Sunday, May 17, 2015

A Comedy of Errors

Today is a weekend night in May of 2015. Its nice and warm out, which means people will be outdoors enjoying the summer since its finally turned warm in NYC after a long cold wintertime. Tonight's shift was quite a ride with all sorts of bad and crazy things happening. The late afternoon started out with a few mid-day rides wading through horrendous traffic that plagues Manhattan's midtown neighborhood during the day. One girl road from lower 6th avenue to 56th and 8th avenue in about 30 minutes or so costing her about $30 US dollars. After a few of these I took somebody to Broome St, then turned around and expected to head up Allen Street back towards midtown then I spotted a young lady with a suitcase walking near the bus depot area near Delancey I passed her but she waved me away then I spotted a young  male with a big bag hailing me down and I knew this might be trouble....

The reason being, is he looked a bit rough around the edges, like somebody who might have trouble paying the fare. I stopped and asked him where he was going. He said just over the Manhattan bridge into Brooklyn. Against my better judgment, I stopped and let him inside the cab. He lied, we headed near Eastern Parkway which was quite aways into Brooklyn. I was a bit afraid of what might happen once we got that far into Brooklyn. It was near rush hour and there was some traffic on Flatbush Avenue into Brooklyn. As we drove he made a few phone calls and got a window into his life. He said he was on the way back from Virginia on a bus that was two hours late. Routinely out of town buses drop passengers in Chinatown after cheap fare trips. He said he was a DJ and had a job down there. I asked him a few questions about his career as a DJ just to seem friendly. He then made a call about getting his laptop fixed at Apple because one of his friends had accidentally plugged in a phone charger to his laptop and it shorted the battery out. He was repeatedly discussing how to schedule getting the laptop fixed in the midst of the other things he needed to get done. He seemed busy. Once we finally arrived to the Prospect Park area of Brooklyn which is an area that is heavily African American, he told me that he would swipe his credit card into the machine.  The fare came to $26 he swiped his card and it said “declined, stolen credit card!” The first time such a thing has happened to me, although ive had plenty of CC payment declines for other reasons. He then said “shit!” and said ive got the cash. He gave me $26 in cash and I quickly tested the money to see if it was real, it was! I was relived to get rid of this criminal. Welcome to the ghetto.

Next up I parked my car and locked the doors and then determined it might be easier to go to JFK airport as opposed to heading back to Manhattan in 20 mins worth of traffic. I then proceeded to drive through the worst parts of Brooklyn and Queens, low income high crime hoods, with my meter off! I arrived at JFK to see the holding lot was not that full which was a relief it would be a short wait time. I was dispatched to Terminal 8 using the new paperless automated dispatch system at JFK. Once I showed up at the terminal I attempted to pass another cabbie who had pulled up short of an intersection behind the taxi line near the passenger stand. He was an American guy and pulled up alongside me and said “hey what the hell are you doing?” “You must be on drugs!” He got mad. I suggested calmly that when the line moved he could pass me. He sat next to me and then another car needed to get past so I reversed my cab and let the other car go by. The taxi dispatcher then motioned for us to go away and circle around the airport and come back in a loop. I then proceeded to back all the way up while the other crazy American cabbie was yelling at me still! Eventually he gave up harassing me and went in line, completely ignoring me after our initial problem, oops! From here I got an Asian girl from Seattle going to a hotel on the west side of Midtown. Because of traffic concerns I went over the Triboro bridge and then across the UES, down the west side highway and ended up on 53rd and 11th Avenue south. 

After this ride I got a weird gay dude headed across town. Being gay was not the problem, however, there were certain things I could tell about this guy you might want to watch out for. What I mean is he fits into certain categories in my taxi cab passenger typology profile. He was speaking to me in a gruff manner and was sometimes ignoring some of the stuff I said -  more than likely he's a native NYer and these guys can be less than friendly or they can be friendly, it just depends. One thing I noticed is that when a passenger chooses to ignore some of the stuff you say its better to just avoid talking to them, unlike us friendly southerners or tourists who like conversations. Also he was more towards middle aged. The age tells me that he probably is again not friendly with strangers and may have entered the grumpy attitude period. Better just to drive him where he wants to go and get the money. We drove there over to the east side,  across 23rd St to South St, to an art exhibit.

