Taxi Driver

Taxi Driver

As was the case with most of the guys that I knew at the time, I had to find part time work while attending school in order to have “ spending money”. My parents were in no position to fund me, so it was on me to find work. I had quite a few diverse and interesting jobs part time including; working for the US Post Office, a clerk for a Collection Agency, grocery store stock boy and, the weird one; a NewYork City Taxi Driver.

It was my freshman year of college and, if I hoped to participate in any college activities, I needed to work. Why in the world I ever decided to drive a cab in that crazy city is beyond me. I guess I thought I could make some good money on tips ( salary was just the very minimum) and I could work nights…. which was important for my schedule. The naive part of me, which happens to be a big part of me, also thought it would be cool and exciting to drive around the city with all kinds of interesting people as passengers.

I know…. , I know… don’t say a thing.

I had a few things going against me. First; I was a pretty new driver, and , while I enjoyed driving, my only experience was with my dads car and that was limited. I was certainly not an accomplished driver as yet. Two; I really did not know the streets and roads of the five boroughs of New York very well. Now, if all my passengers wanted to travel within the five or six mile radius of our apartment, I would be fine. However, the prospect of that was very unlikely….but , I was undeterred!

I so remember the evening I told my dad I was going to get a job driving a cab.

Dad; “ What? Drive a cab? You can’t even drive my car right…. how are you going to drive a cab?”

Me; “I have a drivers license!!!”

Dad; “yea…. I don’t understand that either..,”

Me; “ I’m trying to work and earn some money! I thought you would be happy!”

Dad; “ you’re right… I am proud that you are trying to earn money…… but, drive a cab? You get lost walking to the grocery store…. how are you going to drive around the city!???”

Me; “I’ll be fine!!!!”

Dad; “ I hope so…… “ ( no confidence in his voice)

I was hired quickly, which, in hindsight , is no surprise and also scary. If one had a valid drivers with no current violations, you could drive a cab in New York. They were not worried about paying you much (minimum wage , with the understanding that the Taxi company would take a percentage of each fare back as the way they made their money.) it was common knowledge that if one was to make any money, it would be from tips. It was a a nice deal for the cab company, with all the pressure to “earn” on the driver. Still, I moved forward.

I was basically free to “ make my own hours”, so I chose the late night shift. This allowed me to take my classes, go to work and still get a few hours sleep. I also drove most weekend days as well as my regular week day night shifts.

Typically, I would get my cab around 4pm and return it to the garage around midnight. These were considered good hours for making money, as you had the after work crowd, the party crowd and the “ arriving flight” crowd.
New York City was, and still is, served by three major Airports; JFK and LaGuardia in Queens and Newark in New Jersey. Securing “fares” to and from these airports was highly desired because of the distance traveled( high dollar fare) and the tips received.I knew how to get to Kennedy and LaGuardia pretty well, but Newark was a challenge for me. Why? I don’t know… I rarely drove to New Jersey ( I rarely drove at all, as previously noted) and the highway leading to the airport intimidated me. With that said, of course there is a story to be told .

It was Friday, late afternoon in early spring and New York traffic was horrendous. I had just delivered a fare to the prestigious St. Regis hotel. Depending on ones point of view , my timing was either great or terrible. The Doorman for the hotel opened the door for my fare to exit my cab. As he paid the fee and gave me an adequate tip, another passenger, a man that I would guess was in his late 50’s , jumped into backseat. The Doorman was taken aback:
“Sir, “ he said professionally, we have a line of people waiting for Taxis’…… you need to get in line”.

“To Hell with the line”, snapped my wonderful new passenger , “I have to get to the airport … I’m running late”.

He threw a 5 dollar bill at the doorman. I gave the doorman a questioning, helpless look. He shrugged and closed the door to the cab.
“ Well”, i thought to myself, “At least we’re going to the airport .. It should be a good fare”.
That’s when Mr. Wonderful snapped;
“Newark Airport! and make it fast… I’m running late!!”

