Williamsburg Bridge, Lower East side
After a several efforts around the blocks of the East Village trying to maintain distance from all the other empty cabs, I finally got somebody, and he was uniquely sober.
“How has your day been?” he asked.
For some reason my first customers are more likely to ask me this. When I told him he was my first of the shift, he asked when I started. It turned out I started a whole hour ago. That’s not good when a customer brings it to my attention how bad I’m doing. He even asked me if I had certain spots I go to or if I just drive around, pretty rare when someone takes such interest in the profession.
“When it gets to four, four thirty, I have a place I go to. Right now it’s so early I don’t know where to go. Plus I have to worry about drunks,” I said.
“Really,” he followed. “Are there a lot of drunks now?” incredulously.
“No, not really, but I still worry about them.”
I was so happy to be having such a good customer to start my day off right, that I was extra concerned for the meter as we waited at Murray Street, to enter the West Side Highway. “Ugh this light is taking forever,” I said. Finally the light turned green, and I went through, but it wasn’t my proper light, it was the light preceding mine. Will someone fix this?? Why does the D.O.T. have two lights at the intersection in the westbound direction? I honked at a car going through making a left turn north to west, as I made my left west to south. He leaned on the horn, which made me realize my mistake. My customer thought it was the other driver’s fault, but I corrected him, “No it was mine, there are two traffic lights here and I was looking at the wrong one.“
Turned out my fare was a lawyer fresh out of law school, already set with an internship. When I asked him about the economy, he didn’t sound concerned, “Eh, if I get fired,” he said, “I’ll be in the company of many others, so at least I won’t be the only one.” I envied him for such optimism.
When he heard I only work on weekends and used the rest of my time for sleep, (I don’t tell anybody about my blog for the most part) the inner nerd thrust out of him and he told me I should get into the video game World of Warcraft. He said with the amount of time I had on my hands I would be unstoppable within a week’s time. I’ll keep this in mind, but I like to have the illusion that I’m doing something better with my time.
Most lucrative before the dawn-
The time was soon passing at hyper-speed. I got a trip to Williamsburg right in the epicenter of hip, then a trip to two spots in Brooklyn before heading back to Manhattan only to get another into Bushwick.
When I hit my post 4:30 spot (every cabbie has a spot when they prefer not to cruise around) I took two college age girls out to Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn. They asked me if Brooklyn was okay before they entered, and of course it was. After getting they wanted the heat up so I gave them the heat, but with a warning,
“It gets hot real fast,” I said.
“That’s ok we’re really cold,” replied one of them.
The days I work, I get between one to three people who fall asleep on average. And this trip was a very likely candidate for a snooze; 5am, long smooth ride, and the heat turned up high. So I turned down the heat several times, and they requested it turned up several times. But one girl, she managed to wake up 3 exits prior to her house. She kept her eyes wide open and directed me to her house. She paid with a credit card, which was unfortunate because I lost 5% of the money, but she added a $10.85 tip, I was shocked. I asked twice if she tipped correctly and I thanked her three or four times. When they left the car I checked to make sure they hadn’t left anything behind, and I followed her directions back to the Belt Parkway.
There is a major lesson in Brooklyn to be gained and this day proved it: Brooklyn for the most part, pays well. So if traffic is low, and Manhattan is not running on all cylinders, count your lucky stars when you get a Brooklyn. Sure there are a few places and people who may not tip well enough to make a Brooklyn trip worth it, but sometimes you can make it back by hitting a popular corner nearby, just don’t waste too much time.
There are exceptions to the rule of course One day I got a ride from Times Square into the housing projects near Coney Island, and they ran out of the cab without paying leaving their McDonald’s behind. “That’s ex…PENS!ive” they yelped as they made their dash into the dark canyons and shadows. On that particular day karma repaid me fast when I got a JFK from the Ritz Carlton 30 minutes later, while I was cleaning my cab.
For a good time call?-
After a few more rides it had grown too late for the late people, and too early for the early people. Being desperate I aimed for leftovers from the night before, at the corner of 9th and 14th two French men talked with the cab in front of me. They didn’t get too far in those negotiations before approaching me. They weren’t too intoxicated, so I humored them.
“Do you know any clubs open now?” they asked.
I don’t usually hazard a guess for such information since I’m not much of a party almanac, but since the cab in front of me already turned them down, I gave them suggestion: Perhaps Pacha might be open. I told them it was by no means a sure thing, so they offered a proposition: if it was open they’d pay, if not the ride was free. Believe it or not the streets were such slim pickin’s that I agreed, besides they had a jolly charm about them. For pretty much the entirety of the ride they asked me about where they might find some prostitutes. “Oh, I wouldn’t know about that.” They weren’t convinced and asked me if I was a Mormon.
“How about this place,” they asked referring to the club. “How are the girls here?”
“The giarls, how do they look?”
“Oh, oh, ho, oh, they look very, very trampy. There are many people from New Jersey who go here. And the girls when I see them, they uh, well they look more like prostitutes then actual prostitutes.”
They laughed and got bouncy with enthusiasm. They told me since they were from France that they wouldn’t be insulted if I dished more dirt about people from New Jersey. When we got there it was closed, of course, and I actually turned the meter off a block early to give the spendthrifts some piece of mind.
We brokered another deal: that I would turn on the meter and charge them to go back to their hotel.
“As a cab driver don’t you think you should know all the places to go?” they asked. And since they asked so politely I told them that they were right, I would make a ton more if I knew everywhere to go, and if I knew of every service they needed, but the city was so large that it was impossible to know everything.
“My shift,” I also told them, “is more of a morning shift then a day shift, so it is more important for me to know when a place closes than when it opens.” I continued about other specific categories, but that shut them up for a little while.
But they continued to ask if I knew of prostitutes with flats. I eventually understood that they were asking for girls who would do their business from their own apartments. I told them that this was probably a very huge racket in the city, but again, I was totally un-connected with all of it. I told them of a few corners where street prostitutes were, but they were most likely all transvestites, and even if they weren't it was all very skeezy. That wasn't what they were looking for anyway, they wanted class.
The total ride cost went from Pacha to a hotel near the Flatiron, and then up to the Upper West Side, totaling to 15 or 16 dollars, the last of the two passengers gave me 20 and told me to keep the rest. While exiting he said, “Hopefully this address will work,” leaving me to wonder if he knew of a place providing the services he wanted the whole time, and he only was asking me to try and find a better deal.
More rides and pics from saturday (part 2) will be posted on Monday.