Tag Archives: Taxi


I was in Midtown today when this old guy pushed open the doors of a bank and yelled out, “Taxi!” at a line of cars on East 53rd Street. It was like something out of a movie or a TV show about New York. It’s one of those things, “Taxi!” that you never see in real life, but that’s everywhere in popular culture. You want to hail a cab? Just shout out the word taxi to the skies and hopefully the livery gods will supply you with a ride.


I turned my head, he was old, I already said that, but he seemed to know what he was doing. I’m saying this as opposed to tourists or out-of-towners, because sure, maybe I could expect a group of people waiting on the sidewalk, too nervous to step out into the lane to flag down a cab, and so they’re just kind of yelling out, “Taxi?” totally unsure of themselves.

But this guy was all business. I’m not saying it worked. But it didn’t not work … what I mean is, he walked out of the bank, he yell out “Taxi!” but the line of cars he approached was idling at a red light. And even if it were green, traffic at this time of day was at a standstill. He had his pick of like four or five empty cabs, and so he just walked up to one.

What was he going for? Because I’ve always thought about this, every time I’ve watched the main character in a New York themed TV show scream out “Taxi!” I’m like, do you really think that the driver can hear you? Do you think he’s out listening for fares? No, you have to flag down a ride. There’s so much noise in the city, it’s really hard for me to believe that, regardless of how loud your voice is, you’ll have any luck in penetrating the closed doors of a car just by yelling.

Maybe he was just announcing his intentions to everybody else, a succinct way of warning off any would-be cab-goers, “I’m going to be the one taking a taxi, and so if anybody else was thinking about doing the same thing, that’s fine, but you have to wait until I’m in a cab first.”

What really bugs me is that, even though I don’t think he accomplished anything by shouting it out, I can’t shake the idea that his immediate securing of a car established in his head this idea that “Taxi!” somehow equals a ride. Listen dude, you could have shouted whatever you wanted, you could have just let out a huge, “Bagel!” and then stepped inside that unlocked backseat door, but I’m almost positive that the two events would be unrelated.

It just bothers me, this idea that you can just go through life shouting out your desires in one-word barks. It’s like when I’m waiting tables and I go up to a new group of people, and before I even have a chance to say hello, someone will just throw “Diet Coke!” at me. And what am I going to do? You want a Diet Coke? Great. I guess I’ll go and get you one.

Seriously, I’ve seen people talk to their iPhones with more respect than they do the people serving them food, or shuttling them from point A to point B. It’s like, “Siri, where can I find a good Chinese restaurant around here?” Come on, that should be the only acceptable situation in which you can skip the pleasantries, ignore the pleases and thank yous and verbs.

This guy said “Taxi!” and got into a cab, and it was so early in the morning, I looked around at the rest of the city, hoping I’d meet the confused gaze of at least one other person, we’d lock eyes and we wouldn’t have to say anything, we’d just have that really confused, “Can you believe that guy?” face on, our shoulders shrugged up almost all the way to our foreheads, and even though I said we wouldn’t have to say anything, I’d probably mouth out something, like an exaggerated, “Taxi? Did that guy really just say ‘taxi?’” to which the other person would respond with a silent, “I know, right?”

Vacation Part Three: Coming Home

I’m back from vacation. I talked about going away, about swimming, and now, well, there’s really not much left to say. We spent the whole day traveling and all I want to do now is go to sleep. But I’m determined to write something.

The whole day was all about the actual travel, getting from one place to another place. And I always think, it shouldn’t really have to be this way. I mean, a flight from New York to Puerto Rico only takes about four hours. That’s nothing. That’s not even half of a workday. But our whole system of travel, of airplane travel, yes, historically speaking it’s unbelievable that human beings have access to pretty much anywhere on the planet. But wasting an entire day on only a four-hour flight is a little crazy.

Today was definitely a little crazy. We wanted to check out one last Puerto Rican restaurant before we headed home. And we planned it out so we should have been able to. But as soon as we got in the taxi from the hotel, the driver started chatting us up. “How’s it going? Where are you visiting from? How long were you here?”

I don’t mind chitchat. I don’t necessarily prefer it, but I’ll always engage in a conversation. If I don’t have anything to say, I’m an expert at maintaining eye contact, putting on all of the appropriate facial expressions, throwing in stuff like, “Really? Huh. Wow. No way,” at perfectly spaced intervals to trick the conversationalist into thinking I’m an active participant.

But again, there’s a limit. The conversation has to be somewhat normal. This guy’s questions started getting a little too specific, slightly veering off the normal Q&A route. “What did you like about Puerto Rico?” What did I like? What am I going to say? “I liked the weather. I liked the people. I liked the food.” Bingo, that’s what he was looking for.

“Oh you like Puerto Rican food? I don’t. Not anymore. You see, I’m a vegan, I switched to a vegan diet about four years ago. I only eat potatoes, liquid yeast, string beans …” and this guy starts telling me his whole diet, how it cures every disease, how he’s going to outlive all of his friends and family members.

And it got weirder. The food talk lead to a one-sided conversation about genetically modified food, about the evils of the food conglomerate Monsanto, how they’re teaming up with the oil companies to keep us all enslaved. He told me to take out my phone so I could look up these documentaries that he kept mentioning every other second. I didn’t know what to do, so I just took it out and pantomimed the hand motions.

It was taking all of my effort just to act like I wasn’t in the middle of one of the craziest conversations of my life. He was going off about food, about aliens, about the second coming of Christ. Not knowing what else to do, I was still clinging to my guns, “Really? Wow. That’s unbelievable. Huh,” until finally he made a turn off the highway and there we were, right in front of the airport.

