It's hard to drive a cab in New York on a Saturday night without seeing something or hearing about something that's basically outrageous. Here are last Saturday's entrees.
11:50 pm - I was taking a fare up 1st Avenue and we hit traffic at 56th Street. This isn't unusual because there's often a back-up here for the 59th Street Bridge, so I wasn't taking much notice of what was going on. But after we moved inch-by-inch for a couple of minutes I finally noticed some flashing police lights up ahead at 58th Street. And then, as I approached the intersection, I discovered the actual cause of the jam-up.
Two police cars were parked in the right two lanes, and all the other vehicles had to merge to the left to get by them. So what was the emergency? Someone on the 3rd or 4th floor of a townhouse had rigged up the pay-per-view broadcast of the Mayweather/De La Hoya fight so it projected onto the wall of an adjoining building. It could be seen from the street and a small crowd had gathered at the corner to watch it. Were the cops monitoring the crowd? Policing the traffic flow? No, they were standing there next to their patrol cars, wide-eyed, watching the fight. All that was missing were their bags of popcorn.
Add that one to the Traffic Jam Hall of Fame.
2:14 am - In the field of humor, there's a difference between a funny thing happening to a normal person and a someone who is a "funny person". For example, if Betty wore a fruit basket hat on her head to a costume party, it would be funny. But if Betty wore it on the street because she thought it looked pretty good and at the same time would remind her to pick up some peaches at the supermarket, she would be a "funny person". She would not think of herself as being funny, but others, seeing the outpoints in her behavior of which she was not aware, would laugh.
I had a "funny person" in my cab on Saturday. He was a twenty-something guy en route from 33rd Street and 11th Avenue to 60th and Amsterdam. He was a cheerful and pleasant person, but not the brightest star in the sky. The first thing that happened was that he noticed that I was a white-skinned, American guy driving a cab.
"Oh, wow, you're white!" he said.
Observations like this from passengers are so mundane to me by this time that, to try to keep it interesting, I feel compelled to play around with it whenever someone mentions it. I looked at my arm in mock surprise.
"You're right! I am white!" I said. My sarcasm went right over his head and out the window. He continued on in the same way.
"You know how long it's been since I've had a white cab driver? Like... years!"
"Yeah! All these guys are from Pakistan or someplace."
"They are?" I thought for sure he would pick up on my attitude, but he absolutely didn't get it.
"Yeah! I don't know, maybe India, I don't know, but, man, you are like the first American driver I've had in a really long, long time, man!"
"Yeah, serious, man."
I found myself smiling at his profound inability to understand that, of course, how could I not know this extremely well. Not to be unkind, but the guy was stupid in a charming sort of way. He was funny. I decided to change the subject as it was hopeless to keep on being sarcastic with him.
"Where are you coming from, the Copa?" I asked.
"No, I was at Stereo," he said.
Now this was a huge surprise to me. There are two clubs right next to each other at 33rd and 11th, the Copacabana and Stereo. The Copa gets a primarily Hispanic, hetero crowd and Stereo is hardcore gay. Although this guy wasn't Hispanic, I figured he had been at the Copa as he didn't fit the gay mold at all.
"Oh... so how was Stereo? Big crowd in there?"
"I don't know, I didn't get in," he said.
"I was supposed to meet a friend of mine in there, " he said. "So what they do is, first they make you wait outside. Then they finally let you come into this entranceway they have before you can actually get into the place. And then these two guys frisk you to see if you have any weapons."
This is standard operating procedure at clubs in New York. The police department is very tough on club owners if there's ever any violence inside the premises.
"So what was the problem?"
"Well, when they frisked me, they felt me up," he said flatly. "They touched me all over. They even touched my dick. And then they tell me I'm not on 'the list', so I don't get in anyway."
I was shocked. "They touched your dick!" I blurted back to him.
Actually the incident struck me as being not only outrageous, but humorous, too. The idea that gay security guys get to molest the customers in a gay club as a normal function of their job seemed highly comical to me. And that they could do this and still not even let the guy into the club made it seem like their real function wasn't to find weapons, but to feel everybody up. But my passenger wasn't reacting like it was either outrageous or funny. To him it was just something that happened, like receiving change at the check-out counter of the deli.
I tried to delve a little to see if I could get more of a response to the incident from him. "Maybe you should look at this as a bonus," I said. "You got felt up for free."
"But I'm not gay," he said.
"No, I'm straight. It's my friend who's gay."
"Oh... uh, okay... so... what are you going to do now?"
"Go see my girlfriend."
Just another Saturday night.
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