A Bit of Real Life, Chit Chat, General Writing, New York

Yellow cabs or, trying to avoid felony charges

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.

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15 thoughts on “Yellow cabs or, trying to avoid felony charges”

  1. Great writing!!! It boggles the mind that cab drivers are so prejudiced against Brooklyn fares. What do you think their main issue is?

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  2. Hi BSC,
    This is some funny stuff. Not the incidents (at the time), of course, but your storytelling! Tears were rolling re the former slave, fake engine trouble, etc. I could envison each scenario totally. LOL You’re so talented!
    I think the cabbies feel they won’t get a return fare to Manhattan and/or there are not as many folks hailing cabs around Brooklyn, and/or racism…Just some guesses. Of course, there’s no excuse for their disrespectful behavior.

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    1. Believe me, it’s much funnier with a year or two of distance under my belt. At the time I thought my friend would have to bail me out for aggravated assault if I even felt a whiff of his palm on me.

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  3. I had an experience with a cabbie last week, i was on 113th and bway and wanted to go home to the 150s and bway, and dude would not take me home. I was livid to the point where I was standing in the street yelling at him after he pulled off (not good form I know but it was late and I was tired) I’m not tired of yellow cab drivers, I’m exhausted of them.

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    1. I’m not sure what’s going on with them, but there’s this new breed of daredevil, cutting in front of buses, barely making yellow lights kind of driver. It’s the only time I’ve ever had motion sickness. And it would seem like they’d want the income regardless, what with all the other drivers going for a limited pool of passengers…? But no, they’re picky, offended, and often nasty. I want to be clear–some drivers are dreamy, upbeat, funny, or hell, even politely quiet–but of course the memories that stick are the whack jobs who won’t help a single woman get home after 11 pm because “there’s no money to be made in Brooklyn.”

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  4. Hi Ms. BSC,
    So well written, again, I was doubled over in hysterics. Engine troubles, former slave, Grey Goose, etc. – priceless!

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  5. One night a male friend of mine helped me catch a cab because for a long time cab drivers would just pull up and then once they heard where I was going, would say they weren’t going there. If I had a man with me, I always got in a cab because they didn’t want to fight with another man. After driving a few blocks, the cab driver said he changed his mind and wasn’t going to Brooklyn. I told him that I would flag down the police officers across the street which made him promptly change his mind and then take me home. He drove like an animal and called me an a$$hole. I took all his information and called home so that my dad was standing outside when I got there.

    Armed with his name and number, I took his nasty self to the TLC and guess who wound up with a $1500 fine? Now when I have a cab driver that is nasty, I tell him that story. I will never put up with someone doing that to me again. I am more than happy to pay a fare and tip well for their trouble. On top of that last time I checked, Brooklyn was part of the five boroughs. They cannot deny you passage and I will happily make a trip down to the TLC office again if I have to.

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    1. Good for you, Lauren! Interestingly, this has yet to happen to me while I’ve been out of work, with ample time to march down to TLC.
      It does frustrate and upset me that so many cabbies have learned this absurd and awful, rude behavior. Do they not realize how many
      other cabs are on the street? It’s like they want a fare, but only the easiest fare possible. It doesn’t make sense at all. I’m glad you
      took action. Thanks for visiting, please keep reading! :-)

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  6. Great stories that definitely bring back memories of my own. And trust that it is not just Brooklyn…I have had that experience with trying to get to the Bronx (even coming from Harlem or Washington Heights!!) and trying to get anywhere in Manhattan north of 96th…correction, north of 125th st. these days! Cabbies can definitely bring out the lawyer/butt
    -kicking-Harlem-raised side of me!

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    1. Donya, I have felt my blood pressure spike dealing with these men! The few women I’ve dealt with have NEVER given me a hard time but OMG, not only do men give me a hard time at least half the time, they’re so ANGRY, like I personally made them take a taxi job, not know where to find the “good fares”, screw up scheduling meal and bathroom breaks… How is any of this MY FAULT, specifically?

      All I expect when I get in a cab is “Hello, where are we going today?” And that’s it. If he wants to play music at a decent level, fine. I may do small talk for a while but for the most part, I’m in a taxi because I need to unwind or be away from all the people I’d knock against on a bus or train. A cab ride in the city should be one of the quickest and most straighforward services in the city. I get in, you take me somewhere and I pay you, then leave the car. Repeat. I refuse to believe passengers are waiting for cabs with their anger at a 10, just waiting to unleash. It’s something Bloomberg or his successor needs to address: we’ll slap a “BAD FOR TOURISM” sticker on it to make sure it gets his attention. /eye roll/

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