“Hey man, why are we at the airport? What about that restaurant?” and he kind of smiled, “Oh yeah, sorry guys, I guess I got a little caught up in our chat. Hold on, I’ll turn around,” and he made a u-turn, got back on the highway, and it was like bumper-to-bumper traffic. While we thought we had the whole day planned out by the minute, first we already lost like twenty minutes heading to the airport, and now we were supposed to wait in traffic, eat lunch, find another cab, and make it back in time to catch our flight?

“So where was I? You know Jesus only ate potatoes, in fact …” and I looked to my wife like, we can’t do this, we’re not going to be able to get lunch. “Hey buddy,” I told him, “look, I don’t think we’re going to have time for lunch anymore. You’ve got to take us back to the airport.”

He got quiet. “Now you’re telling me?”

Like this was all my fault. He was genuinely pissed off. “Yeah man, sorry, I don’t know what to tell you.”

And we sat there in awkward silence as the car crawled toward the nearest exit, we got off the highway, back on in the opposite direction, and there we were. I couldn’t believe it. Maybe I was acting too captivated by this guy’s theories? Maybe he thought he finally found a kindred spirit in all things insane? And then when I made him do that double u-turn, he realized that I didn’t really care?

I should have been like, don’t worry about the restaurant, or lunch, or even the flight. Please, continue, I want to hear more about how Monsanto hates the fact that you’re a vegan, or why weather patterns are really a trick played by extraterrestrials to keep us from seeing their ships fly overhead.

And it’s all because, what, because I have to be at the airport three hours before a flight? We’ve got to wait on the tarmac for an hour just so we can take off? And then stand around at JFK for another hour before that luggage conveyor belt even kicks into gear? More waiting. Another cab. More traffic. All of the sudden it’s midnight. Why am I so tired? How could a whole day have passed and I didn’t get a chance to eat anything? Again, I think about people travelling along a dirt road in a covered wagon, everybody coughing and wheezing with typhoid and dysentery, so yeah, I’m very, very spoiled. But come on, why does a four-hour plane ride have to be such a huge deal?

My compliments to the driver

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?

A bunch of movie reviews

I really don’t like Forrest Gump. I think it’s such a cheap trick, making basically this giant nostalgia video montage of pop culture and Americana. Look everybody, it’s the sixties! And now over here, it’s the seventies! And the eighties! Remember that? Remember the Beatles? Yeah? Remember Vietnam?

I didn’t lake Saving Private Ryan either. Come on. And then what, he’s an old man at the end? Like the whole thing was a dream? Please. How do I know that it ever really happened? Old people have notoriously bad memories. You don’t think that he didn’t spice it up over the years for dramatic effect? I do stuff like that all the time. I think about something that happened to me two years ago, and then I’ll think of it again, and I’ll be bored. It’s like watching the same episode of TV over and over again. So I add new stuff. That’s what’s going on in Saving Private Ryan. Or he could have been crazy.

I hated Toy Story. What kind of a parent gets their kid some lame-o cowboy action figure? When I was a little kid, it was WWF action figures, or Ghostbusters action figures, or superheroes. Not just some generic cowboy. And then you pull that rope and he’s like “Yee-haw!” right? What kind of a name is Woody? At least Buzz Lightyear had some sort of a back story, a cool marketing trick that made me believe kids would actually want to own one. But a cowboy? I already said it. Lame.

You know which other three hours of my life I’ll never get back? That time I went to see Castaway. Honestly, I thought the volleyball was the best part of that whole movie. It was definitely the best actor. You could actually see the pain on its face as it was forced to endure all of those mind numbingly boring years stranded on the island. It got to the point where the ball finally killed itself, drifted off to the sea, just to get away from that wacko. I actually would have much preferred a movie with just the volleyball, sitting there, no other actors, no dialogue, nothing. That would have been better than Castaway.

Hold on. I just started thinking about Apollo 13 and I had to suppress the vomit sensation growing in the back of my mouth. It’s just lazy, you’re going to make a movie about space, about space travel, about the moon, and you pick the one mission where they screw it up so badly they don’t even get to land. What’s next, a movie about the Challenger explosion? Way to applaud failure. It’s like that whole film should have been condensed to a blooper reel that played at the end of a real movie about a space flight that actually succeeded. And why go historical? What’s wrong with sci-fi? I probably would’ve much rather just seen another Star Trek movie. Is it too late to call up the movie theater and demand a refund?

You ever see that movie Big? Do me a favor. Do yourself a favor. If you haven’t seen it, don’t. It’s two hours of a grown man acting like he’s a little kid. Talk about boring. It’s just encouraging everyone to act like an idiot. They should make movies about little kids that act like adults. That way there’s no screaming or crying or throwing temper tantrums or being spoiled little babies. And we should force our children to watch this movie, so they learn how to behave.

The other day I was channel surfing, and this one channel was playing Splash. Mermaid movies? Give me a break. So I flipped the channel. The Money Pit. Fantastic. Let’s watch some stupid married couple bicker over home-improvement projects gone bad. Flipped the channel again. I didn’t even wait for the image to pop up. The cable box told me it was some movie called Joe vs. the Volcano. Nice try cable TV. Trying to get me to watch the unwatchable.

I thought, forget it, I’ll just watch a sitcom, something classic, a sure thing. I turned on one of those repeat channels and Taxi was on. Perfect. The episode had some larger story, but this one scene revolved around Jim, the coked out bum that … well, did that guy drive taxis? That seems a little dangerous. Anyway, they did a flashback to his college days, how he was really smart, a genius, but then some idiot roommate made him eat a pot brownie and he instantly turned into a junkie. It was the worst. Not the story, but the actor, the nobody that they got to play the roommate. What a terrible casting decision. I know it was only a one minute role, if that, but come on, have some respect for the show. That no talent hack ruined an otherwise great episode.