Thursday, December 20, 2012

Hunker Down. It's a Long One!

I realize I did not write last week.  And I meant to but then I got super lazy and never got around to it.  So now I am going to write a double post.  So buckle down.
Last week I worked Sunday and Monday.  Sunday was okay, but nothing super amazing happened.  Monday was a good night.  I was amazed that when I got to the garage at around 2pm, the dispatch guy gave me a cab right away.  That has never happened.  I was outta there by 2:15 and headed right to JFK. 
A drizzly day waiting at JFK
At JFK, I picked up a very sweet English couple who had spent the last few months traveling all around the world.  They were headed to a hotel in Park Slope.  We had a nice ride talking about their travels and things for them to do in their few days in New York.  They were basically the people I want to be when I get to their age.  And by the time I normally start working I already had a nice chunk o’ change in my pocket and was in a great location to quickly get to the city when everyone else was going off duty. 
Tom's Restaurant, AKA the Seinfeld Diner
Things were busy all night.  I didn’t even make my usual stalking rounds of the West Village, which I do when I am desperate later at night and haven’t had a passenger for a while.  It seemed like whenever I let a passenger out, someone else would be waiting for a car.  And in the world of taxi driving, that’s never a bad thing.
Holiday lighted Dinosaurs in front of the Museum of Natural Histoy
At one point in the evening, I picked up a couple on St Marks and they wanted to go to Roosevelt Island.  This was exciting to me because I had never driven there before.  They were apologetic about making me go there, but I told them no sweat!  It would be an adventure and as long as they could navigate me, we would have no problem.  They were really sweet too and we had a nice conversation the whole way.  When we got to Roosevelt Island, they told me I was the nicest cabbie they had ever had.  And that is always nice to hear.

After that I picked up a group also on St Marks to go to Brooklyn.  They were all clearly having a good night and were a fun ride.  We had a fun trip and after the first stop on their journey, my front seat buddy stayed up front with me.  They also told me I was the most fun cab ride home they had ever had.
Holiday window displays
Overall I had a blast last Monday.  It was a good, busy night and everyone I had in my cab was really awesome and friendly.  That is really all I can ask for in a good night.  The taxi gods smiled on me.  OH!  And I also think I may have seen Adam Richman(from Man Vs. Food) on 1st ave.  I am not 100% sure it was him since he has one of those faces that looks like other people too.  But in my mind, I am saying it was him.

I wanted to work on Tuesday and got to my garage at my usual time and waited and waited, but eventually 6pm rolled around and I didn’t have a cab, so I took my license back from the dispatcher and went home. I hate when that happens, and it doesn’t happen often, but it is disappointing.
My garage's dispatch windows.  A driver is settling up at the end of his shift.  I was not so lucky that day.
In between working last week and this week I got something cool, which is also relevant to this blog.  For those who don’t know already, I started hooping(like hula hoops) over the summer and am currently taking a class.  I commissioned a new hoop from my teacher and it is a taxi hoop!  So cool!  It is a smaller hoop than my first one and I am still not quite ready to do most hoping with it, but I can’t wait till I become a little more proficient so I can hoop with it all the time!

My new taxi hoop!  I am so in love with it!
This week, I worked Monday and Tuesday nights. I had been in a funk for a few days.  It was a combination of not feeling well physically, and also just general feeling down and gloomy.  But I got my cab on Monday, and it didn’t take long until I felt better.  I really think it speaks to how much I enjoy what I do for a living when I can be feeling down in the dumps and then go to work and feel better and lift my mood. 

Monday was okay.  The weather was not so great so that made driving conditions not so great.  I did have a moment with one of my passengers.  We were driving up Park Ave and came to a red light in front of  St. Bart’s Church.  There were hundreds of carolers on the steps singing Christmas songs.  My passenger rolled down his window to listen, and I turned off the radio and rolled down my windows as well.  It was a nice break from the hustle of rush hour in the city. 

