Monday, December 1, 2008

11/22 Shift Shots and Reflections (part 2)

Creating a Good Impression-
The sun had risen and with that, even the leftovers of the night had scampered home. Luckily I caught somebody at Carnegie Hall. Not the usual customer, he asked how much to his house in Astoria, Queens. "Eh, 15, 16, 17, not more than 20, certainly less than 25 dollars," I told him, it wasn't the best sales pitch, but he climbed in anyway. He told me he'd been stuck there for more than an hour, the trains were having complications.  "Ah yes the N and the R aren't running between Times Square and Queens Plaza," I informed him, though I'm sure he'd figured that out over the last hour. This was a perfect example of information a cabbie should know. Sometimes taxis can pick up the slack where subways and buses don't. 

As we headed over to the bridge I told him about my last fare, the French looking for their jollies. We both had a good laugh. 

"What do they think you are a pimp?" he exclaimed.  

I told him that historically cabbies had once been on the shady side of the law many years ago, but that time had long passed.* He asked me about how cops treat me, 

"Well my first year was pretty bad, I got 4 moving violations, but now I'm doing pretty well. Honestly I think they treat me better than most cabbies because I'm white," I told him

It turned out he was training in the academy, originally from Buffalo NY, and soon to be one of our finest. So we both exchanged information about our respective careers. He told me about the steps to becoming an officer, a sergeant, a detective, so on, and so on, and what was required to achieve these ranks. I told him about how money was made much better as a cabbie when we drive slower, and avoid harsh maneuvers, that the most important priority for the cabbie is to not get ticketed. I also told him about our peak hours, and how when most drivers are done their shift it gets really busy, the demand goes far beyond the supply. We both also agreed early on that the taxi fares in New York City do not match the demand when compared with the rest of the country. He then told me he thought most cab drivers, 80% or so, lied every time they got into an accident, so I tried to plant some seeds of sympathy for the cabbie. 

I told him, "I'd say it's a 50/50 chance of a cabbie lying. I think the longer people drive, the more the pressures of work get to them, and they become assholes over time." He agreed that the pressures must be very difficult to avoid getting points on the license and deal with the traffic.

Astoria, Queens


Long Island City, Queens

The Second Half-
The sunlight was beautiful heading back to Manhattan. within a few hours only by luck did I get hailed by a woman going to La Guardia Airport. She was a little tight with her manners at first, I made a left to pick her up, but she wanted me to make a U-turn (totally illegal all the time). When I pulled the U and she got in, she calmed down and I had a problem free ride, it was all business, total silence except for the specifics of her terminal. When I dropped her off I saw the taxi-line moving, so I made a pit stop at the gas station for snack and a piss then came back to the taxi-line hoping for another 25 bucks. 


But of course I just missed the plane and had to wait for a little bit. While I had the time I tried to get a jump on blog post, my impatience was pretty apparent:
I have no Internet signal at the moment, but I have some time to write while I’m waiting at LaGuardia. I shouldn’t have searched so long for the right snack at the BP station, I might have been here only a few minutes if I didn’t take so long deciding, but now I may be here another hour while the city wakes up. I have never seen the effects of the economy on the cab industry hit more apparently then today in the early hours. The city was more desolate than usual for the odd night owl / early bird shift I have. I think the party crowd was cut to 50% of it’s usual amount.

LaGuardia Airport, Flushing, Queens

I was overly pessimistic, because I thought I might be sitting there for more than an hour, more than two even, but I was out in under an hour's time, and taking a family right into Midtown. In retrospect the night was less busy, but I lucked out with some longer rides between 4 and 6 am. Very odd in the taxi business, you can go from broke to hundredaire within one or two hours, this is primarily because it can take between 3 and 9 hours to make enough money to brake even and pay for the lease and gas. After You brake even, the money is all yours. While my earnings average to 12 dollars per hour, if I returned the cab after 6 hours I'd earn nothing.

5th Avenue Shuffle-
IMG_0366 copy

More of my pessimistic predictions were proven wrong when the clock struck 1 p.m. I was already assuming our holiday season was going to fall flat when 5th Avenue made strong case of a climbing economy. I had to take a few people in and out of the famous shops and make the taxi dance through the traffic as others almost made a few missteps (above). Now I predict a strong season for the taxi driver: traffic won't be as crazy as previous years, while shopping will still provide a few extra bucks in income.

Off Duty-
After a trip down to Century 21, the discount department store, I logged off the GPS system, switched on the extra off duty light, and enjoyed the view back to the garage.

Brooklyn Bridge, Downtown

*For more blips about the history of the N.Y.C. taxi driver, read Taxi: A Social History of The New York City Cab Driver, by Graham Russell Gao Hodges.

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