Over the past year, I’ve probably had at least 12-15 drivers take me on the journey from 171st Street to Harlem River Drive to the FDR down to York Ave. The ride is often uneventful, but sometimes I sit in silent fear (like the time when the driver wrote in his notebook the entire time he careened down the highway at 70mph, barely making eye contact with the road, while talking on his Bluetooth in Russian), sometimes I make friends with the driver (like the time when the cabbie told me about all the crazy sexual escapades he used to witness in the back of his yellow cab before he switched to airport-friendly routes—apparently cab sex was rampant in Chelsea in the 80s—not shocking), sometimes I relate to the driver (like the time a young guy from Queens drove me home and we talked about how much fun it is to be a cab driver, how the logistics work in terms of renting the cab from the cab company, how much of the fare goes to the driver, how much people tip, etc, and I shared with him my little secret that being a cabbie is one of my dream jobs), and one time, last night, instead of talking to the driver because they talk to me or sitting in silent fear, I took it upon myself to keep my driver talking as much as possible juuuuuust in case my safety depended on it…
I don’t want to sound dramatic, but this is a blog and the fact that I’m even writing down this story makes it seem a little larger than life, but really I knew the situation was probably no big deal—I just had that little voice in my head that was wondering if I was safer getting on the Harlem River Drive with this guy, or asking him to let me out at the corner of 178th and Amsterdam. Here’s how our conversation went for the 20 minutes I spent with this guy—I remember every word:
Him: (Stopped at a light heading north on St. Nicolas) I hate driving in this neighborhood—there’s always traffic. As soon as you get up here there’s traffic. You’re going to the east side? (He opens up his atlas and starts flipping the pages.)
Me: You can turn right on 178th to pick up the drive.
Him: I know, I used to live in this neighborhood. I hate coming back here. How was your night, are you happy today?
Me: Uhh, yeah I’m happy…
(silence—At this point I’m a little creeped out by this guy. He’s about 30 years old and seems a little off, like maybe he had a minor brain injury at some point resulting in abstract social skills…)
Me: How about you? Did you have a good weekend?
Him: No, I’m not happy at all. I’m never happy. I don’t know how anyone in this city can be happy.
Me: I’m sorry you feel that way. Please drive safely anyway, ha ha ;)
Him: Oh don’t worry, I’m not going to crash the car and commit suicide, hahaha, don’t worry, you’ll be fine.
(oh jeez, please don’t crash into the divider or merge without looking…)
Me: Oh! Well, that’s reassuring. I don’t want you to be miserable while you’re driving. Is there anything we could talk about that would make you happier?
Him: ….Maybe if I could travel I would be happier.
(Please don’t kidnap me)
Me: Yeah, traveling is great, but I always feel so lucky to live in New York because you can always find some place new to go—it’s like you’re traveling in your own city.
Him: I don’t like it here. I’ve lived here for 13 years. Everybody is so fake. They’re all liars. (he goes on and on) The only good thing is that you can make a lot of money.
(I hope he doesn’t think I’m rich…I decide to steer the conversation back to him)
Me: Yeah, that’s true. I had a driver from your company once tell me all about how he used to drive a yellow cab but he switched to ______ because the money and the hours were better.
Him: Yeah I used to drive a yellow cab also. I like this better. I only do this on weekends—its my second job. You’re my last ride of the night.
Me: That’s good! You’re outta here soon. What’s your other job?
Him: I do ______ for the City at the Department of ______.
Me: Oh, that’s really cool! I always thought working for the city must be awesome.
Him: Yeah, it’s okay. There’s a lot of idiots working there.
Me: Right, I guess they can’t fire anyone. I knew someone that worked for the courts and said none of the administrative people knew what they were doing.
Him: There’s this one woman I work with, hahahaha, she’s got these huge breasts and she wears really tight clothes. Her name is ____ Luiz. She works in a school and it’s so terrible because there are all these kids there and her boobs are always popping out of her shirt. And she doesn’t do any work! (he continued to talk about her for about 5 minutes)
Me: That’s not good! It must be distracting to work with her.
Him: Not distracting to me; to the kids! It’s terrible.
(must change the topic)
Me: Here’s a question for you since you might have an insider perspective: What do you think of Mayor Bloomberg? Are you going to vote for him?
Him: Haha, actually, I don’t know. I actually never voted in a city election.
Me: Really, they don’t make you?
Him: No, I don’t really keep track of that stuff. How old are you?
Me: I’m turning 28.
Him: Really, haha, I’m 29. I’m only like a year older than you.
Me: Yeah, we’re both pretty young still.
Him: Yeah, I guess so.
Me: Oh, here’s my block. Turn right here and I’m halfway down.
Him: What’s your name.
Me: Missa (shoot, probably shouldn’t have given him my real name.)
Him: Well it was nice talking to you.
Me: Thanks for the ride!
I’m alive and this dude is probably a teensy bit happier, and think I should now be certified in conflict resolution. Thank god I paid cash this time around so he didn't have a printed record of my full name and account number. Wheeeeeee!
Anyone else have any good cab stories???
[Photo taken from this blog]