Sunday, January 13, 2013

The Other Side of the Partition

Earlier today I had a thing I was attending in Manhattan.  It was all the way over by the East River, so instead of walking a million blocks or changing trains and buses a million times, I decided to take the subway to Union Square and then hop a taxi. 

I forgot what time of day it was, but it was 4pm, aka shift change.  So I was rather pleased when I  crossed Park Ave and a empty taxi was there at the light.  I hopped in and was delighted to have such an awesome driver.  First off, he knew where I had to go(which I will be honest, if someone got in my cab and gave me this address, I wouldn't have).  But this guy was a character!  Totally old school New York.  And he was also an actor, complete with his head shot taped to the back of the partition.  Totally fantastic. 

I confessed to also being a driver and we had a nice chat about driving.  The good and the bad.  Like me, he only drove part time.  He said he only worked a double shift on Sundays.  Neither of us have the energy or the ability to drive 6 12 hour shifts a week like a lot of drivers do. 

I am kicking myself now.  I wish I could remember this guys name(and if you are reading this, please!  tell me your name!) and I wish I had gotten a photo.  Seriously, dude.  Keep doing what you are doing!  You are what this city needs.

Sadly, my taxi on the way back to the train wasn't as cool.  He talked on his phone the whole time.  Eh, I guess not everyone can be as rad as myself or my new friend.

 • • •

In other news, I ordered some business cards today for the site.  I don't often tell my customers about the blog, but some of the awesome ones I do.  And I always end up scribbling the address on a piece of scrap paper.  Every single one of them says I should get cards.  So I did.  Can't wait for them to get here!
The new card!

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Drivers Wanted

 I just watched a really interesting documentary about NYC Taxi drivers.  It follows a brand new driver and some very old timer drivers.  I relate to the new guy.  I remember my first day and not knowing how to work a meter.  Its scary, but you move on and figure it out!  And before you know it, its no biggie!  So, check it out!  It's only about an hour long and I really enjoyed it.

New Year, New Adventures!

So at this point, I am already three shifts into the new year.  I worked the day after New Years Day(I needed the one day to recover from New Years Eve).  It was an okay shift.  Nothing too exciting happened.  The next day I worked as well.
New year and ready to take on new adventures(or, the short version, "me behind the wheel")
I called up the JFK taxi hotline at the beginning of my shift to see if it was worth heading over there.  I didn't think it was, so I headed into the city.  I had started working early enough so I figured I would get a lot of the business other drivers missed when they went off duty around that time.  I managed to get into Manhattan and all the way up to around the 60's before I caught my first fare.  And wouldn't you know it, they wanted to go to JFK!  Somehow, in rush hour, we made it to the airport in pretty decent time.  Under an hour, for sure.  My passengers complimented me on getting them there so quickly(both verbally and with a nice tip).  So since I didn't waste a lot of time in traffic, my trip out to the airport was a pretty good thing.  Once I got out there, i took a look at the taxi lot.  It was pretty full, but looked like it was moving, so I got on the line.  I waited for about an hour, maybe a little less.  Which for as full as the lot was, really isn't too bad.  I finally got dispatched to Terminal 2.  I had never picked up there before, so navigating my way there was a little odd.

Once I got to the terminal, I had a passenger right away.  We didn't make it into the city quite as quickly as I had made it to the airport, but it wasn't too bad.  And we had a wonderful discussion the whole way.  He was a volunteer for the Red Cross from, I think he said, Kansas.  This was his second trip to the area since the hurricane.  He told me about all the work he had been doing and about all the others who came from all over the country to help out with the recovery.  It really warmed my heart to know that there are these kind people out there who drop their lives to come help out one of the countries' toughest areas when we actually need help.  When I dropped him off at his hotel, I made sure to thank him for the work that he does.

I gotta say, after that, nothing really interesting.  The city was pretty dead as a lot of tourists had left and a lot of New Yorkers hadn't returned from their vacations or were lying low recovering from the holidays.

