Ah the last days worked of 2008. I had to work a monday too, to make up for not working the weekend before. Lots of fun was had all month with the holidays and my birthday. I actually managed to have some social time with all my old friends, sharing my days off with their vacation time. But quickly I had to go back to work to ensure my income.
Typically the weekend between Christmas and New Year's is dead, lots of people heading out of town for the New Year, and the drinking is usually curtailed, while people save their money and their stomachs for the coming booze storm. But a cabbie quickly learns that nothing is typical, ever, no pattern to trust. Much like the stock market, cab income is a wild ride with the peeks and valleys of a children's roller coaster. The weekend wasn't good, but it wasn't as bad as I worried it might be.
No problems with traffic at night though, as usual for the early morning shift.
Kew Gardens, Queens
The fog came in early and the Manhattan skyline disappeared. With the fog, the temperature climbed all weekend and by sunday we hit 67 degrees!
Aside: Hey does anybody remember that? I hate New York City weather. On New Year's Eve I nearly caught a small flu bug because the temperature went down to 15 with a wind-chill of zero. I can't say that I wanted to be driving then though, too many drunks, and the cold kept a lot of people home.
Upper West side
Those construction crews always make it fun to drive, they gave me a very cool course here to slalom through.
So the pre-New Year's weekend made for strange traffic congestion patterns. I don't remember driving through such a messy Times Square before, and 5th Avenue by Rockefeller Center was almost as bad as it was before Christmas. Apparently there were only two things tourists wanted to do that weekend. They wanted to see Times Square, and they wanted to see the tree at Rockefeller Center.
Somewhere in the middle of all the hubbub I helped jump-start a car in Rockefeller Center, it didn't take long, but I didn't receive any compensation for it. That was just the kind of day it was, and I figured I'd get my good karma or mitzvah on a later day.
Midtown (Times Square District)
Because a police car was parked at the front of a taxi line at this hotel, the lines had to scramble around the car every time a customer hailed a cab. Add in taxis dropping off and taxis coming in to get customers who can't get a cab on the line, and you have a huge mess. And who knows what the police were doing, giving tickets to cabs making it even harder to drive there?
Brooklyn Heights, Brooklyn
The view of Manhattan doesn't get much better than on the Brooklyn Promenade, it's not a usual stop on the tourist list, but it should be. To the dismay of most cab drivers, I recommend learning the subway system. It isn't always reliable to find a cab to take you back. However, the subway system often goes to hell on the weekends.
It only got warmer, and so with that, the fog was thick, so thick it was like butter, have you tried to see through butter? Okay so I don't write so good.
I had to go 20 miles per hour slower to see the road and the signs to navigate my way up to Whitestone. I was not complaining though because I got a ten dollar tip, and it was beautiful out there. The streetlights spilled light sparingly through the trees and rooftops, and very rarely did their light reach farther.
Upper East Side (Metropolitan Museum of Art)
Night and day, things change so quick, and the daylight gave way to a few tourists trying to fill their vacation time with as much New York as possible.
Learning where the people were and weren't from saturday I avoided the hotels, all the guests were sleeping in. I stopped at Macy's at around nine, finding the line actually moving, which was weird since Macy's usually opens the doors at nine. That day however, Macy's was open at six according to the other driver in front of me. The driver was a mellow guy, willing to share some time on the line talking about the day.
"I've found nothing anywhere else," he said, "This is it, I'm going to probably keep coming back here, this is really moving."
I continued to confirm his statement, it's what we do, complain about where everything isn't, and then find where things are by process of elimination. I couldn't help but ask about his sparkly fresh Toyota Camry. It was so spectacular I wanted to know how one goes about buying a taxi and leasing the medallion. It is a popular choice for a cabbie to buy the car but then lease a medallion because a medallion is worth 600,000 dollars and a car is worth 30 or 40. He told me some information I could absorb, and other stuff I couldn't. He owned two cars, this Camry and a Crown Vic' and leased a medallion for both of them.
He told me, "You need to find a garage that will lease a medallion for a car you own first. If you have the car before you find the garage then it can be difficult." Then he followed with other stuff that went over my head. He said just owning a car, creates such a demand that people give him a key of 5000 dollars just to drive it. Well I have no idea what a key is, and I don't really like the idea of owning a car and then renting it out to a garage, that seems to negate the whole idea of owning the car. I'd want to drive the car when ever I wanted, and avoid commuting to get my car, especially if it was my car.
Midtown (Herald Square)
Macy's again, at the wrong time-
I decided to come back to Macy's thinking it would only get busier as the day wore on, but then I noticed the above scenario: two taxis wedging themselves into the intersection creating a domino effect of gridlock. This was all clearly the fault of one car, probably the Crown Vic' stuck in front of the bus and behind the Escape. Perhaps the traffic flow had all been thrown out of whack with a police car parked in the Macy's taxi line. And so of course the police officer walked up to both taxis stuck in the intersection and told them to pull over on the left side of Broadway making the flow of traffic even tighter. Their income for 12 hours would soon be given to the City of New York, and they would get halfway toward suspended licenses with the points they accrued. I decided not to go to Macy's again.
Luck, masquerading as knowledge, that's what taxi driving is, give or take. Monday was exciting because I finally had a customer base of real New Yorkers. I even took a guy in a white blood stained smock from the meat packing district to Tribeca, from one processing and packaging center to another. It felt great to service a more fully functioning New York, rather than the New York that puts itself on display for tourists and freshman college students.
At a time that seemed completely dead when the city was in transition from drunkards to workaholics, I remembered a building that my friend who is an apartment rental agent told me about. At the time he told me about the "affordable prices" I tried to refrain from gagging, but who knew that such information would come in handy. I drove by the building slowly and saw a tall slender woman, the type who only wore skirts, leaving the building. She bid farewell to the doorman and searched for the nearest yellow cab. I took her to a shanty tenement building in Williamsburg. The monthly rent was probably an equally outrages sum, as a premium is paid nowadays just to claim an identity with the hip Williamsburg crowd. She uttered not one word until it was time to drop her off,
"Leave me off behind that car," She exclaimed.
"Ohhh, kay, this one here?" I answered sarcastically hoping to teach her how to give good directions.
"No, by that car, over there, over there! over there!" She was exasperated at the last minute over the minutia of but a few feet of drop-off space. She gave no helpful description such as left, right, or, by the truck, or van, so I followed her finger and readied for her to scream, "Right here!" which she did scream. Other than that last bit, the ride was very nice.
After circling the neighborhood for only a few minutes I picked up a French guy and took him to Park Avenue near the Waldorff Astoria, and only a block later another woman who wanted to go another 10 blocks north. And so just like that I had a chain of fares as the sun rose, a good kick start to the monday morning
Midtown (Times Square District)
Traffic was way better than saturday and even better than sunday, but Times Square was still insane. Right around the end of my shift in the Upper West Side, a Toyota Camry taxi pulled up to my left,
"Hey I thought you only worked weekends." He was the same driver I talked to at Macy's the day before.
"Eh they made me work another day," I replied
"I'm calling it a day," he told me, "I didn't make anything." And with that we both headed out.