I should point out that in the past few years when I was working retail, I was a bit of a Scrooge when in came to the holidays.  This time of year is hell when you work retail.  Being forced to work longer hours, on the holidays themselves, and in much busier conditions.  And customers are hell when you work retail during the holidays.  Nothing you can do or say is going to make them less awful.  It is just a dreadful time of year for the retail employee and I stopped enjoying it.  Driving the cab has given me a little of the holiday spirit back.  Because I have the freedom to work when I want to, I know I won’t be suckered into working on Christmas Eve or New Years day.  And that makes a big difference.  Also, driving around the city, I get to see all the pretty lights and decorations and actually enjoy looking at them instead of seeing them as a reminder of the hate I have for my job.  And most of all, my customers are not horrible!  Instead of hearing complaints as to why the thing they want to buy is out of stock or whatever it is, I get to hear about people’s lovely holiday parties and get told to have a happy holiday and some even are more generous with tips, too.  So, this year, I am less keen to say “bah humbug” and enjoying the season a little more.
It is no Rockefeller tree, but the Gramercy Park tree is pretty.
Back to where we were… Ah, yes!  Monday!  So, the weather on Monday was crappy, but when I left the garage I had checked my wipers and they seemed okay.  Once it got darker though and started raining more, I learned how crappy they were.  The wiper blades themselves were awful.  Streaky as Hell.  I tried cleaning them, but it didn’t help.  Also, as I learned later in the evening when I really needed them, the wiper mechanism was bad.  It wouldn’t make them go on the fast speed.  When I tried to put the wipers on high, they would seize up, so I could only put them on a slower speed, which doesn’t help when it is pouring.  Eventually, I couldn’t see a thing and had to give up.  I was back at my garage by 1am.  Much earlier than usual.  And it was a shame, too!  I was actually doing really well that night and could have made a whole lot more money if I had stayed out the rest of the shift. 
After the rain, there is a rainbow(taken at my garage after a thunderstorm
 Tuesday was another good night.  I realized that all the days I didn’t get a cab were Tuesdays, so I made it a point to get to the garage earlier.  It paid off because I actually got a cab.  It was of course, the jalopy of the garage otherwise known as the standby vehicle.  The seat was uncomfortable and wouldn’t adjust to where I wanted it to go.  The gas gauge worked only some of the time.  There was only one working lighter outlet(I like to have two.  One for my GPS and one for my phone).  That one isn’t a total disaster, but not ideal.  The worst part was the radio was busted.  So I had to sit in silence all night.  That was no fun.  Aside from talking to passengers, the only other sound in the cab was the damn screen in the back, which for some reason played a Dior commercial a million times, each trip.  Seriously.  I hate this commercial now.  I hate all things Dior now! Seriously.
After a brief thunderstorm as I left the garage on Tuesday, the sky was stunning and so was this view down Eastern Parkway.
 Thankful to get any car at all though, I headed right into the city.  And it was hopping all night.    There was also traffic everywhere, even late into the night.  I usually try to stick to uptown earlier in the evening because it is busy for a cab, but also keeps me away from the nightmare that is Midtown around rush hour.  Last night I couldn’t maintain my status uptown.  I kept getting pulled back into the middle of Manhattan.  And it was a mess everywhere.  I brought a couple to as close as I could get to Radio City for the Christmas Spectacular, but it is such a nightmare around there because of the tree in Rockefeller Center.  Fifth ave was a parking lot.  You can’t drive on 49th or 50th streets because of the tree.  You can’t make any turns off of 5th anywhere near the tree.  It is just horrible.  And anytime I would get away from there, it seemed like I would get thrown back into the thick of things.  The upside of all this was at least there were plenty of customers to go around.  And even with the traffic, most(although not all, but that is a different post) people were understanding and in general, were in good moods even with the cluster-fluffle that was Midtown.
The Brooklyn Museum and an amazing sky
 At one point when I had gotten away from Midtown, I get hailed by a younger woman on 2nd ave.  She immediately hops into my front passenger seat, which is unusual, but she was super nice and we had a fun ride into Greenpoint, Brooklyn.  Even when I didn’t know exactly how to get to her destination, she was patient while I looked it up and appreciative that I wasn’t trying to take her for a ride like another cabbie whose taxi she had gotten out of before hailing me.  We had a great conversation the whole way, including our discussion of the Roscoe Diner which she had eaten at many many times and for me is a summer staple since I spend my summers in Roscoe. 
View down Flatbush Ave from my taxi.  I love that building(Williamsburg Savings Bank)
 After dropping her off, I made my way back through Greenpoint and Williamsburg to get back to the bridge and back to Manhattan.  When I was just a few blocks from the bridge, a girl hails me.  I had my “off duty” lights on, so she said she wasn’t going far.  I drove her down Broadway to her destination and as she is getting out, an older gentleman comes over to the cab and asks if I was available.  I told him to hop in and then we rode all the way to the depths of East New York.  For those who are unfamiliar, this is part of the far reaches of Brooklyn.  Not only is it deep into Brooklyn, but also it is a not so great part of it either.  So I knew I wouldn’t be getting a fare back into the city. After dropping him off there(and no tip!), I locked my doors and booted it back to Manhattan.

