Thursday, September 9, 2010

Back in NYC part two, east vs west.

Well as I type this post I'm awaiting my new computer, hooray! everything has been getting used and abused to their limits recently. My phone has a battery that only lasts for 4 hours when on minimal use, and if I make a phone call it will only last for 2 minutes at best. My camera died in the Moreno Valley desert. And what I feel I needed more than ever was a new computer before my current one dies and loses all my valuable pictures I haven't edited yet. Anyways we will be on a mini photo hiatus. On the plus side I'm getting a new computer!! This could lead to some new directions for my blog. Eventually when I have the 2009 and 2010 taxi photography up here and organized into a best of portfolio, I could switch the blog to video!!! I'll see if I can keep making enough money and trimming my budget down even more so that I can afford some amateurish video device and edit together some clips of cab driving by the end of 2011. Meanwhile I have more to talk about from L.A. experiences and the comparative headaches of New York City life.

Ermm... enjoy?
More things from L.A.-

Stories Told-
I was able to share a story of mine from a New York of a few years ago to some classmates of my friend I was staying with. They all worked on some short films together. So who knows maybe it'll be a short film soon.

Maybe I'll tell you that story sometime in the near future, it's a goody, but I haven't posted on the blog nor any of the other gritty stories of growing up here because they all came pre-taxi life. I've always held a belief that you can't actually get an in depth perspective on a place from only one angle. Growing up in the city leaves somebody with far more stories and perceptions, knowledge etcetera than driving a cab. Although driving a cab definitely adds a very thick soupy layer to street smarts, cab driving gives more of a peripheral or an upgrade, to an already dense knowledge of the city. If you don't already have that knowledge, the cab life isn't going to give it to you from scratch.

And I feel I also had a rare opportunity for extremely good karma or mitzvah, as the friend took me to a dinner with some family members of hers who were from New York, and one of them goes on the air daily for Bloomberg News Radio at about the same time that I start my shift. She asked me about the credit card thing. The question was specifically: "Didn't you cabbies have a problem with the machines at first?" And so it gave me a great opportunity to educate someone in the media on what the real issue was.

And so I said:

"The machines are actually extremely convenient and so it was never the actual machines I had the problem with. The major problem lay in the percentage charged to the driver, not the garage, nor the customer, from credit card charges. For every fare I get that a passenger pays for with a credit card, I have to pay 5% of that back. And I realize that without the convenience of a credit machine I may not even have those customers. Business is definitely very good with the credit card machines, but to be charged 5% for every charge which includes the tolls and the tips does not seem fare when every corner grocery store pays only 1.8%.

I think, though I am not sure, that this stems from the verifone and all other companies that make these systems charging for their machine, the ad companies also needing revenue, and of course the garages. All of this doesn't really add up when the garages are already making money from ad revenue and the credit machine companies are making money from both the credit companies, the ads, and perhaps the drivers. So that is the real problem. Also I should add that there was an article cited in The New York Times that used not enough sources, which stated that tips have more than doubled since the credit card machines were installed. This of course is completely bogus because before credit card machines, tips were never reported or recorded, so of course tips were doubled, tippled, whatever."

So that was a tangent if ever there was one, but hopefully I like to think I did good, now one person who actually reports news might have a somewhat more well-rounded grasp on the taxi and credit gps system, so if she ever gets into that topic, she might pull some more strings and grasp at better sources to get her information.

Driving: East Versus West:

Oh, My, God. What a difference there is between driving mannerisms east coast verse west coast. Even pedestrian behavior is different. In Los Angeles I saw a man who looked like he was on five different drugs, high upper type stuff like crack or something, and his strange behavior was that he was pounding the button on the traffic light, which gives him the signal to go and cross the street. He pounded this button with his fist about 10 times within 3 seconds. Now if this man were in New York City, he would've already crossed the street only to find himself in the middle of the street facing traffic coming at him from both directions. And from the point he would've shouted curses in the general direction of a few specific cars, perhaps even thrown some garbage at each passing car, sticking middle fingers at those who honked at him. Not In L.A. though, in L.A. even the crazed drugged out oddballs wait for the light to turn green.

