Archive for category about this blog
… begins tomorrow : a week that will see the normal strain of knowing something horrible is going on, and not knowing what to do about it.
The very first time I pick up a passenger, I will be waiting for the sound of idle chatter coming from the tv audio in the back seat. Then, and only then, will I be able to ask the passenger(s) (politely) if they would mind “pressing the off button on the tv.”
If I ask too soon, they forget by the time the tv goes on, and I have to ask them once again. If I wait too long, they will be on the phone, and I won’t want to interrupt them, in which case the tv will be on for the whole ride.
This is time wasted.
In the best of scenarios, the instant a passenger gets in his cab a good driver will start thinking about how best to get them where they’re going. This requires him to have been staying aware of the situation he’s in in the immediate sense — what cars are behind, or to either side, of his own car; what are the traffic restrictions on lanes or turns or in other regards; whether there are any bicyclists in the area; what traffic patterns he has noticed up until now; etc., etc.
The purpose of this awareness is to reinforce best what he knows he has to do above all other matters : to get out of the area he is in, and into the area the passenger is going to.
Exact destinations are irrelevant at this point. A driver merely has to know, for example, that he must take his passenger to the Upper East Side from Eighth Avenue and 14th Street. The immediate question now, for him, is to figure the best route to take East and North away from 8th and 14th.
A missed opportunity creates problems down the line : miss a turn-off for the east side at a crucial moment, and the trip could take twenty minutes longer and cost $6 or $7 more.
Let me draw the conclusion :
Time spent worrying about the tv noise is time out of focusing on taking the best route from pick-up to destination. This distraction can quickly translate into lost time and lost money for passenger and driver alike.
Nevertheless, if he wants to drive safely, attentively and efficiently, the driver has got to concentrate on getting the tv off as quickly as possible. If he misses a turn at 23rd Street that could have brought him and his passenger more quickly to the Upper East Side than any option available after 23rd Street is passed — so be it : the tv has to go off : that is essential, it is not something that can be trifled with.
And why not, a skeptic might ask.
My next post will address that question.
NOTE : As I have pointed out in a couple of previous posts (“This Blog Gets Its Name” and “The Story Thus Far …” ) this blog has been a long time coming. I believe I am closing in on a way of making it feasible. Since I can’t include as much material in each post as I have previously tried to (the drafts are all unpublished), I will have to break off in the midst of an issue and come back to it — though, I hope, as quickly as possible. So, the posts will be partial and fragmentary.
The idea of installments, therefore, is an essential feature of this blog at this point. Any given post will cover only part of the subject it addresses.
Any business left unfinished in any post — like this one — will be resumed in a subsequent post, until (presumably) the day arrives when I have said what I had wanted to say, and what I thought the public would find useful or diverting.
“The story thus far” exists in a nutshell as it appears in the previous two posts.
From a job that was frequently an interesting experience for one and all, the taxi experience both for me and my passengers has become a bit twisted and frustrating.
The accident I refer to in my TLC email [previous post] actually occurred. It occurred in March of 2011, and, since then, I have had to ask virtually every passenger if he or she wouldn’t mind “pressing the off button on the TV.” (At thirty passengers a night, this gets pretty tedious.)
Sometimes I feel like I’m under siege, and many passengers feel the same.
So, my dilemma : though I had wanted to write a bright and merry taxi blog — with anecdotes and memories, asides about New York history, and advice for newcomers and tourists — the taxi TV had made that impossible. I had planned to write an honest account of the job. As of three years ago, when the TV’s were mandated, it had become impossible to give an honest account of the experience I was having driving a cab, without including the misery of the Taxi TV.
And then, the whole blog would be different, and not as appealing as I had planned.
That thought was depressing. I had to do something.
I decided to delay. After all, I really didn’t know what to do, and delaying is always an excellent tactic when you can’t think of an alternative.
After a while, however, the time felt ripe to start, and, so, the blog has been launched, though with more controversy in its content than I had foreseen. The otherwise bright has become shaded, at best.
Please excuse the occasional murk and distress. At this point it can’t be helped.
I promise to include as much pleasant content as possible.
The idea of this blog was first suggested to me about five years ago, by a couple who got into my cab on the Upper East Side. It was around the same time of year at which I am writing this current post, which is to say : during the last weeks of May, around the Memorial Day weekend. Like many people who live in New York for a while, they were curious about what the world looks like from behind the wheel of a taxi.
When I explained to them that I was enduring one of the worst traffic times of the year, they seemed particularly interested. They didn’t know why the traffic should be any worse then, than at any other time. They seemed, in fact, to find it intriguing that traffic follows any patterns at all. Like most healthy and sane people, I assume, they figured traffic was pure chaos, and looking for a pattern in it is utter futility.
On the contrary, I explained, the reason things were worse now than normal was that the public was gearing up for summer : people were staying out later at night than they did in the cold months, and traveling back and forth between bars and clubs and friends’ houses. It was as if they were flexing their weekend beach muscles without being at the beach yet, and the result was sociable beach chaos right in town — with the Upper East Side being a central chaos zone.
And with this went ugly traffic.
Her interest piqued, the young woman suggested I start a blog to explain such things.
And then there was a pause.
There are times when you know that “something is in the air,” as they say. This time was one of them. I knew something was cooking, but didn’t know what. I remained thoughtful for a moment or two, and then it occurred to me to ask if she had a name for this blog.
“honknyc,” she said, about as quickly as if she had been waiting all along for me to ask, apparently having thought of a title even before I thought of asking her for one.
It was one of those moments — you might say — when human understanding and rapport become all they could be, but so infrequently are.
And so the title of this blog was born.
I told my friends to wait “about six months” before they looked for a blog by the agreed-upon name, scarcely knowing it would take me another 4 or 5 years before I got it off the ground.
The story of why it took so long will be grist for the next installment.