Saturday, October 4, 2008

Lucky breaks with tickets (3 of 3)

-Situation number three:
In the previous situation a cabbie would receive a double-parking ticket for waiting in a moving lane without picking up or dropping off people. However, if a cab dropped off a fare and still received a double-parking ticket, would this be fair? The answer to this question depends on small technicalities, but here’s my story:

After an earlier nasty customer and the added waste of time I spent going to the airport and waiting there, soggy day turned sour post, I looked for an easy ride, something short, preferably not involving Manhattan, and I was really excited to get just that.

The Short Ride

She was an unusual fare. She hailed me, but then directed me to meet her at her house down the street, where I’d meet her and she’d load the car. In the normal hustle and bustle of New York madness, I might have expressed to her that I didn’t have the abundance of time to load and unload a car no matter how short the ride, but since the last thing I wanted was another obnoxious rider in busy Manhattan traffic, I thought of this ride as a blessing. I pulled to the curb of the address O.J. Simpson style -- crooked that is -- and waited for her to find me. It was a quiet street with Manhattan’s skyline in sight, but its sounds and congestion were so far away. When she got there we started carrying down her things from upstairs. Eventually we loaded the trunk. One exception was a long bamboo stick which was placed across the back seat and protruded through a rear window.

“My roommate just left, and she left all this mess behind,“ she said. She then pulled on the front right door latch assuming it would be unlocked, since the back had that long bamboo across the seat, but then upon finding it locked she feared she’d overstepped her boundary with the New York taxi driver.

“Can I ride in the front?”

I couldn't unlock the door fast enough and I told her it wasn't a problem while I moved my bag -- filled with nothing -- under the cup holders. She sat down, and laid, each arm against its respective armrest.

"I'm sorry, I'm used to... where I'm from we all just hop in the front when we hail taxis," she said.

I pulled the U-turn, turned on the meter, and drove the short distance to the thrift store. She pulled out a ten-dollar bill, handed it to me, and told me with a struggle of colloquialism, it was “for my trouble.” She had an unusual comfort about her, like she’d ridden in dozens of taxis before; only she had a totally different association with them from riding in other parts of the world. It was as if she trusted cab drivers; it was as if the cab felt more like home to her than her own house. I can’t explain exactly what makes me assume all of that, but I am a pretty good judge of people’s comfort and discomfort, the way they carry themselves. Sensing all of this I tried to desperately keep her talking, to figure out anything more I could about this odd person who was actually comfortable in a yellow cab.

“So, are you… new to uhh... this neighborhood?” I wanted to ask what country she was from, but she seemed too settled to be a fresh American. Besides, I know nothing of foreign countries. My geography knowledge expands from midtown to Queens, and I dabble in the Boogie-Down and the Island of Shaolin.

“Oh I’ve been here for 3 years, or 4,” she replied. “It’s a great neighborhood-“

“Oh yeah,” I said, “Its convenience to the city, its proximity to Manhattan, is just so good if you have a car."

“It’s a very quiet neighborhood, really nice, the best neighborhood I’ve been to in New York yet, and the N train is right here,” she said.

And so we were on to small talk, and although I made sure we continued the small talk, I wished I hadn’t. So it turned out she’d been to a few more neighborhoods in New York, been in the city for 5 years or so, and came from some country I already don’t remember where. Pointless, all of it; the ride took less than 2 minutes and we had to find a parking spot. Instantly 3 separate parking spots opened, and instantly there was a car waiting behind each one to park.

It was useless, so we double-parked in front of the thrift store. We immediately got somebody from the store to help unpack the car, and the 3 of us got the car empty faster than you can say, hey I’m walkin’ here, well, not that fast, but it was record time I tell ya. A man inside his PT Cruiser was waiting patiently for it all to end so he could get out of his parking space, I was impressed. But equally unimpressive was the guy waiting to take his spot when he left, he kept leaning on his horn. I acknowledged the man in the PT Cruiser with a smile for his tolerance, and glared back at the black Pontiac with yellow Jersey plates, pressing his horn as if it were the greatest musical instrument ever.

As I got in my cab to leave, my customer came back and leaned in on the passenger-side door, telling me she still owed me for the ride.

