Thursday, July 17, 2014

What brought me to the yellow cab:


Long time no type, sorry folks, tax time rolls around and I have to get all my records in order..

That was oh what now, 2 years? 3 years ago?

soon enough, it was one thing after another, if it wasn't taxes it was tickets, which puts me into a frantic state of paying lawyers and checking my record, then doing the math to see if I will still make it without a suspended license...

That all has come and gone, and now come again, but my schedule had it's ups and downs from when i was last writing here on a somewhat regular basis, I was then working 4 days a week pretty much..

There is so much to explain between then and now,

Basically it is like the equivalent of checking in on me when I'm a distressed teenager in junior year of high school, and then the next time a child in that state would have time to touch base would be when they've just been accepted into a masters program or a Phd, I equate it to that.

Lets start from the beginning:

So much has happened. 9 years ago I started driving and at the time I was doing weekends, just day shifts, always day shifts. I was in college in Boston, which was hard enough, because it was a city, but it wasn't my city, everybody was calling it a city, but the only parts of it that had a soul were Cambridge and Alston, and Sumervile, but Boston proper was a mockery of the term city. Add to this that college didn't seem to show any obvious solutions to the job market that lay ahead of me. I was working on a BFA in photography, and only one person would get an internship working with a magazine. I took a class on editorial work, and it most definitely showed itself from day one to not match my personality or my skills, or my preferences and values at all. Creating a photograph was not my thing, I was teaching myself to work with what I had, to grab what was already there and to show reality as best as I could. If a photograph would transcribe itself as a dream that would be just peachy, but I wasn't going to ever input ingredients like light boxes, strobes, red dresses, make-up, all that junk.. into my pictures.

The idea that the field of photography demanded professionals who could work with all these ingredients and under all circumstances, tell the models, and the contractors that they know exactly what they're doing, sounded to me like professional lying, and I needed to get to my plan B immediately.

 The Taxi Plan:

My circle of friends from New York was strong, all solidified mostly by a friend of mine whom I've known since Kindergarten. A friend of his who I knew as well through junior high school was working with his own cab. He owned the taxicab, and leased the medallion, and shared it with his best friend who also was a big piece of our New York City gang. It was told to me through that friend and through others that they would make $200 per night!! So I was like where do I sign up? Oh yeah there was a 3rd driver too, they all knew each other and got all tangled up in this New York friend triangle, more on this later.

So I went through the whole process of getting my taxi license, which i think ran about $500, transfering my drivers license to a chauffer's License, getting a doctor's check up, signing a sheet proving I wasn't a dead-beat dad (pretty easy as I'm not a dad), taking a class for a week, and barely passing a test that proves I know my way around the city, and have basic understanding of English, and finally passing a drug test.

Then I called up the third guy which at that point had become the only guy. They were a ragtag trio. Guy number one i think had his license expire, I'm not sure if it was because he failed the annual drug test. Guy number two had his license suspended and figured there were better things to do anyway. I believe he may have gotten a speeding ticket in the underpass on first avenue by the United Nations and it put him over the edge for points on the license. But guy number 3, who's dad was a member of the police benevolent association, never got a ticket, EVER. Also what else what else, Guy number one's sister got knocked up by guy number two, and also, also, they both shared an apartment, a tiny apartment, in the east village, and everybody knew everybody, so that must've been a trying time, or not, we all love each other now, sort of, i mean those two got married and moved to Portland, but are now divorced, guy number one moved to Europe for a time and also got married, but they're back in Brooklyn... my my my how the years go by, and everybody is a fricken adult with children, and they all wistfully tell me that they wish they could drive a cab again. umm how? why? whatever

anyway where was I? oh yes so I called guy #3 and eventually got through to him when he wasn't sleeping over at a friends house, or partying all night long, or smoking tons of pot, I figured, he had a cab, oh that's right, at the point I got through to him I had already signed up with a garage,, you know, because I don't wait for no one! hah! but he was then the owner of the cab because i mentioned previously kid number one and two lost their licenses, and kid number 3 seemed to be a natural. well he asked me how good I was or something along those lines... which As I wrote earlier in this piece, I despise greatly, because I'm brutally honest about things, and anyone who's honest with themselves should realize how badly they do stuff.

So yeah I told him that I once fell asleep behind the wheel in Maine, and I did have a few bumps with my personal vehicle, but I didn't see how that same stuff would happen in New York with my career.. this may have scared him, and he didn't get back to me about assigning me to his cab.. The amazing thing was it was just him with his cab. There were no other drivers.  That cab in those last few years was a rickety lucky thing, and in the coming months it would get to a state where the alternator failed so he would park it at the club, or our house at Staten Island and leave it running, HE WOULDN'T TURN THE CAR OFF EVER!! and he would go to the roof light, unscrew the light bulbs, and turn off the headlights, so nobody would know. One time I was told he was pulled over on the Verrazanno Narrows Bridge for speeding, and the cop saw his PBA badge and let him off the hook.

