During almost any night of taxi driving in New York City something memorable happens. Not every night. But almost every night.
The memorable thing that happened on Wednesday, July 26th, was a "thing on the street" (rather than a passenger in the cab). There was a big movie production going on all night on 6th Avenue in the 50s. Lots of trailers, lights, equipment, and production crew people. Film making is really big in NYC and it's certainly not unusual to drive by a makeshift set on the street. An experienced eye can tell at a glance how big the budget is by the amount of space that is taken up. Sometimes you see just a few people and a camera on the sidewalk. Other times the trucks stretch out for three city blocks and there are a couple of cops around to keep order. This was one of those times.
I hadn't paid much attention to any of this until around 3 AM. I was doing one of my late-night cruising routes (certain streets I drive on that have proven to be more fruitful than others in the never-ending game of finding the next passenger), when I noticed that the production had switched its location to 7th Avenue and 54th Street, and the next shot they were going to shoot included a taxi cab.
I am very observant, whenever I see a movie that has a scene with a NYC taxi in it, to notice if they got the details of the taxi correctly. If anything is wrong I spot it immediately and it throws me momentarily out of the "suspension of disbelief". And there is one thing that they almost always get wrong. I decided to stop for a while and take a closer look at their taxi. And, since I now carry with me my digital camera, to take a few pictures. Here's a couple of shots of the cab they were using. Can you see what's wrong?
Now, I admit you are not going to be able to know this unless you are quite familiar with the taxi system in New York. Certainly most people would not see it. But movie makers are notoriously fussy about getting all details totally correct when they compose a shot. And there are some people out here in the audience, both those in the taxi industry and some very aware taxi passengers, who do know. So I have often wondered why film directors don't fix this little mistake they are constantly making.
Take a close look at these pictures. (You can click on them to see a larger view.) Can you see what's wrong? It's the identifying numbers and letter on the roof and on the license plate. Every NYC taxi has four digits - one number followed by a letter and two more numbers - that are used to distinguish it from all other taxis. But not all the letters of the alphabet are used. This one shows the letter Q. It's not used. There are no taxis in NYC that are identified with a Q. Also, they've used a zero after the letter. Zeros are sometimes used as the last digit, but never as the first digit nor the digit after the letter.
Am I being too picky? Maybe, but it bothers me. I decided to bring it to the attention of the film crew. I spoke to a couple of people and was given this explanation by someone who seemed to know what he was talking about. Apparently, since each taxi is owned by an individual or a company, they would have to get permission from and pay the owner in order to use a real number. Sounds reasonable, but I don't buy it. My question is, okay, so why don't they do that? It couldn't cost much. I think they're just being lazy.
All right, I admit there are bigger things in the world to be concerned about. Like what's this movie all about and is anyone famous in it? I asked another crew person and was told it's a Disney production that will be called ENCHANTED and it has something to do with a person with magical powers who goes around granting wishes to people. And, yes, there is a famous star in it who, as a matter of fact, is standing right next to me. I didn't recognize this very famous actress right away, probably because of the costume she was wearing. Do you know who she is?
In the great tradition of teasing the reader, the answer will be in my next posting.