After we arrive I discharge him and I get a group of young professionals headed back to Houston Street, as I'm going towards there I have an idiot copper from the NYPD pulls me over. I was surprised because I was not going that fast. He told me I had cut off a family and a stroller – not true. I had seen them in the crosswalk but they were in the median area so I passed them doing about 15 MPH. I wonder if the NYPD has a ticket blitz this weekend. The same thing happened about the same time last summer. He told me ive got to slow down but I was really only doing about 15 MPH? I hardly believed what this guy had told me. He seemed like a foreigner. Now ill have to hire a traffic attorney to take care of this problem for me – not good! After the cop let me go I proceeded to drop these guys on Houston near Allen Street on the Lower East Side. Now normally the cops don't bother me too much but as you can see tonight's shift was quite a minefield of characters.

I dropped this group off on the lower east side, then I made a u-turn and headed uptown. I picked up a number of different groups of European and American tourists and carted them from A to B around to various  attractions, and also made a few short neighborhood trips. Darkness fell then I began to pick up girls and groups headed out for the night. I picked up two Albanian chicks wearing skirts and heels and dropped them on 10th Avenue and I picked up a group of blonde ladies and drove them down 2nd Avenue.

Later on into a weekend night is when the passengers start to get in drunk. I dropped somebody downtown on Water Street then I had this attractive Jewish girl get in and start to mumble – this was a funny one. I asked her where she wanted to go she stuttered “midtown-tunnel” uhhhh “FDR” I said what? Uptown? She mumbled again “Broadway with Church?” Then finally she said “BQE” and I said huh what? You want to go to Queens? She said no. Then after a few minutes she said “normally I get into a cab and the driver drives me where I want to go and I said “but miss, you never told me where I should be driving to?” you gave me 5 destinations none of which are intersections.” With this she said “pullover im getting out” she paid me $5 then left. LMAO!

I picked up a few more tourists and dropped somebody at a hotel on upper 7th Avenue in the 50s, then headed south into times Square. Here I stopped for two well dressed ladies in front of a strip club, they got in and said Queens through the midtown tunnel, this was a good fare, however as soon as they said that some drunk dude opened a door in front of my van cab and I ran into it and ripped the door off its hinges. Too bad, that sucked. I stopped got out and asked the driver if the door was okay. The hinges were busted however. The accident did not do any damage to my van cab but a scratch. I then went back to the two attractive female passengers and told them to hang on a few moments but I turned around and see they had bolted from my cab. However the good news is the other driver blamed the drunk guy for ruining his door and told me I could get lost since it wasn't really my fault anyway. I drove away fast so as not to get an accident report.

Thank god I escaped from that and drove on finding some more fares before the end of the night, mostly drunks. I had a dude who needed to go across 14th, then I had a very cute young lady from Livingston, NJ who was trashed. After her I got some film dude with long hair who was cool, worked on independent films. Later, I stopped by the meat packing district and got some club goers, something I do almost every night that I drive, once the clubs close around 3 or 4am. My last fare was two FIT college girls with fake Ids. They told me a few things about their lives as students then I hightailed it back to the garage, jumped on the subway and hit the sack about 530am to end a weekend night.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Human Behavior in Taxi Driving

Today is the first day of May, 2015. I am still driving the taxi but have been neglectful in publishing new blog posts about my and my passengers antics behind the wheel. So glad winter's over and spring has sprung in 2015. I have been meaning to write a post on the general behavior of taxi passengers and probably the most important lesson I have learned as a cab driver. From reading my blog it might seem as though there's lots of odd behavior from my passengers but the truth is there's much more stereotypes in human behavior than you might imagine. Most passengers behave in a pretty mundane and stereotypical manner although some do give me some insights into their lives, while hardly anyone asks me what I'm doing behind the wheel of a yellow cab as a white college educated guy. You might have read a previous blog post in which i detailed the various groups of people i see on a regular basis: Typical Night of Taxi Driving I wrote this post in 2011 and the stereotypes tend to persist throughout time.

