Sunday, February 24, 2013

I want to be friends with this woman!

Strolling through the internet, I found this article.  It's a little old, but this woman is rad.  And I wish there were groups for us lady cab drivers like she had back in the day!

Go Figure!

I almost didn't go to work today because my head started to hurt and I was also feeling a bit lazy.  But I took some headache tablets and kicked my own ass into gear and made myself go to my garage.  I am expecting a very exciting package in the mail tomorrow and decided that working was going to be a good distraction from that "kid waiting for Santa" feeling.

By the time I got to my garage, my headache was fading and I had a good feeling about the day.  I got a cab right away and headed into the city.  Between Purim and the Oscars tonight, I figured it would be busy.  And it was.  I picked up my first passenger as soon as I got over the Manhattan Bridge and from there it was steady.  Someone would get out and someone else was waiting for me.

I was up on the Upper West Side when I am flagged down by a group of folks headed out to a party.  They get in and one of them says to me "Hey!  It's you again!"  Turns out I had picked up the same guy before and he remembered me.  So bizarre when things like that happen.  I had a feeling of a repeat passenger before, but she dint remember, and I wasn't 100% sure it was the same woman.  But this guy today specifically remembered me.  I only had this group in my cab for a few minutes, but they were a riot.  Definitely in a party mood, and was a lot of fun.

Things stayed steady for a while.  Then it went to hell.  I was driving up 10th Ave when I noticed that when I pressed the gas, the car struggled to accelerate.  I noticed on the dash, the fluid indicator was flashing red and the thermostat was showing the care was all the way overheating.  At this point, the car was barely moving and I almost didn't make it up the block to an open spot before I could pull over.  Once I managed to pull into a safe spot, I gave my garage a call to tell them I had broken down.  They told me they were going to send for a tow truck.  At that point, all I could do was wait.

Over 2 hours later, the tow truck showed up.  I was just thankful to get into the truck where it was warm.  Since the car broke down, I couldn't have it on and running with the heat on.  So I was pretty cold.  The truck driver was super nice, though.  Very friendly and cheerful, despite his crappy night, apparently.  We had to pick up another broken down cab on the East side and drop him off at his garage in Queens before going back to my garage.  That guy had been waiting even longer than I had.
My car up on the tow truck.
Finally, we made it back to my garage.  I thanked the truck driver and after he took my car off the truck, I filled up the tank and went into the office to settle up.  Because I only actually drove for about 3 hours, they didn't charge me for a whole shift, and only for the few hours I did get to work.  So thankfully because it was busy, I made a few bucks and my night, despite it all, wasn't a total wash.  And on the bright side, I got to come home early and snuggle some kitties.  It wasn't the night I had hoped for, especially after the flat I had the other week, but it was okay.  And hopefully the rest of my week will make up for it.  I'll stay optimistic for now.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Oogie Boogie! We Are Gonna Get You!!

So I mentioned the other day in my last post about a news story that WPIX was doing on cab drivers.  It was a three part story, so I wanted to wait until all three parts had aired before writing a post about it.

Let me start this off by saying that I first heard about this story because of the ads I heard on the radio while driving my cab.  The commercial played all day and on several different stations.  So I know it was playing in taxis across the city.  The commercial was alarmist and sensational and made it seem like all taxi drivers are crooks out to get the people of New York.  Great for a passenger who I am depending on for my pay to hear.  Honestly, the first thing I could compare the sound of this commercial to was when the KFC in the Village had a rat problem and the news sensationalized it.  In this case, I was among the rats.

As much as it pains me to share the links to the story, I don't want to be like the reporter who was very one sided.  So for journalism's sake, I am sharing these links.

Hack Job Part 1
Hack Job Part 2
Hack Job Part 3

Let me start out by saying that I get it.  Cabbies have a bad reputation for not wanting to go to the outer boroughs.  And there are certainly drivers who "cherry pick" for fares so they don't have to go to Brooklyn.  And I know that on certain nights, this is more common.  But this is not news.  I should also say that when I am out driving, I see other drivers who "cherry pick" and it pisses me off.  I don't like it.  I don't agree with it.