I worked again this Sunday.  Much more interesting.  By this time, most people were back from the holidays, so there was more activity in the city.
Giant suspended snowflake on the intersection of 57th and 5th.  I love this thing and finally got close enough to it for a photo.
The shift started out pretty average.  I had quite a few fares early on, but they were all on the small side of things.  I was cruising Amsterdam when I picked up a woman to go farther uptown.  She was so nice!  We had a really nice conversation the whole way up about cabbie-ing.  She was genuinely interested in what I do so that was nice.  I told her about the blog too, so if you are reading, HELLO!  It was great to have you in the cab!  Seriously, even though I don't have many rude or mean customers, the ones who are genuinely interested and kind are pretty rare too.  After that, I was feeling a little more optimistic about the evening.

Things started picking up a little more as the night went on.  I ended up picking up a group of college aged kids who were so into themselves it made me laugh.  Seriously.  The extent of their conversation was which one of them had more "likes" on Instagram.  They also wanted to take the most ass-backwards way to their destination and only after tremendous traffic on their selected route would they listen to reason and let me take the proper way.  And after all their stupid requests, sitting in unnecessary traffic and having to listen to their vapid conversation, they gave me a measly $1 tip(on a $20 fare, which is 5% and crappy for those of you less mathematically inclined).  Because clearly none of them know what it was like to have to work for a living or put up with people like them for any amount of time.  I bet they went to my high school.

I picked up a guy to go to Queens after that.  Nothing really too interesting to say about that except this guy had an amazing voice.  He should do radio or something.  Maybe he does.  But it was one of those thick New York old school accents and a really deep and gruff voice.  Kinda hot, actually.  I also never saw the guy's face, which added to it I think. 

Later on, I was cruising around the village.  I was driving up University when I see someone hailing me in front of the bowling alley.  I pull over and so does another car behind me.  I see someone getting into the other cab and, annoyed, said something like "Or NOT!" out the window as I was about to pull away.  But then someone else came and grabbed me before I sped off.  She needed to go to Brooklyn and to an area I was very familiar with.  So our conversation didn't have to involve step by step directions.  Instead it went towards weddings.  She had mentioned her upcoming wedding, and her experience at Kleinfeld.  My little sister is a bride to be, so I had lots to discuss with her.  Before you knew it, we were at her destination.  I even managed to get another fare in Brooklyn before getting back to Manhattan.

As I was on St. Marks, I get stopped outside Crif Dogs by a young couple.  They wanted to go to Hoboken, NJ.  I looked up the fare in my little flat rate book(first time I got to use this thing!) and told them the rate.  They agreed and hopped in.  They were super friendly and we chatted the whole way into Jersey.  And as they directed me to their hotel, I got to see the sights of Hoboken, which is actually a much cuter area than I expected.  Also, lots of night life.  Seriously, a bar on every corner.  Who knew!?  I am not allowed to pick up any fares in Jersey, so as soon as I dropped them off I rushed back into the city.  And i got really lucky too.  Almost as soon as I got out of the tunnel in Manhattan, I caught a fare to way up on the Upper West Side.

On my way back downtown, I was at a red light on Broadway somewhere in the 80's.  A cop car pulled up next to me.  The cops did a double take before rolling down their window to tell me what a rare sight I was.  We all had a chuckle and I waved at them before they took off at the green light.

It was late and I caught that one last fare I wanted to Queens(Brooklyn would have been good too).  Two guys who had just closed up their restaurant in Alphabet City and were too tired to take the subway.  One got out just over the bridge.  After he got out, the remaining fellow and I had a nice conversation and I told him about a restaurant I liked that was just around the corner from his place.  And he, unlike the spoiled brats from before, gave me a nice tip.  People who work in the service industry know how to tip because they know what its like to NOT get a tip when you bust your butt!

It was late and I decided to head back to the garage.  I hopped on the BQE and headed into Brooklyn.  When I was headed up Flatbush ave in Park Slope, a guy had his arm out for a cab.  He looked like he was headed in my general direction, so I pulled over and he got in.  Turned out, he needed to go only a few blocks from my garage and was super nice and thankful that I stopped.  I don't always grab fares when I am on my way back to the garage, but i was in a good mood and figured why the heck not.  It was one of those cab rides that end with a handshake.  Those don;t happen often, but sometimes when you have a good rapport with a passenger, its the only way to end things.