“Oh crap! I thought, “freakin’ Newark!”

As I mentioned , it was Friday afternoon and city traffic was almost at a standstill… it was going to take forever just to get to the Lincoln Tunnel. Naturally, Mr. wonderful in the back seat kept reminding me that he was running late for his flight, as if I could somehow fly above the traffic. All I could do was nod and say , “ yes Sir, … I’m doing my best……”

Of course, when we finally reached the tunnel, it was backed up for at least two miles. We crawled at a snails pace down the ramp and into the tunnel.All the while , Mr. Congeniality huffing and puffing and mumbling to himself( loud enough for me to hear) about how he was going to miss his flight and how much he hated New York.

When we emerged from the tunnel the sun was already starting to set, but traffic on 495 leading to Route 95 was still terrible. My passenger reminded me that he had only about 45 minutes before his flight. Keep in mind, back in the day, one did not have to arrive at the airport 12 hours before ones flight to get through security. Also keep in mind , it’s only about 18 miles from Manhattan to Newark Airport….. but this was Friday night in New York. 18 miles may well have been 118 miles.
Because of my inexperience driving, especially in those conditions, I stayed in my lane, unlike the 14,000 other cabs that changed lanes every four feet, which gave them no real advantage, but was apparently the way drive. My passenger certainly thought so:

Passenger: “” What the ( expletive) is wrong with you!!!! I told you I’m running late! get the hell out of this lane!!!”

Me: yes sir, just trying to stay safe”…

I put on my left signal light to change lanes and move to the left lane. I assure you, out of the eight zillion cars on the road that night, I may have been the only one that used a signal to change lanes. My passenger, of course noticed.

“For Gods Sake just get out of this lane!!! Stop driving like a ( expletive) girl scout!!”

Already highly on edge, his kind hearted encouragement was no help. I swear I believe I just closed my eyes and jerked the wheel to the left. Breaks squealing, horns blaring and I’m sure some interesting words flung, but I wound up in the left lane, miraculous in one piece.
As I had anticipated ,with the traffic the way it was, it gave me no real advantage, but at least Mr. Passenger shut up for a few minutes. The respite was short lived.

We moved slowly ahead for about three miles before that gentle voice again came for the backseat.

“You really are dumb aren’t you! the exit is a mile ahead! When the ( expletive) are you going to move over to the right lane!!!”

Oh crap!! I had been so frazzled, so focused on traffic and so nervous about lane changes that I had stopped paying attention to the exit signs.

Newark Airport was the next exit, one mile ahead. Now I had to make my way across 4 lanes of crazed drivers to get to the exit. Bottom line? I didn’t make it … I made it to the third lane ( using the close your eyes and jerk steering wheel method) but not to the turn off lane. Mr . Warmth went crazy… I was called some names I had never before heard. ( to be honest, he had a right to be mad… but he was a touch excessive).

I had to go to the next exit , u turn and come back to the proper exit…. all the while listening to the tirade from the back seat.

When I finally pulled up to the the departure terminal, it was almost flight time. The fare was 15.00( remember, I’m going back quite a few years). My passenger flung open the door , called me another expletive, literarily threw a ten and a five at me and raced into the terminal. Not surprisingly, no tip. I was actually surprised that he paid me at all; I thought I was going to have to eat this one.

Obviously, I don’t know if he ever made his flight. I can still see his furious face. I hope he made the flight. Even though he was clearly a self centered, not very nice man, he had a right to expect a capable driver. I was not. I thought about this on my way back to the city. I didn’t even wait around the terminal for an almost guaranteed fare back to Manhattan. I just wasn’t up for it. I questioned myself as to whether this was a job I should continue or just pack it in and try something else .

By the time I

Taxi Driver

As was the case with most of the guys that I knew at the time, I had to find part time work while attending school in order to have “ spending money”. My parents were in no position to fund me, so it was on me to find work. I had quite a few diverse and interesting jobs part time including; working for the US Post Office, a clerk for a Collection Agency, grocery store stock boy and, the weird one; a NewYork City Taxi Driver.

