I suffered through two humiliations recently, both of them occurring in the same shift.
The first was at the hands of a 14-year-old boy who got in my taxi in the West Village and wanted to go to Montgomery Street in the Lower East Side and then gave me directions for how to get there. The audacity of a teenager assuming that his driver, who's been behind the wheel of a cab for twice as long as he's been alive, doesn't know how to get to his destination!
The second, a few hours later, was from a man from Mexico who instructed me on how to get to where he wanted to go, 155th Street and Lenox Avenue, from the 155th Street exit of the FDR Drive! Where does someone who's probably not even in this country legally find the gall to think that I, a native New Yorker, would not know such a thing?
Let me tell you something. What was humiliating was not that these two individuals would try to give me directions. That would be merely annoying. What was humiliating was that in both cases they were right! I didn't know Montgomery Street and the route from the 155th Street exit of the FDR to 155th and Lenox is quite tricky and I've never mastered it.
How could such a thing happen? How could someone who's been driving a cab for 29 years not know every single street in his own city? There are two possibilities:
1) I am an idiot.
2) New York is so huge it defies comprehension.
For the sake of my own self-esteem, we're going to go with number two.
New York is known by several nicknames - "The Big Apple", "The Melting Pot of the World", "The City That Never Sleeps" (but it does take cat naps, trust me). In a recent post I referred to it as the "City of Infinite Realities". I've got another one for you. It's a title I attach to the city in my own mind whenever I get a ride to the far reaches of one of the boroughs and find myself temporarily lost, as if I'd been swallowed by a whale and was now trying to navigate my way out of its intestinal tract. I call it "The Monster City of the World".
New York is a place that is unfathomably huge. It is so difficult to convey to a visitor the seriousness of this immensity that I usually find myself rattling off my favorite statistics:
- Over 6,000 miles of paved roads. That's the distance from New York to Los Angeles. And back.
- 770 miles of subway tracks. (Now there's a place you can get lost.)
- More than 100 miles of steam pipes under the streets.
- The "Over 200 Club": over 200 hotels, over 200 Starbucks, and over 200 McDonald's in the five boroughs.
- In excess of 17,000 restaurants overall.
- 13,087 yellow taxis. And more than double that number of other types of car service vehicles (limos, community car services, and corporate car services).
- If you took Brooklyn by itself it would be the 4th largest city in the United States. Brooklyn is bigger than Philadelphia.
- The population of New York is over 8 million. Add to that about another million visitors on any given day. The population of Ireland is 4 million. So the population of the city is twice the population of that country. Although I grant you that half the population of Ireland is already in New York, so that stat may be a bit misleading.
You get the idea. New York is huge, massive, gigantic, humungus, immense, enormous, and just staggeringly large. And that's not to mention big, big, BIG! The Monster City of the World. And I admit to taking some pride in knowing as much of it as I do. But do I know every street? No way - not even close. Hell, there are entire sections of the Bronx that I barely know at all. And Staten Island? Forget-abowt-it.
Which is why I will continue to feel a twinge of humility when some kid or a guy from another country assumes correctly that I need help in getting to his destination. Ouch!
Click here for Pictures From A Taxi.