Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Public Relations (2)

In my last post I wrote about handing people back their things. It feels great to do good for people especially when in a profession looked down on by all.

Good Folks-
The feeling of goodwill continued through to that Sunday. I managed to get rides from 3 to 5:30 in the a.m. in Brooklyn with one from Queens to Brooklyn. Avoiding the kamikaze taxi drivers and the partiers from New Jersey who’d stayed too long in Manhattan and couldn’t find their way to the tunnel, did a lot to conserve my disposition. The rider from Queens to Brooklyn struck up a conversation, he’d just got off of work and after 15 hours of assisting in movie production, he was going to Brooklyn for that last hour before the bars closed. It started me thinking this taxi gig wasn’t so bad; we drive for 12 hours, we stop when we want to, and all that work we do, we do it sitting. This guy might have been standing for 15 hours.

Later that day I picked up a woman in the Upper East Side who tried taxi driving many years ago. She told me she drove for Dover, the garage on Hudson Street, which has now been replaced by a condominium apartment tower in Greenwich Village. Dover was the garage fa├žade that was filmed for the TV show Taxi, with Danny DeVitto, and Andy what’s his name. Me and her shared stories about how we had each knocked off our side-view mirrors more than once or twice. She said she struggled always to get to the garage by 5 a.m. and eventually they told her she was done. Now a day, they don’t really fire you as much, because they don’t exactly hire you so much per se. Back then, she said, they would sponsor a driver, which meant they would tell you when to come in if you were a newer driver, they would also take a cut of your earnings, 40% I think. Now everything’s different, I pay a flat fee, and don’t have any benefits of being an employee. Still mostly it is the same in that, it helps to come in when they need you, it helps to come in early so you can get a cab, and if you don’t make them happy, they can still tell you to get lost.

Infamous Ride # 27-
I was trying as best I could to collect the riders while the demand was hot, and I had 26 rides when this one came in. Madison Avenue in the 80’s, she tells me to go to 93rd between Madison and 5th. Lately the business had been so slow I would only manage 25 rides in a day, so I was over my limit and my brain combusted, I thought I was above 93rd, and so figured I needed to switch to the right side of Madison, go down Park then go back west when I got to 93rd, oops! It was a real struggle to cross Madison, and I thought it was weird that whe would hail on the left side if she wanted to go back down, so I asked if I should take Park down. If she was paying any attention she would’ve known right there that I was confused and would’ve corrected me, but with today’s idiot taxi drivers who are always on the phone and don’t make conversation, and with today’s self righteous passengers who don’t talk to peons, she didn’t correct the problem until it was already corrected. I never made it across the Avenue, and then I realized where I was and that it was a simple ride only up about 6 or 7 blocks to her fancy building.

“Why are we even in this lane?!!” She shouted, exasperated, and obviously holding in her anger that should’ve been released much earlier. So tit for tat, I didn’t respond to her either, for if I did I would’ve shouted: GET THE FUCK OUT! Sure, it was all completely my fault, but it’s a pet peeve of mine that some lady complains about something that should’ve been addressed earlier. I was in the wrong lane only because my brain failed to tell me where I was for a short second, and now I was stuck in a slow lane, only because I didn’t take advantage of earlier opportunities to get to the middle. It is completely absurd that some bitch can’t walk for 6 blocks, and it is even more absurd that she would complain about the driving to get there. I wanted to do a lot of things, I wanted to double the fare, I wanted kick her out, I wanted to take her to Harlem; I wanted to drive really slowly to agitate her. I only did that last one, I didn’t however get back into the slowest lane, but I didn’t exactly try as hard as I usually do to get her there fast anymore. She politely told me her building number, 3 east 93rd Street, and I politely obliged and brought her right to her door. I thought we were no longer angry at each other, but then she paid the $4.10 with her credit card and left a tip of one penny. Oh no Ma’am. So upon reading the receipt and being in disbelief, I opened my door and walked right in to the nice building, a van stayed behind me and couldn’t get through, but they patiently waited for me without even honking their horn. As I said, I walked in, with a ten-dollar bill in my hand. If I snapped my fingers the sound would travel up the 20 foot ceilings and bounce around the marble walls and floors. I looked to the right and saw her in the elevator saying good-bye to the doorman as the doors closed. She saw me and opened the doors again thinking I’d found a lost item of hers.

I handed her the ten-dollar bill:

“Here,” I said, “Take some money.”

“Why?” she said, still enamored very temporarily by this bad cabbie gone good.

“Because you’re a cheap fucking bitch.” And I turned around and walked back to my car.

“You can’t say that to my tenants,” the doorman told me. And I told him that she tipped me one cent on a four-dollar and ten-cent ride, with a credit card no less, and that, “I can’t take this anymore.” He saw me off, and I couldn’t help thinking that he was actually on my side, and so was the minivan behind me that never honked still waiting patiently for me to return to my car.

Don't feel bad for me though, I'm in sunny Los Angeles for these weekdays in between, as I write this post. I'm enjoying the perfect weather and staying with some friends before I fly back to return to NYC for the controlled chaos that is the world of NYC taxi driving.


Ruth said...

Hi, I think you have a very interesting job, I mean, you should really be given an honorary doctorate in sociology or something... My Dad used to be a cabbie in a little city in NZ. He had lots of stories like yours. Go the cabbies who don't stand for being treated like dirt.

NYC taxi photo said...

Thanks Ruth, I was worried I went overboard with negativity, and cursing. thanks for the support.

Ruth said...

Lol, my father went way overboard with negativity and cursing. He recieved many formal letters of complaint. It turned into a way of life for him. Over and over would he write these response letters getting himself in the clear of a fine or losing his taxi licence etc and the next day, pull the fingers at someone. I don't know if he just hated what he did or if he was actually addicted to that way of life - antagonising people then cleaning up after himself.
A little negativity has to be all part of the job. It's gotta be hard being a saint taxi driver esp. when you enevitably come across mean, heartless and cheap people. I think it was great you did something suprising and was honest. Wish people were more like that...

King of New York Hacks said...

That story was awesome. I had a guy do that to me and I would have let him have if not for his lovely wife apologizing for his rude behavior because he drank too much....sometimes its nice to blow off some steam on the asshole with all we deal with !! You rock brother !!

NYC taxi photo said...

thanks again Ruth, and King. Yeah, I occasionally feel that if I were in the customer's shoes, I'd act badly too, but I can't stand people who are totally in their own world, we should all be more open to communication, of course us, the bloggers, we've already got that figured out.