It was my freshman year of college and, if I hoped to participate in any college activities, I needed to work. Why in the world I ever decided to drive a cab in that crazy city is beyond me. I guess I thought I could make some good money on tips ( salary was just the very minimum) and I could work nights…. which was important for my schedule. The naive part of me, which happens to be a big part of me, also thought it would be cool and exciting to drive around the city with all kinds of interesting people as passengers.

I know…. , I know… don’t say a thing.

I had a few things going against me. First; I was a pretty new driver, and , while I enjoyed driving, my only experience was with my dads car and that was limited. I was certainly not an accomplished driver as yet. Two; I really did not know the streets and roads of the five boroughs of New York very well. Now, if all my passengers wanted to travel within the five or six mile radius of our apartment, I would be fine. However, the prospect of that was very unlikely….but , I was undeterred!

I so remember the evening I told my dad I was going to get a job driving a cab.

Dad; “ What? Drive a cab? You can’t even drive my car right…. how are you going to drive a cab?”

Me; “I have a drivers license!!!”

Dad; “yea…. I don’t understand that either..,”

Me; “ I’m trying to work and earn some money! I thought you would be happy!”

Dad; “ you’re right… I am proud that you are trying to earn money…… but, drive a cab? You get lost walking to the grocery store…. how are you going to drive around the city!???”

Me; “I’ll be fine!!!!”

Dad; “ I hope so…… “ ( no confidence in his voice)

I was hired quickly, which, in hindsight , is no surprise and also scary. If one had a valid drivers with no current violations, you could drive a cab in New York. They were not worried about paying you much (minimum wage , with the understanding that the Taxi company would take a percentage of each fare back as the way they made their money.) it was common knowledge that if one was to make any money, it would be from tips. It was a a nice deal for the cab company, with all the pressure to “earn” on the driver. Still, I moved forward.

I was basically free to “ make my own hours”, so I chose the late night shift. This allowed me to take my classes, go to work and still get a few hours sleep. I also drove most weekend days as well as my regular week day night shifts.

Typically, I would get my cab around 4pm and return it to the garage around midnight. These were considered good hours for making money, as you had the after work crowd, the party crowd and the “ arriving flight” crowd.
New York City was, and still is, served by three major Airports; JFK and LaGuardia in Queens and Newark in New Jersey. Securing “fares” to and from these airports was highly desired because of the distance traveled( high dollar fare) and the tips received.I knew how to get to Kennedy and LaGuardia pretty well, but Newark was a challenge for me. Why? I don’t know… I rarely drove to New Jersey ( I rarely drove at all, as previously noted) and the highway leading to the airport intimidated me. With that said, of course there is a story to be told .

It was Friday, late afternoon in early spring and New York traffic was horrendous. I had just delivered a fare to the prestigious St. Regis hotel. Depending on ones point of view , my timing was either great or terrible. The Doorman for the hotel opened the door for my fare to exit my cab. As he paid the fee and gave me an adequate tip, another passenger, a man that I would guess was in his late 50’s , jumped into backseat. The Doorman was taken aback:
“Sir, “ he said professionally, we have a line of people waiting for Taxis’…… you need to get in line”.

“To Hell with the line”, snapped my wonderful new passenger , “I have to get to the airport … I’m running late”.

He threw a 5 dollar bill at the doorman. I gave the doorman a questioning, helpless look. He shrugged and closed the door to the cab.
“ Well”, i thought to myself, “At least we’re going to the airport .. It should be a good fare”.
That’s when Mr. Wonderful snapped;
“Newark Airport! and make it fast… I’m running late!!”

“Oh crap! I thought, “freakin’ Newark!”

