, because I felt learning his spots was cheating, but he told me them anyway. They didn't seem like very good spots to me anyway, so I don't think I'll be stealing his fares anytime soon. 

More discussing revealed two ships were in today, one was a day ship, the other not. 
"Day ships, nobody is going far." he said.
"They almost always go to the train station, or the bus depot, but once in a while you go to Howard Beach or Whitestone, Queens." I said.

9 : Far West Side, Manhattan
My first fare from the Cruise-ship  terminal went to Grand Central Station. A man in a Yankees Jersey and presumably his wife. They seemed touristy, yet almost New Yorkers. This could mean only one thing, Westchester County, upstate New York. It was remarkable how many people came off that ship with Yankees shirts on. 

He told me he drove a Lincoln Town Car into a parking spot while the owner of the car, his boss, directed him. He parked the car with less than a quarter inch between cars, and was very proud of himself. I was excited for his ability to relate to our profession. The fare was about 8 dollars, I don't remember, but he gave me a 20 as I handed them all their bags. Then a woman asked politely hop in after they were done. She went six blocks or so to a nearby hotel, the fare was 4.10, and she gave me a 10. Remarkable! 
I went back to the ship terminal and took a fare to the Port Authority Bus Depot. Didn't have as much of a conversation. As I got their bags I asked if they too had gone to Bermuda. He answered that he had, but wasn't the least bit interested in talking about it now that they were at the bus depot. Just a usual trip and the fare was rounded up to next dollar and handed to me.
The third time at the ship terminal, the line was way too long. In the past I remember that by 10:30 all the people who wanted cabs were gone, and the taxis were told to leave. It was about 9:45, and I didn't want to wait until such a time came.

13 : These were people being stupid in the Washington Square area. These two posed for a picture in the middle of the street. I figured they did it for me, so that I could shoot them, or maybe run them over.

14 : This is the latest Gucci ad at the Trump Tower on West 57th Street. Apparently the store is opening in 2008. It is common in the shopping mecca of Midtown for stores to build monster advertisement billboards around their newly leased space while renovating.

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