Driving Miss Janey

As you might have surmised from the name of this blog, I am a bit of a diva. I like what I like. And make no bones about it. Usually with grace and dignity. Always dignity. Opinionated dignity. Or dignified opinion. Take your pick. #owningit

One of those things that this diva likes is riding in cabs, especially in the big city. Don't get me wrong --the subway is not without its charm. And atmosphere. But as one who is not completely familiar with the myriad subway lines 'round here, I often find the process a bit daunting. Heaven forbid I look like a tourist, staring at my map while bored students consume themselves with music, commuters peruse newspapers and the guy across the train from me reads porn. (True story. About the porn. Not about me with the map. Please. That's much worse than the porn in my book.)

So I like a good cab ride when distance and weather conditions necessitate it. I've got the hailing technique down. Know where to stand. When shift change is. How to give proper directions to the cabbie. The whole bit. And most rides are uneventful. Cabbie is either silent or listening to the radio or carrying on complicated phone conversations. That usually only happens to/from the airport for some reason. I jump in at point A. A few stop lights, a little speeding, some perilous lane changes and ta da -- here we are at point B. Pay the man (not being sexist -- just have never had a female cabbie. so there.), jump out, head on my way.

As with everything, though, there are exceptions.

I was headed to the hotel from the airport on my first solo city trip a couple of years ago. Saturday afternoon. Hotel was on the east side of Midtown, away from the cacophony of Times Square and the Theatre District. There was a big protest of some sort (the reason escapes me now... let me think about it) in Times Square and apparently my cabbie was very interested in it. We looped around twice so he could roll down the passenger side window and listen to the speakers. OK. Fine. I was in no rush. It was the kind of interesting I could appreciate. Once he was sufficiently finished there, we sped to 3rd Avenue, headed for my hotel. Moving so quickly that a hard stop was necessary at a red light. The car behind us found it necessary to make a hard stop as well. Right into the back of the cab. 

Let's just say that if this had been an early '70s sitcom, I would have found myself a neck brace and taken the cabbie and the dude in the car behind us to court, where John Astin would have been my attorney and Norman Fell would have been the judge and ruled in my favor for whiplash and damages incurred despite Gomez Addams' lawyering antics.

Despite the fact that I'd gotten a BAM hard enough to give me a neck-and-headache, no one got out of their cars. No words exchanged. Nothing. My response was a very loud profane word and a "DUDE!" which got no response from the cabbie. His tip = greatly reduced. His penance = unloading my very heavy luggage with no help. Hrumph.

And then there was the time I was going back to the hotel, laden with purchases from establishments (read: Macy's sale) in the Herald Square area. The cabbie was chatty, asking me where I was from and so on. Fascinated with me being from Florida. Wanted to know if I liked going to the beach. Did I get a good tan in my bikini. What was I planning to do while I was in town. How was the view from my hotel room and what floor was I on. Were there any "adult" beaches in Florida and had I been to any of them. I then placed a pretend phone call and ignored him the rest of the trip. His tip = greatly reduced. No woman with as many packages as I had has ever gotten out of a cab so quickly as I did. Paging the Guinness Book of Records people. I set a record. *shudder*

Yesterday. Ah, yesterday. Pouring rain. Took me 15 minutes easily to hail a cab. Jaywalked across 8th Avenue, Gator scarf over my head like a babushka because I'd forgotten my umbrella in the hotel room and I was not going to lose valuable time going back up to get it. Grabbed a cab out from under some douchey guy's nose. Gave the cabbie the details of my destination and settled in for the ride downtown, glad to be out of the rain and excited to be heading to an unfamiliar new spot in the city to meet friends to watch the Gator basketball game.

While I was busy text-chatting with my galpal, who was already at the bar, a long sharp horn blast startled me. We were on a side street, caught in a bit of a traffic jam at the entrance to a parking garage. The cabbie was laying on the horn and, growing impatient, decide to try and squeeze the car through an opening between vehicles. And then I heard it. That familiar, sickening sound of metal moving onto metal. Screeeeeeeech. Grossly misjudging the cab's ability to compact and squeeze through anything. the cabbie had careened sideways, fender-bendering into another car. A lovely little Fiat. Whose owner was pissed. Natch.

What happened next was like a scene out of a movie. No joke. Total cliché. Car doors opened. Irate drivers jumped out, already yelling and slamming doors. I couldn't hear what was being said after that, mostly because I was trying to disappear into the floorboard. Hiding my face, like I was working through a crowd of media outside a courtroom. But I assume there was a lot of swearing. Next thing I know, the Fiat driver was snapping pictures of the back of the cab as the cabbie hurled himself back into the car, locked the doors and threw the damn thing into drive. Let's just say it was pretty much a hit-and-run with a little drama added for flair. 

The minute I spotted my destination, I told the driver. The words "no charge" floated out his mouth and with a "no kidding" I was out the door, moving through the rain without a look back. Pass the beer.

Given all that, you'd think that the Fiat fender bender would be the most memorable cab ride I've had. But no. There's one more...

I was leaving the theatre one night, headed back to my hotel on the east side. Walked over to 8th Avenue to take advantage of a busier street and more opportunities for vacant cabs. I waved down one with a lit sign that was stopped at a red light. As the car approached the corner, an older woman with a sour expression and a big pointy umbrella tried to step in front of me and grab the cab. Unashamedly, I cut her off at the pass, opened the door and jumped in, pulling away as she told me I was number one with a hand gesture. Sometimes, it's run or be run over in this town. Literally and figuratively.

The cabbie, an older gent, noticed the Playbill in my hand and asked me what I'd seen. We chatted a bit about the show and then he asked if I'd ever seen "Jersey Boys." I replied that no, I had not yet seen it and with that, he was off, telling me about the show and about having seen Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons in their prime when he was in his prime. My driver, a native New Yorkers, had grown up in the Bronx and was part of a street corner singing group back in the day. He told me tales of dancing on Alan Freed's tv show and being there the night that Frankie Lymon danced with a "white girl," which "made people in the South upset because Frankie was colored and you know what the South was like back then." I nodded and just kept listening. He talked. I was a rapt and attentive audience. I asked him to drive around a little, if he didn't mind, so I could hear more stories. Which we did for a bit. Tales of meeting Frank (Sinatra. Please. As if there was any other.) and seeing this act and that act before they became "big," as he put it.  

When he finally pulled up to my hotel, I had tears in my eyes. What a treasured moment. What an experience. As I handed him my fare and tip, he shook my hand and told me thank you -- "thank you for listening to an old man's stories." I said no -- thank you for sharing with me. I stepped out of the cab and into the night with some stars in my eyes and a smile on my face that could not, would not move. The hotel front desk employees noticed my face and asked what had happened. 

I told them I'd just had a quintessential New York moment. Something that I -- and only I -- would experience. 

And sometimes, because of moments like that, it truly pays to be a diva.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

You seemed to have a fair share of good and bad days in riding a cab. But I guess every experience will not be complete without going through both. Anyhow, thanks for sharing some tips when riding a cab. Hailing a cab in itself can be a challenge for some. Thankfully, there are cab services these days that will come to you with one call. Though sometimes, it's nice to still be able to get a cab the old way. Cheers!

Grady Mann @ Downtown Yellow Taxi