What I have the most issue with in these stories is how it makes all drivers out to be bad people, just trying to take advantage of our customers.  It over exaggerates the frequency of these instances making the few who do it some of the time into all of us who do it all the time.  Obviously for the people this happens to, that is what will stick in their mind rather than the dozen other times they get into a cab and have good service.  People don't remember good service in this industry.  They remember the bad because it gives them a story about 'that bad driver that one time who was oh, so awful'.

All these stories do is vilify an entire industry, including the good drivers.  It will make people think twice about taking a taxi.  And all that does is penalize the good drivers.  There are plenty of drivers who will take passengers to any destination without question.  But this story simply ignores us altogether and highlight the few bad apples for the sake of a sensational story.

In the second installment, they show TLC Commissioner David Yassky trying to hail a cab to Brooklyn during the evening rush.  First of all, some of those drivers may legitimately be "off duty" at that time because that is the shift change.  Second, as Commissioner, he should know that you should get in the car before telling the driver your destination.  I tell customers all the time who come to my window to ask me to take them somewhere to get in and THEN tell me where you want to go.  The second you ask me to take you somewhere and you aren't in my cab is the second you give me the opportunity to drive away from you(I won't, but other drivers might).

Thirdly, and this is the biggie, why is he so shocked and bewildered that any of this is going on.  You are the Commissioner!  You should know this is going on!  It is your JOB to know what is going on in the industry you are in charge of!  And honestly, he does know whats going on.  But instead of fixing the problem by doing more stings like the one shown, and catching and penalizing the drivers who are in the wrong, deterring others in the process, he issues policies like the new roof light system. 

I am very skeptical about the new roof lights.  It may make it a little more difficult for the crooked drivers to cherry pick, but I think the ones who are determined will find another way around it and carry on.  Instead, it may end up penalizing the honest drivers who as it stands now, as they are going off duty can pick up a fare if it is on their way home putting those last few dollars in their pocket which can sometimes make a day.  How it will work with the new system is yet to be seen.  Also, they say it is supposed to make it less confusing for passengers, but those who are used to the old system will have to now re-learn the lights, and for those who are on their way home, people will be less likely to stick an arm up to hail them thinking the car already has a passenger.

Honestly, I think it is a band aid on a much bigger wound.  For the sake of the honest drivers, they need to actually do something actively to catch the rule breakers instead of use a small deterrent which in the grand scheme of things, hurts the good driver.

What it all comes down to is the reporter, the Commissioner and the public of New York need to realize and acknowledge the fact that the bad drivers make up only a small portion of the taxi fleet.  There are lots of decent, honest, hard working drivers who are not out to get you.  They keep the city moving.  They put up with the police, rude passengers, traffic, bad drivers, high fees, and a million other variables just to get people where they need to go.  For some, like myself, it is a choice to join the industry.  For some, it isn't.  They may not have other job skills or connections, but they do this job with a smile and put up with all the crap that comes along with it so they can feed their families.  I do wish that the dishonest drivers weren't a fact of life, but in any industry you will have your bad apples.  But then you have lots of other shiny, bright and delicious apples.  They may not be the ones you remember, but they did their job and they did it well.
Not all drivers are bad guys! (photo courtesy of USA Today)

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Long TIme Coming

OK.  I know it has been way too long since my last actual post.  Between going out of town for helping with my sister's wedding and catching the plague that has been passed around the city recently, I didn't work so much.  I had myself convinced that I hadn't gotten sick this season because being in the cab with all the different people and all their different germs exposed me just enough to build up resistance and I was immune.  Well, I made it through most of the cold season, but then it hit me.  Hard.  It was bad.  I can't remember the last time I felt so horrible.  It was bad enough that I went to the doctor about it, and anyone who knows me, knows how big of a deal that is.  I almost never go to the doctor unless it's serious.