If anyone will be giving me a little bit of trouble I expect it to come from the middle aged complainer variety - as previously described. One general rule of thumb is that the older and uglier a person looks, and the more disheveled, the more likely they are to have a problem with me or themselves or the TLC, or whoever they meet - better to mind your Ps and Qs with these guys... more information on this sort of thing to come....

The most business like are the just as you might expect the business men, the guys who get in dressed in business attire running to LGA for a biz meeting, never complain never have too much to say, pay a generous tip, get a receipt and leave. These are good guys if you want to make a buck behind the wheel.
Next up, there's always a lot of European tourists and when I say a lot I mean it. New York City is a dumping ground for Europeans, Brits, Irish, Scots, Italians, lots of French, Brazilians, Japanese, and Chinese. This past week I picked up a guy from Naples, Italy, nice guy with dark olive skin quite a talker, then two girls from Argentina with dark hair, a girl from Mexico on vacation, and some Swedish guys all in the same shift. Normally, they go back and forth to JFK airport. Its quite en vogue for foreigners to take a vacation in NYC, but doesn't anyone else visit? It seems as though the streams of foreigners will never end.

Next up, theres the young girls and guys i.e. white, good jobs, and below age 30 or so.... looking to go out in the city and get their freak on bar hopping. These sort of behavior starts around maybe 7pm or so. Normally they chit chat on their cells with their friends - having the most mundane sorts of conversations and this sort of thing just never ends but goes on throughout the entire night, its like "yes, we will see you at Wicked Willies on Bleecker with jimmy and susie! cant wait! hehehehe!" The weekends contain a lot more of these types of people whereas the weeknights are much more mundane; and let me tell you, the conversations are about as mundane and boring as you might imagine, most of the time....

One odd situation I found myself in a few years ago... I was driving around one Saturday night about 11pm or so, and I picked up a middle-aged lady on the right side of Second Avenue headed south. I could tell from the look of her that she might be trouble because she had a stern look on her face...she was standing in a sea of young people looking to pahtay. She had asked to go south to Third Ave and i believe 8th st or so. I knew something was a miss ...I turned on 13th i believe it was because 9th st has more traffic this time of night and of course she yells at me, I told you to turn on 9th .... no she never told me where to turn!!! or something like this, obviously her advice was wrong bc theres a ton of congestion on 2nd avenue below 13th, but this is just the sort of behavior one might expect from a middle -aged complainer - claiming some mistake that exists but does not really...This sort of behavior might also be considered the norm for some people in NYC in the way they treat customer service representatives. As a southerner, this isn't how we treat others and it just seems to be in a word odd.... but yet stereotypical for NYC its called NYC rudeness. just looking to get your goat.... the point im trying to get at, is that the other passengers out that night could've cared less about the taxi ride and were more concerned about partying down for the night....

The point being, the older and richer the person is the more likely they are to exhibit this sort of behavior, watch out for those guys wearing tuxedos on 5th Avenue and having lunch at the New York Athletic club, they might get your goat.

On the flip side of that coin are the ghetto guys who live in the projects. Watch out! They might hand you a counterfeit $20 or $50 or rip you off....and one way to tell is by how they look. If they can't afford the clothes or they missing a few teeth more than likely they gonna have a problem with paying a taxi fare. A few weeks ago I had a passenger, looking a bit on the poor side, a male riding with his  girlfriend. There was honestly no way for me to avoid passing him because he was right in front of another passenger who i had just discharged. Had I been cruising in an open area theres a chance I might have illegally turned him down. Anywho he gets in around the Wall Street area, and wants to go to midtown and of course he starts by complaining about the traffic, which was slammed this afternoon because of rush hour. He goes on about hows hes a native NYer and doesnt wanna be ripped by my wasting time in traffic. I said id offer him a discount but I knew this might not end well for me and thats just how things go sometimes. By the time we get upto the mid 50s on the east side the meter is at $38, the guy hands me a $20 and I'm getting ripped for half the fare! the point being I saw this coming ahead of time!