As I mentioned , it was Friday afternoon and city traffic was almost at a standstill… it was going to take forever just to get to the Lincoln Tunnel. Naturally, Mr. wonderful in the back seat kept reminding me that he was running late for his flight, as if I could somehow fly above the traffic. All I could do was nod and say , “ yes Sir, … I’m doing my best……”

Of course, when we finally reached the tunnel, it was backed up for at least two miles. We crawled at a snails pace down the ramp and into the tunnel.All the while , Mr. Congeniality huffing and puffing and mumbling to himself( loud enough for me to hear) about how he was going to miss his flight and how much he hated New York.

When we emerged from the tunnel the sun was already starting to set, but traffic on 495 leading to Route 95 was still terrible. My passenger reminded me that he had only about 45 minutes before his flight. Keep in mind, back in the day, one did not have to arrive at the airport 12 hours before ones flight to get through security. Also keep in mind , it’s only about 18 miles from Manhattan to Newark Airport….. but this was Friday night in New York. 18 miles may well have been 118 miles.
Because of my inexperience driving, especially in those conditions, I stayed in my lane, unlike the 14,000 other cabs that changed lanes every four feet, which gave them no real advantage, but was apparently the way drive. My passenger certainly thought so:

Passenger: “” What the ( expletive) is wrong with you!!!! I told you I’m running late! get the hell out of this lane!!!”

Me: yes sir, just trying to stay safe”…

I put on my left signal light to change lanes and move to the left lane. I assure you, out of the eight zillion cars on the road that night, I may have been the only one that used a signal to change lanes. My passenger, of course noticed.

“For Gods Sake just get out of this lane!!! Stop driving like a ( expletive) girl scout!!”

Already highly on edge, his kind hearted encouragement was no help. I swear I believe I just closed my eyes and jerked the wheel to the left. Breaks squealing, horns blaring and I’m sure some interesting words flung, but I wound up in the left lane, miraculous in one piece.
As I had anticipated ,with the traffic the way it was, it gave me no real advantage, but at least Mr. Passenger shut up for a few minutes. The respite was short lived.

We moved slowly ahead for about three miles before that gentle voice again came for the backseat.

“You really are dumb aren’t you! the exit is a mile ahead! When the ( expletive) are you going to move over to the right lane!!!”

Oh crap!! I had been so frazzled, so focused on traffic and so nervous about lane changes that I had stopped paying attention to the exit signs.

Newark Airport was the next exit, one mile ahead. Now I had to make my way across 4 lanes of crazed drivers to get to the exit. Bottom line? I didn’t make it … I made it to the third lane ( using the close your eyes and jerk steering wheel method) but not to the turn off lane. Mr . Warmth went crazy… I was called some names I had never before heard. ( to be honest, he had a right to be mad… but he was a touch excessive).

I had to go to the next exit , u turn and come back to the proper exit…. all the while listening to the tirade from the back seat.

When I finally pulled up to the the departure terminal, it was almost flight time. The fare was 15.00( remember, I’m going back quite a few years). My passenger flung open the door , called me another expletive, literarily threw a ten and a five at me and raced into the terminal. Not surprisingly, no tip. I was actually surprised that he paid me at all; I thought I was going to have to eat this one.

Obviously, I don’t know if he ever made his flight. I can still see his furious face. I hope he made the flight. Even though he was clearly a self centered, not very nice man, he had a right to expect a capable driver. I was not. I thought about this on my way back to the city. I didn’t even wait around the terminal for an almost guaranteed fare back to Manhattan. I just wasn’t up for it. I questioned myself as to whether this was a job I should continue or just pack it in and try something else .

By the time I exited the Lincoln tunnel back into Manhattan, I had made my decision; I would stick with it for a bit longer.

In my next blog, I will reveal whether that was a good decision or not.
‘ till then…stay in your lane….

Don.

the Lincoln tunnel back into Manhattan, I had made my decision; I would stick with it for a bit longer.

In my next blog, I will reveal whether that was a good decision or not.
‘ till then…stay in your lane….

Don.