I do firmly believe that all you need to do to be ticket free in the city is have a connection to the Police Department, or any of those departments, Fire, Sanitation, Corrections, maybe Judges, senators, district attorneys, and the like, would also get off the hook from tickets. How do you get tickets all the time?? well you only have to drive a yellow cab, and make sure to leave the roof light on all the time, and work constantly, don't refuse any ride, and you will get a ticket, the more you drive, the more you get tickets. Tickets are never issued for driving past a potential customer, but time and time again, somebody raises a hand, and it's the pullover for acquiring the potential fare and doing one's service to the city that pisses off the cops, especially if they're right behind you. It is understood that trash trucks need to stop to pick up the trash, and busses have to get their passengers... and yet the general consensus is "why won't taxicabs get out of my way?!" Can't they see I have nothing important to do!!?"

Anyway, I digress I digress, where was I? Oh yeah, so I never got assigned to the cab of my circle of friends which was just as well I guess, or so I told myself. That cab was at the end of it's life, though it is still alive with it's partition and stickers in Northern California now, Guy number 3 got an offer to move out there and try his hand at farming or something, you know, farming or something like that. Sorry to blow up your spot if you're reading this, yeah well he really likes potatoes or something, so he grows them out in the California sun I think.

The most amazing thing I never understood is that he drove that cab like it was always a holiday. His friends would call him up and he'd drop everything and drive them home, he'd also stop driving routinely and then go to a club with the gang.. I... I could never do such a thing. Firstly, I was driving the day shift, and secondly, it would take me the first 6 hours of my 12 hour lease to get enough money to pay my daily lease, then the next 4 hours would go in my pocket, so partying and hanging with friends was always out of the question. Even when everyone was having a party on my off day, I couldn't possibly hang, because I had to stay on a schedule to get to a Queens garage and pick up the cab at 4am.

The Career:

So in due time all three of my friends were no longer driving taxicabs and they were free to smoke their trees and also in some cases put out smoking trees (one of them does some volunteer firefighting, when he isn't driving an ambulance now)

I should mention that many people see my youthful face, and it's pink pigment and they react "Wow, are you an American?" then they feel ashamed and embarassed, "I mean, umm, you're like white, are you an American born cab driver?"

Yes I tell them, and then I tell them the story I just told you, without so much details, that it was a friend of mine from high school, they all drove a cab, I explain without any harshness, that this is New York City, and we were all chums, no matter how our first and last names look. We all knew each other from an earlier stage of life. I told you of my friend who was the route of our big circle of friends, he has a charm of seeing the character and positive virtue in everybody, and I knew him at a time when we would learn to tie our shoes at lunch breaks. It's only as we get older that as a copping mechanism we get hung up on strange parameters, we grow up trying to put everything in it's place, and sometimes, different languages and skin tones get thrown into the mix and we find oursleves separating, we forget that once upon a time we all watched the same movies and learned to tie our shoelaces. guy #1 who first had the rickety cab the called Vicky (short for Ford Crown Victoria) I'll make up a name for him, let's say his name was Joe, his name was Joe Busch, okay, now this is how we knew him, but one time when he drove us around in his cab, with his sister by his side, I saw his Taxi License: and it read Johan Busimilleritiger... Okay, okay so I made the name up, but you get the idea?? I joke around and say that it is a taxi law, that once you start driving, your last name has to be at least 10 letters long, and have at least 3 syllables. These folks that were once our friends growing up, were now certified professionals LOL.

Right, right, so my career. I started with this garage in 2005.. hey you know what, this blog entry is already getting kind of lengthy, so maybe we'll stop there.. and I'll continue with an essay describing perhaps, my whole career from the beginning to where we are now.. Let us say.. this was the introduction, this is the juicy fluff of vicarious lives that surround my beginning.. See you soon guys.


JesseKarma said...

Fantastic imagery Noah!

I should mention I was there with driver #3 on the Verazzono bridge when we got pulled over doing about 85 for no particular reason except to get home faster. We pulled over in the right lane as there was no other place to pull over. The female cop and driver #3 exchanged very few words once the PBA card was pulled out and she waved her hand forward to move along like the annoyance we were. That whole situation felt like it was outa' a movie or something.

jazzportrait said...

Nice to see you writing and resurrecting the blog again. Looking forward to many new posts!

SJPat3 said...

Fast-paced narrative replete with details like signposts in The City. Great read!

When I first moved to South Jersey, everyone - neighbors, co-workers, mechanics, clerks - said to get a NJ PBA sticker on my vehicle.

Look forward to more entries!

NYC taxi photo said...

thank you everyone, the comments mean much to me, i'm still feeling the excitement of maybe getting in the mood to remember a general bio of the whole taxi experience, and also getting excited about the prospect of writing this story is probably a lot more healthy then planning on driving through a certain # of green lights. hehehe

Mom said...

Page turner, but where is the next page?