Wednesday, October 5, 2011

A Typical Night of Taxi Driving

Welcome to another chapter of Craziest NYC taxi stories. Instead of detailing tonight’s shift, I thought it’d it be kind of interesting to list out some typical things that might be considered to happen on a typical night of taxi driving. What I find totally interesting is that certain events tend to repeat themselves on a typical night of taxi driving that would otherwise seem to be completely random to the outside of observer, for example, the customers, the traffic, the locations that we drive to and so on. What surprised me to a great extent is that these types of things are, in my opinion predictable events; VERY PREDICTABLE, this includes the behavior of my passengers. While at times, other events are less predictable or random that may never happen to you again in a night of taxi driving. Tonight, I’ll be detailing some of a night’s predictable events/people/places. In terms of traffic, one who is behind the wheel of a yellow cab will notice that in the late afternoon traffic in Manhattan will build from say 3PM to 5PM and will remain heavy until about 7PM on a weeknight. This includes midtown and the tunnel and bridge entrances where most of the worst traffic is located. Midtown from about the 30s Streets to the 50s at the end of Central Park will be the most heavily trafficked areas of Manhattan and of New York City especially during the daytime. This is for various reasons. For one, this is where most people are going during the day, because of the amount of high-rises within midtown. It is also where there are a large number of destinations such as Penn Station, Grand Central Station, Times Square, Rockefeller Center, and so on are located. 7th Avenue at 42nd street area Times Square is one of the most heavily trafficked areas of Manhattan in terms of both vehicle traffic and pedestrians. There seem to be many more destinations located in midtown than in downtown. Other problem areas for traffic are the Lincoln and Holland Tunnels to New Jersey, located in the West 40s, and on Canal Street in the Tribeca area in lower Manhattan, respectively. Other entrances and exits out of Manhattan are also traffic tie-ups are the Queensboro Bridge in East Midtown, the Queens Midtown Tunnel in Grammercy, and the Brooklyn Bridge going to Brooklyn. The vehicle traffic in the city tends to follow the same predictable pattern every night. It begins to build on a weekday afternoon until about 4:30 and remains heavy until about 6:30. Then slowly begins to ebb throughout the night. Later on into the night, Thursday remains fairly busy, out of the weeknight nights, with Sunday through Wednesday the slowest of the week’s nights. Of course Friday and Saturday nights are very busy all the way until 5am shift end time because these are the nights when the majority of people in the city are out partying, with Sunday and Monday night’s being a ghost town after 1AM with little traffic, taxis, and taxi passengers. Daytime traffic tends to be worse in the city all day because of all the civilian vehicles and other commercial vehicles in the city, which makes driving a taxi easier and more lucrative at night. During the daytime and rush hour timeframes the outer boroughs tend to also be much busier than later into the night. Next comes the most interesting and revealing part of taxi driving that I have come to discover. Us taxi drivers get a good sense of the cross-section of citizenry that resides and visits New York City. Here, I’m going to detail some of the types of passengers who get into my taxi on a typical night of taxi driving, but the real revelation about the types of passengers who ride with me is that one might be able to predict their behavior based on the way they look and who they are just by a quick 5 second glance of them standing on the curb. This is a really CREEPY aspect of taxi driving, because this means that human behavior is predictable, not a very politically correct viewpoint, but still the truth in my opinion.  Anyways, on with my experiences. If you’ve been reading my blog, I’ve detailed a few of the types of passengers that I enjoy picking up and a few of the types that I do not enjoy picking up. One such group is the middle to older aged complainers. I will separate these into the men and women because they do tend to act a bit differently. These types of people tend to be physically slow. In old age they tend to need help getting into and out of the taxi and help with their stuff. They tend to be native New Yorkers, and thus probably less friendly. The men seem to be able to hold it together better than the women do, but not if you do something they don’t like. This type of passenger also is the most likely to make unfriendly comments or complaints towards me. In addition to physical ailments, they also might suffer from paranoia (thinking I’m attempting to take advantage of them when I’m not), rage (becoming angry over little things), and dementia (forgetting where they told me to drive, and then telling me that I refused to drive them to where they forgot to tell me where to drive). Altogether I sometimes choose to drive past the female types of these passengers and pass them or refuse them, because of these types of issues. As stated I usually pick up the men, because they tend to be able to hold it together better than the women. I’ve also heard from other taxi drivers that the older taxi passengers tend to be the most likely to file a 311 complaints against drivers and go to court to pursue it (even if the complaint is not really true). I spoke to a psychologist about this type of behavior and I got some interesting revelations from him. He told me that the older passengers would have grumpy conversations with me simply because they don’t have anyone left to talk to and are fearful of new relationships, so rather than having a friendly conversation with me, asking me to be friends or approaching me like some of the young ladies do, they find anything such as TLC rules or directions to discuss with me rather than that since they have to say something to someone, why not a taxi driver? I was surprised at how irrational and bizarre but yet logical this explanation was. Generally speaking these types of individuals will touch upon the same subjects each time I pick them up for example TLC rules, discussions about my taxi cab (is this a handicap cab? How do you open the door? Can you go to the other curb? Are you sure that you know the directions?). The next type of passenger that is the most major type is the young professional, which is my favorite. A few words to describe these types are youthful, white collar, Caucasian, easygoing, logical, well-dressed, polite, and wealthy. These are the typical types of people who might live in Manhattan and tell me to drive them from one place in Manhattan to another. They never have anything unfriendly or illogical to say to me. These types are also usually dressed in fancier clothes than their outer borough counterparts. Unlike the middle-aged complainers they tend to be completely open to negotiating any type of issue that may arise in our little business relationship, and are usually laid back about it. They tip well. They are usually out to have a good time. The men in this category are usually business-like, ride from A to B, may or may not have a polite conversation with me, pay and leave just as you might expect one to behave inside a taxi. The women usually behave in a similar way, but sometimes they can flirt with me, especially if they are intoxicated, they are friendly for sure. Sometimes it seems as if these women have their mind made up, that they will flirt with me as soon as they see me in the driver’s seat. While not every woman who enters my taxi flirts with me in this way, because I pick up a lot of women it might happen once a night or so. If they are from out of town, it makes this sort of behavior even more likely. European tourists are another distinctive group of passengers that I pick up. They tend to be from countries such as England, France, Germany, Spain, Italy, Sweden, Brazil, Argentina, Korea, Japan, and so on, from all corners across the globe. They tend to have some things in common with the young professionals in that they are cooperative. They usually have more trouble speaking English and with directions on where they would like to be driven. Surprisingly, there tend to be a lot of British people who visit NYC its quite interesting to see how many there are. I usually pick up several British people a night. There are a few other distinctive types of passengers that I pick up, who are families, who usually reside in Manhattan. They are mostly forgettable. I’ll be writing a follow-up on a few other distinctive types of passengers, such as gays, blacks, and blue collar types in future posts. Next, I’ll be giving the details on the destinations I travel to at various times of the night…TBD.