From there, things slowed down a little, but not too bad.  And the fares I did manage to get were mostly longer, so not bad at all.  My last fare of the night I picked up while cruising Alphabet City.  Usually around there you get fares to Brooklyn or Queens that late at night.  But this one was to 112th street.  Not ideal, but it was all right. And I made a new personal record.  We drove up 1st Ave the whole way uptown.  From Houston to 109th, we did not hit a single red light.  109 blocks without stopping is a pretty cool thing to do.  I told my passenger about this being a record setting ride and he was excited to have been a part of it.  It was a nice way to end my night.  After that I headed downtown without picking up any fares so I headed home to the garage, this time at the more normal time of about 3:30am. 
One last photo looking down Flatbush Ave, this time with the new Barclay's Center.  It's prettier at night.
 Phew!  That was quite a post.  Hope I didn’t lose anyone.  So much to take in at one go.  This is why I need to not be lazy about posting.  I promise.  It won’t happen again(until it does). That is, unless the world ends in another day, in which case, it has been a blast!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

It's My Party and i'll Drive If I Want To

I worked on Monday night, which happened to be the eve of my birthday(and after midnight, WAS my birthday).  I was having a rough start to the day, but was hopeful that things would turn around.  I started out at JFK.  They had no wait and I was dispatched to Terminal 5(Jet Blue) right away.  I get there and there is a line of cabs that isn't moving.  No passengers.  After waiting for a little while, they realized they dispatched cabs to a terminal where they weren't needed and they sent us off to different terminals.  So I finally was able to pick up a passenger and was on my way to Manhattan.  Of course, there was traffic on the Van Wyck.

Once making it to Manhattan, things were pretty steady for a while.  To the point where I had to actually go 'off duty' because I had to use the restroom and every time I would try and head to someplace I knew I could stop, I would get hailed.  After a much needed pit stop, I was able to continue.

Monday night was interesting in that I had several trips to up-uptown.  Over the course of my few months of driving, I have gone above 110th st only a few times.  On Monday, it was 4.  And one of them was waaaaaaayyyyy up there, near 180th st.  I just found that interesting.

A little later, I had picked up a group of Chilean tourists on Spring st.  They were very nice and wanted to chat the whole way.  It came up in the conversation that it was almost my birthday, and they serenaded me with a boisterous rendition of "CumpleaƱos Feliz".  And they gave me a nice birthday tip. 

In addition to going uptown several times, I also had several trips into Brooklyn.  One was pretty deep into Brooklyn, so that equaled a nice fare, and a nice tip.  The woman got in my cab after another cab wouldn't take her because he didn't know how to get there(passengers, if your cabbie tells you this, he is probably lying.  We are required to carry maps, and almost all of us have a GPS on our phones at the very least if not an actual GPS).  Where she was going was an easy ting to find too since it was on Atlantic ave, even if it was farther down.  She was also very excited to have a female driver too, and she called someone almost right away to tell them how neat it was.

It was a pretty easy going night, and after making a respectable amount, i got a fare into Bushwick.  I could have gone back into Manhattan after that and maybe gotten another fare or two, but it was late enough and I was happy with my take for the evening, so I decided to call it a slightly early night.
I was behind these police horses.  The horse on the left seemed mad about something.  He kept kicking the back of the trailer, enough to leave some dents where ke made contact.