“Nope, I got your ten right here,” I said. What I really wanted to say was: The ride is done, I can’t stay here forever, and really a ten is more than enough. But I didn’t want to be rude. I’d had it with rudeness. Besides, anymore moments with her might give me more clues as to what was up with her, and maybe with more time I could get her number. There. I said it. I said it in my head, not out loud of course.

She then says, “No, the ten was for your help. Now I have to pay for the ride." Then I'm handed a business card, “Here. This will change your life forever.” Modern Buddhism, it said, in an all lowercase, rounded European type-font. I wasn’t sure whether this was a graphic design group or a religious group of which she was a part.

Before I could think, I dug through my bag like a nervous school boy. “Wait, I’ve got to give you my business car-“, my business cards were all torn and tattered at the corners, with faded black ink coloring, and a photograph I took dating back 2 or 3 years now.

I was too ashamed to even carry my cards with me, so she’ll never find out about this blog and read this entry. Nor will she be able to send me an email in Helvetica. As if that disappointment wasn’t enough—

The Ticket

BEEP. The ticketing agent for the neighborhood had just run her scanner across my registration and I was now getting a ticket for double-parking. My customer was still leaning into the car. She dug through her bag and handed me a handful of change. I don’t care for change, but to keep her spirits good, I took it. The change didn’t even cover the fare.

Now all that good energy had gone out the window, and I had to go back to Mr. Angry Cabbie in my conversation with the ticket agent.

Ticket agent- “Could you move up, so that the guy behind you can leave?”

Me- “Why should I? You're already gonna give me the ticket.”

Agent- “I see. So you're going to be a jerk to him because he’s honking his horn. I see.”

Me- “Well actually I like that guy a lot. He’s being very patient. It’s the guy behind him who’s being an asshole.”

I eventually moved up, out of courtesy for the guy behind me, because the ticket agent was taking way too long to punch up the ticket on her electro gizmo. However, I didn’t move up enough because I didn’t want to create an impression that I was evading the ticket, and the little PT Cruiser still didn’t see enough space to get out of his spot. I tried to come up with a quick explanation as to why this ticket was unjustified:

“I couldn’t just leave. My customer was leaning into my window. What am I supposed to do kill her?”

Ticket agent- “You’re blocking traffic. Listen to all those people honking at you.”

I smirked in response. This was nothing new. I’m driving a big yellow taxi, and being a nuisance to unsuspecting drivers is my job. If you ask me, people who honk their horns more than four times per minute within the span of three or more successive minutes should pay the maximum fine: 350 dollars. When people honk at me I give them the brakes; I brake for horns. People need to learn that horns after a certain point are just obnoxious. Imagine hearing people’s horns for 12 successive hours.

So my customer had finally gone away, the ticketing agent was finished with me, and traffic was delayed twice as long as it would have been, had I not been ticketed. There it went, my whole day, I thought, all my profit, taken by the department of finance. 

I took one more small fare in Queens, driving her around the block while she grabbed her purse or something; then drove her another three blocks to her destination. That was it. I arrived at the garage in disgust, thinking nice guys finish last, that I should never go out of my way to help someone with tons of stuff again. I counted out my profit for the day, it was $114, and the parking ticket: $115. Oh bitter fate, cruel irony, how you mock me!! Total profit: negative one dollar.

Not Guilty!

The dispatchers heard my bitter cries  and gave me a call that night. They told me to explain my situation to their in-house lawyer. The lawyer told me my chances were better than most people's to win because:
  1. I had been in the car while receiving the ticket
  2. I had turned the meter off after the ticket was received

Thus, it was proven, when I appeared for my hearing with a copy of my GPS trip record, that the ride was finished after the ticket was issued. My fare was still paying me the fare while I was being ticketed. Case Dismissed!!!!! Oh I could hug this judge!!


amarilla said...

Hooray! Justice for kind people! Maybe this world wasn't scripted by Dickens.

King of New York Hacks said...

That is undoubtedly the best success story of beating a ticket. Kudos to you being a smartass too !!! I love it when we win !!!

zclcs38 said...

oh wow, i had never read your blog before, noah. That story was quite amusing.