After dropping him off, it was only a hop, skip and a jump to my garage where I called it a night.  What started out as just a mediocre night ended up being a really good shift, both monetarily and people wise.  Totally made up for some of the slower shifts I had last week.  I am glad I kicked my own ass into going to work that night.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Happy New Year!

My last shift driving for 2012 sucked.  I drove the day after Christmas.  I got to my garage and I guess everyone else took the day off because most of the cabs were there waiting.  So I was out of the garage by 2:15.

I figured since i had a nice early start I would head over to JFK to pick up some of the post-xmas travelers.  I ended up picking up two women from Kew Gardens who had just gotten back from Japan.  We had a friendly ride, but the weather was crap and it was a busy traffic day to begin with, so it took forever.  And after our friendly ride and putting up with those crappy conditions and helping them with their bags, they gave me a whopping $1 tip.  Awesome.

After the excessively long ride of a very short distance, i figured going back to the airport wouldn't be worth it because i would just get stuck in traffic again, and the guy at the terminal forgot to give me a shorty ticket(allows you to cut the line if you don't get a fare to Manhattan the first time).  So i headed up Queens Blvd. to get back to Manhattan. 

As I am driving up Queens Blvd. the weather conditions are getting worse and it had started sleeting.  So I try to drive cautiously.  I see the light changing, so I come to a stop.  The van behind me did not see it changing as quickly so when he had to slam on his brakes to stop, he went skidding and slammed right into the back of my car.  I saw it coming, too, and braced myself for impact.  After the slam, I got out to check the damage.  Thankfully the van hit me fat, so there wasn't any damage.  Our bumpers met perfectly and did what they were supposed to.  This didn't stop me from yelling at the guy who gave me a dumbface shrug.  After this little impact though, I did have a sore neck and shoulders for a few days.  Nothing serious, but it did make my hooping class a little more difficult.

By the time I got into the city I had to pee so bad that I had to go off duty and find a place to park and a business establishment to use.  And this was unfortunate because there were people trying to hail me, but I was at critical mass and had to stop.  Also, it was sleeting really bad at this point so driving conditions sucked.

With all the traffic, weather and other holdups, but the time I had my second fare of the day it was almost 6pm(remember, i left my garage at 2:15).  After only a few little fares in the city, I get hailed about a block from the midtown tunnel and the guy wants to go all the way out to Kew Gardens.  Second time of the day headed out there.  Thankfully, as I was on my way back into the city, I was at a red light with my "off duty" lights on when a guy came up tot he car and asked if I could take him to the East Village.  So I was lucky and got a hard to get fare back into the city. 

The rest of the night was slow.  Slower than I thought it would be for there being so few cabs out, but I think with the weather being so bad and people recovering from Christmas the night before, people just didn't go out.  Except for people from Queens.  Because I went to Queens several more times over the course of the evening.

The worst trip to queens came a little later in the night.  I was taking a guy to Long Island City and we hopped on the bridge.  Of course once we got onto the bridge(which had been clear not long before), things stopped moving.  It took us about 30 minutes to get over the bridge, all because of an accident(one of many I saw that night) at the far end of the bridge blocking one of the two lanes completely.  Good times.

While all of this awful driving was going on, my rear defroster wasn't working.  It was very hard to see out of my back window most the night.  And there I was thinking I got a good car, but I didn't find out until much later after leaving the garage that it was not working.  Then there was traffic everywhere and the NYPD kept blocking off streets on me.  So on top of my crappy night I had that to deal with too.
Not the big tree.  Couldn't get a shot of it.  But got Radio City as we were headed towards Rockefeller.
The one and only redeeming thing that happened was actually really sweet.  I picked up what seemed like a woman, her son and his daughter.  The little girl was probably about 7 or 8 and was really cute.  They picked me up on 50th street and our route was going to take us right past Rockefeller Center.  The little girl had never seen the big tree and she was very excited that we were able to drive right by it.  She was so happy and excited.  Her father thanked me at the end of the ride for making her day.  That was nice, and a fun ride.  And to top it off, I got to see the tree too, which i hadn't seen lit up for years.

Despite a crappy last shift for the year, overall, this year has been great as far as this new career goes.  I mean, it was the first year, so I don;t have much else to compare it to.  But it was good enough that I will continue into this new year!  Lets hope my first shift of the new year is a better start than my last shift of the last year!

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.