Oh and driving, oh driving was such a joy, not the least of it was the fact that I rented a Chevy Aveo, one of the smallest production cars available on the American market. In this car I could reach over and roll down the right side window while at a stop light, or if I was a great enough distance on a straight enough road from the car in front of me. If I was driving alone I could grab the roof handle on the right side of the car when I made a tight right turn. Oh it felt so good to drive a car that actually responded with a sharp turning radius and intuitive feel. Granted it wasn't specifically a G.M. car, but really a product from Daewoo, which is a Korean company bought out by G.M. and used internationally by other companies, such as Suzuki. It was so simple, so perfect, and it had a jack for my ipod, and a pretty decent sound system too. I looked around the road and I saw no other car that matched this in looks and simplicity.

Where was I?... Anyway the driving: when I signaled, people 98% of the time let me in front of them: that alone is phenomenal for an east coaster, it says everything about the two different mentalities. They might be less inclined to think only of themselves, less likely to start confrontations, keeping a bigger picture in mind, the southern Californian will realize what is for the greater good, or more likely what the appropriate driving behavior should be. People for the most part stuck to their lanes and went crazy with lane changes only at the moments of merges, and when they had to get off the highway. People for the most part with their higher level of driving experience were able to deduce when people were desperately unfamiliar with their surroundings and needed to change a number of lanes, and let them do so. Also people seemed less likely to use cellphones and eat their breakfast, and read their papers while driving, again because they've been on the road so much that they have realized what accidents are caused by this behavior. It was all just so amazing to me. Granted L.A. needs a better transit infrastructure, but it is mind boggling that they've managed to work so well for this many years on automobiles. All the traffic congestion problems that everyone talks about are only delays compared to New York. In New York you can't just sit in your car and wait out traffic, you have to negotiate to the best lane, which is always changing, because everyone else is changing lanes. I often will find myself on an avenue in the middle lane and saying to myself what could possibly be happening to make this lane stop? Back in New York there is always a car changing lanes, and people marvel at how traffic actually manages to move despite nobody ever sticking to one lane, ever.

Case in point we went to a dodgers game, from the 405 to the 110 I think it was. and the traffic went down to about 10 miles an hour, maybe even 5, but you see, it still moved. and nobody found better lanes, they all were the same. Nobody had to fear about getting cut off, it was so impressive. On tuesday I returned my cab and had to wait on Second Avenue from 64th street to 59th street for about 15 minutes. If that distance were walked it would take about 4 minutes. all the lanes in the right started to move, and all the lanes in the left went nowhere. The lanes on the right of this 5 lane avenue cut over at 59th to the lower roadway of the bridge, leaving a hundred or so cars in the left lane stuck for countless lights. I eventually made my way to the right lanes to get to 58th to use the upper roadway, and even then it was a struggle to meet into single file (nothing is ever single file in New York streets anymore) to get to that bridge entrance.

Now are you ready for the scary part? Sorry to do this, but the post is getting long and I'm gonna spend a night on the town, and come back to type a horrifyingly stupid tale of what we have to endure on an all too regular basis... I'll post part 3.. later tonight? or tomorrow. Give me a small tip for this post, as it is obviously garbage.


Emm said...

Very entertaining post.So true. NYC traffic is just crazy.

Star said...

I used to live in L.A., and miss it a lot. Daily life stuff is organized for the convenience of the citizen, not the store/office/etc. staff. Driving, though the heavy traffic is a pain, was bearable, just for the same things you mentioned (and which I miss so much I gave up driving where I am now because they are nuts: straddle lane lines, honk the miniscule fraction of a second after the light changes--if not before, never observe the safety distance on the highways and freeways, and the city seems to change the direction of one-way streets every three days), though I do have to confess that there is some road rage happenin' in L.A. that you didn't see, maybe because it's more subtle: the eyes on the road, grim-lipped not seeing the other driver trying to pull a fast one, skipping along the emergency lane of the freeway, and now urging to edge in right in front of one. There even have been some shootings. However, rose-colored glasses aside, all in all, drivers are pretty respectful of each other. It's part of the "live and let live" underyling philosophy that I like so much about the place.

Thanks for the memories!