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Rob Jenkinson's Letters from America #17
by Rob Jenkinson
2007-02-01 09:08:25
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Dear readers,

Last week I almost died.

Well not quite, but I felt like it could happen and with every un-Godly passing of a car and cutting off of other drivers I said goodbye to my life. It was soon to be over.

What on earth can I be talking about I hear you cry? Well, those of you who have been to New York should know that I’m referring to the city’s cab drivers. They’re fucking lunatics. Seriously, I’m not a particularly religious man, but every time I get in a NYC cab, I pray to God and take refuge in the thought that you never actually hear about the taxi drivers crashing and killing their passengers.

By and large, all cab drivers are shit heads, usually because they’re over qualified immigrants whose skills have been over looked for some stupid reason when they came to America… so they drive cabs and are pissed off about it.

In London, city cab drivers have to pass a test that is known as “The Knowledge” before they can drive their taxi. “The Knowledge” is an impossibly hard aural exam where the examiners will ask the potential cabbie to vocalize a route from any given street to another street and if they make any mistakes at all, they fail. In New York, they seem to have to barely be able to drive and they’ll give them their licenses.

When you get in a New York cab, you’re never quite sure if you’re going to get to your destination. Thankfully I have my bearings now and can help them out if they don’t know where they’re going, but when I first moved to the city I had to get them to give me their map so I could locate where I lived for them.

I can handle that though, but once they have a destination in mind, they decide to turn in to fucking maniacs. I don’t know if you’ve either read or seen Harry Potter & The Prisoner Of Azkaban, but NYC cabbies always remind me of the Knight Bus. It’s like they think they’re invisible and nothing can touch them. The worst case was last week.

I had to go to the airport (flight numbers 4 & 5 of this year) and got work to order me a car service (meaning that you call a company for a car and they turn up in a black Lincoln, always), under the stupid misguided thought that it’d be preferable to a yellow taxi.

I get in and tell him to take me to JFK. Thanks to traffic, the first half of the ride was almost pleasurable. It was a sunny day and despite the cold, the New Yorkers almost looked happy for once. Unusually, the driver was very chatty. Normally, they just chitter chatter away into their hands free phones in a foreign tongue. I have a zero success rate of guessing the origin.

Once we got into Queens, my driver somehow found a rival cabby, apparently also destined for JFK. He kept passing him and cutting in front of him and vice versa.

By the time we got to the JFK expressway, it was all out war. If the rival cab got in front, he’d step on the gas and almost ram into the back of him. He’d then pass him and when I could see the bonnet was parallel with me, he’d then turn in front of him, making me think that I was going to be sitting on the front of the of the cab at any moment.

To try and distract the guy, I decided to make general chit chat, but it was short lived. Every conversation I came up with was cut off with, “You seen this pussy, eh? These guys have no respect.”

Realizing that distraction wasn’t working, I moved onto reasoning with him. “You know what, I’m over an hour early for the flight, so you can chill out if you want, ARGH! I mean, it doesn’t matter if he gets ahead; you’ve got to be the FUCKING HELL bigger man sometimes. You know what I me… Oi, I’m flying Jet Blue, turn off here! Thank Christ.”

Luckily, he pulled off and dropped me off shaken, feeling sick and faintly sobbing. I had survived, but only just.

I checked in, got myself a coffee and sat down at my gate and shook my head and then a terrifying thought entered my head, “I have to get a fucking taxi when I get back. Aw Jesus Christ!”

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Sand2007-02-01 04:54:29
When I lived in New York I took the A train to JFK. It was a hell of a lot cheaper and not a bit panicking.

Rob2007-02-01 15:31:19
Yeah, if I have one or two bags I'll do that. But I have to carry a lot of equipment for work, so have to get a taxi.

If I was paying I wouldn't do it, hell no!

Sand2007-02-01 17:02:59
I lived near one of the few subway stations with an elevator so managed large suitcases with a luggage carrier. Unfortunately, getting to the local free bus to the individual terminals required pulling the carrier up a flight of stairs to bridge over the subway tracks. This was some years ago and perhaps access is better now. Anyway, the cost difference for transportation is overwhelming.

Eva2007-02-01 17:46:50
Out of curiosity, are there any female taxi drivers in NY?

Rob2007-02-01 17:50:06
The free bus doesn't seem to exist anymore. There's a monorail that is free from terminal to terminal, but if you want to get from Howard Beach it'll cost you $5. Still cheaper than a taxi.

Eva, as far as I've seen there are absolutely zero female taxi drivers in the city... or in Chicago for that matter.

In smaller suburban towns, you'll have some female taxi drivers. Memorably one in Fayetteville, NC who looked like she was physically unable to leave the taxi because she was so obese.

Mike Jennett2007-02-20 01:46:43
Not as bad as Delhi though, where the cacophany of insistent horns has to be heard to be believed. People drive the wrong way up roads because it's 'convenient', buses stop several lanes into the middle of the street, rickshaw drivers follow you up the street, yelling and touting incessantly for business and beggars swarm around you when the damned thing stops. Makes cabbing around NYC seem like a dream!

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