After making a full recovery, I worked last Sunday evening.  I got a car early on, and that was probably where my luck ended.  This car was a nightmare from the beginning.  Before I even left the garage, I had to bring the car into the shop.  The wipers didn't work and the front tire was flat.  And not just a little flat.  All the way flat.  The guys fixed it up quickly and I was on my way.
My car up on the lift before I even got to leave the garage.  This was how my day started, and how it stayed.
 I started at JFK, ready to get going when I got out of my car in the taxi lot.  The tire they had just fixed was going flat again.  I called my garage and they said they were sending someone out to me with a new tire.  By the time he got to me, I had lost my place in line.  Also, he just brought me a new tire and didn't plan on actually helping me.  So i had to leave the lot, giving up on the airport entirely, and head out with my new tire to try and find a tire shop to fix it for me.  By the time I managed to get it all fixed and make it into the city, it was 7pm.  So not only had I lost out on an airport fare, it was now on the later end of the busy time in the city.

After all of that, the city was dead.  And I mean really dead.  There was still enough snow on the ground from the snowstorm that people didn't go out.  Even with Fashion Week going on, there was nobody out.  I struggled just to be able to pay my lease and gas.  I ended up staying out way later than I normally would just to put a few measly bucks in my pocket.  Between how slow it was, dealing with the un-plowed snow on the ground and the beginnings of a migraine, it was just awful.  I haven't had a day this bad since the first day I worked ever.  It almost wasn't even worth it to work at all!
After heading to Brooklyn on a fare, I stopped in a bar to use the restroom.  They had this old timey phone in the bathroom to go along with the antique style, chain flush toilet(not pictured)
Thankfully, I worked this Sunday and Monday, and it more than made up for last week's horribleness.  Sunday night was great.  It was a holiday weekend, so Sunday was almost a bonus Saturday.  Because a lot of people didn;t have work the next day, there were lots more people out and about later in the evening.  Also working in my favor was the weather.  It was cold and windy.  And I mean really cold.  And that there is a good thing for a taxi driver.  When it is cold, but otherwise nice out, people still go out, but they don't want to walk more than a few blocks.

I found that people were pretty friendly overall the whole night.  Had more than a few who took interest in what I do, which is always cool.  I had an Australian rugby player in my car.  His team had just gotten to go to New Orleans where they had their own float at Mardi Gras before they flew up to NYC for a game.  I thought that was really neat.

At one point in the night, I got a fare out to Brooklyn.  As the guy was getting out of the cab, a small group of folks came running over to get in.  They weren't going far(just to DUMBO), but it was a fun ride.  I was offered french fries and had a good laugh with them.  Also, It's always nice to get another fare when you get taken out of the city on a busy night.
Sunset as I headed towards Times Square.  It was much prettier in person...
Last night was decent too.  Nothing too exciting to report.  It was really busy early on which was good because after 11, it got really dead.  I drove around for two hours empty at one point.  Finally I had gotten a fare to Greenpoint.  After that I didn't think it would be worth going all the way back into the city just to cruise around empty again and then have to head back home, so I drove around Greenpoint and Williamsburg for a little bit before catching a group of guys from Australia to go back to their hotel in the Park Slope area.  I took that as a sign that being that close to my garage meant it was time to head home.  Thankfully, because of how busy it was earlier in the night, the slow down of business didn't hurt me too bad, and I still had an above average night.

I have another post brewing.  While driving around yesterday, there was an ad on the radio which played many many times about a spot on the WPIX11 11 o'clock news about cabbies and basically how we try and get over on people.  I have a lot of issues with this, and will get to that a little later.  But I think that needs it's own post.  So, stay tuned.


Okay.  I know it has been forever and a day since my last post.  I just got home from another long night.  I promise promise promise, I am going to write a proper post very soon.  Stay tuned!