My friend Leslie hates cabs. She’s athletic, enjoys exercise and if she had her way, she would walk everywhere. She shows up at restaurants and lounges without a hair out of place, despite having walked four miles from her house to whatever bar we’ve schlepped to.
I’m the exact opposite. I will take a livery cab five blocks if it’s cold enough, if my feet hurt enough, or if the neighborhood is sketchy enough. I can quote cab rates from my house to Park Slope, Fort Greene, Brooklyn Heights, Canarsie…most areas in Brooklyn. Things get vaguer in the city, but I know most cabs charge at least $20 just to go over the bridge, and it’s about a $25 flat rate from my place to JFK or LaGuardia airports.
I do pretty well when I can call a livery cab. My favorite is a Dominican-run company with drivers who show up on time in clean, new cars. They’re reliable and charge fair prices (and a call to the dispatcher squashes the hopes of those who try to be cute; he knows me by voice and by address if not by name). I even do OK hailing gypsy cabs; if the car looks like a hoopty or is missing any inspection stickers or TLC license plates, I wave it past. (I hate to admit it but in my 20s, on particularly bad-weather days, I’d sometimes take a questionable sedan operating as a taxi).
Then there are yellow cabs. I know. By now everyone’s had their experiences with them. I’m cautious to even talk about them: the drivers might put up some sort of taxi signal in the sky and leave me out trembling in the rain the next time I really need them. But nearly being hit by an off-duty cab the other morning reminded me of my worst two yellow cab incidents. I’ll recount them for your enjoyment, because I like to make people happy.
Both were wild, but this first occurrence was memorable for its creativity. After a night out with girlfriends, my friend Joan and I decided to split a fare back to Brooklyn. Most people know that to most drivers, even those driving below 14th Street, saying “Brooklyn” might get your foot sawed off as the driver floors it to get away from you. I have no idea when this became such a popular trend, but it’s aggravating, inconvenient, and illegal.