I read this article in the newspaper a few weeks ago about people who call up New York City’s Taxi and Limousine Commission to take the unusual step of complimenting their driver. I say unusual not because it should be unusual to commend someone for a job well done, but because, as the article even points out, most people in this city, all they ever do is complain, about everything. There are like eight million people here trying to coexist on top of one another, but if your taxi driver doesn’t feel like making the trip from midtown Manhattan to Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, it’s straight to the TLC web site where, “filing a complaint about a taxi driver” is searched for so frequently, it’s earned a spot prominently on the home page.
But compliments? They’re apparently few and far between, but they do happen. And so I decided, from now on, every time I take a cab, I’m going make a point to go to that web site and give that person a compliment. Why not? I can imagine how awesome it would be to get a random compliment from a total stranger, a “job well done” message from somebody that took the time to pass on a little positivity.
Anyway, last week I took a cab. It was fine. I’m not one of those cab passengers that gets in the car and tries bonding with his driver. Every once in a while I’ll be in a taxi with somebody else, and they’ll be all like, “Hello! How are doing today? That’s wonderful! Where are you from?” and they continue to force conversation out of this weird social hostage situation. I always feel bad because, look, there’s nowhere for this guy to go. And besides, shouldn’t you be leaving him alone to concentrate on his driving? What if he’s new to the city? Do you think he really feels like regaling you with tales about his homeland? Of course not. He wants to drop you off, as soon as possible, so he can repeat the process as many times as his shift will permit.
Like I said, this cab ride was fine. I got in the car and made sure to say, “hello.” Nothing bothers me more than when you’re forced to have an interaction with somebody, and instead of saying hello, they just start barking orders at you. Like if I were a cab driver, and some guy got in, and he just, right away was like, “Take me here,” I think it’s the equivalent of a waiter going up to a table and saying, “Hello, how’s it going today?” and the person won’t even look up, they’ll just snap, “Diet Coke.”
He was talking on his cell phone. He didn’t acknowledge me when I said hi. I wasn’t even sure he heard where I asked him to take me, but I got there, so it didn’t matter. Of course I was a little bothered about the cell phone thing, but I tried not to rush to judgment, mainly because he was talking in a foreign language, and for all I knew, he could have been on the line with his wife overseas, maybe she’s on a boat somewhere, and the boat just collided with another boat, a bigger boat, and they’re in the middle of an ocean somewhere. And it’s certain death, so right before she gets dragged down to the abyss, she calls her beloved in America, and he’s like, shit, I can’t stop working, I can’t, I’ll get fired, my mother will starve to death, all of my brothers and sisters, I can’t stop. And so he’s on the phone, telling his dying wife that they’ll be together in eternity, all while he’s trying to act natural in front of me, in front of his passenger, nervous that I’ll send in a complaint to the TLC, that he might get reprimanded, or fined.
And that’s just one potential legitimate reason for talking while driving. I could come up with at least ten more, right now. I won’t get into them, but they’re all at least somewhat valid. He dropped me off. I left a good tip. And then I went home and logged onto the city’s web site. Damn, it was hard to locate the compliment form, but I found it. And it was kind of tough actually, to come up with convincing praise, seeing as how most of what I knew about this cab driver, it wasn’t based on any actual relationship with him, but mainly a result of my wild imagination, me dreaming up various reasons as to why he’s in this country, why he’s driving a cab, again, why he was on his cell phone.
I don’t remember what I wrote exactly, because it was one of those form boxes on the web site, and I didn’t copy and paste it, and so once I submitted it, that was it, it was gone. And then like a week later I got an email from the TLC, it said, “Thank you for contacting the TLC. Your complaint has been filed, and disciplinary action will be taken immediately.”
I was just like, did I leave a complaint? I thought I concocted this whole story about him stopping on the bridge to help another motorist change a flat tire. And I wrote that he was very apologetic, to me, but I said, hey man, it’s cool, you go do what you got to do, and he was cool about it too, like he turned off the meter while he was helping out, and then when we finally got going again, he continued to apologize, but I was like, no man, it’s good, I get it, you’re a good guy, and then he reached over into the glove compartment and took out a pack of these chips, they were definitely foreign, like maybe he bought them at some ethnic grocery store, but I accepted them, they weren’t bad, they were crunchy, interesting flavors. Again, I don’t remember the specifics of exactly what I wrote, but I don’t know how the TLC would’ve misinterpreted anything that I said as a complaint, as a reason to take disciplinary actions. Fucked up, right?