You drive around the city and as the night goes on more and more people appear on the sidewalks dressed as clowns, witches, cowboys, pimps, driver's licenses, nuns, boxers, cartoon characters, ketchup and mustard bottles, and cops. And more witches. Some of them get into your cab - my favorite this year was a young lady who was being "Miss Scarlet" from the game Clue. (She did it in the billiard room with the rope.)
But one of the hazards of these nights - it seems to happen every year and this year was no exception - is that I may find that I'm not sure if my passenger is wearing a costume or not! After all, this is New York City.
It becomes one of those awkward social situations. I want to comment on the costume, assuming it is a costume - but I don't want to offend the passenger in case it's not.
"What are you? A pimp?"
"I beg your fucking pardon, asshole, this is how I look. You got a problem with that?"
Now that would make for an uncomfortable ride. On the other hand, if it's one of these borderline costume situations and you get it right, well, maybe you have made the passenger's night. A few years ago a young man got in my cab wearing a bright white suit, a white vest, and a black shirt opened three buttonholes down to reveal a gold chain. We exchanged some chit-chat en route to his Tribeca destination. I really wasn't sure if this was a Halloween costume or not. Finally, I took a stab at it.
His face lit up in a huge grin. "You got it!"
This year's version took place on Saturday night at 2:15 am. I was cruising down 5th Avenue and a teen aged kid stepped out from the curb to hail me. I saw from a distance that he was wearing what, for lack of a better term, I will call an "inner city" outfit - on over sized baseball cap, with the bill of the cap off to the side, and a sleeveless t-shirt. Now if you're a taxi driver, this is not what you want to see hailing you. "Inner city", "teenager", and "taxicab" are not a good mix. If ever there was a candidate to beat you for a fare, it is this. So I was actually thinking of passing this kid by, but then I realized that he was standing alone on the corner of 87th Street, right in the heart of American Aristocracy territory, where no inner city kid would ever be standing alone in a million years.
I realized this was rich kid wearing what for him was a Halloween costume. I stopped and he got in. His destination was 76th and 5th, a mere 11 blocks away.
"Going to a party?" I asked.
"Who are you supposed to be?"
"Someone from Long Island."
I discreetly refrained from informing him that I myself had been born and raised on Long Island and continued the ride. At 76th Street he handed me a twenty dollar bill for a $3.80 fare and said, "Keep the change, this will be the best tip you'll get all night!"
Now this was truly remarkable for a few different reasons. First, kids are never good tippers. Second, members of the American Artistocracy are never good tippers. And third, it wasn't my best tip of the night!
Earlier in the evening, at 9:20, a beautiful and intriguing Englishwoman named Ann got in for a ride from Times Square to the Gansevoort Hotel in the Meat Packing District. She was quite interested in all aspects of taxi driving, especially celebrity stories. I wound up telling her my Leonardo di Caprio story which ends with Leo asking me who my best celebrity tipper had been. I told him it had been John McEnroe, who had given me double the meter. Leo then said, "Well, I'm going to give you triple the meter!" And he did.
Ann informed me that although she was not a celebrity she was going to outdo Leonardo di Caprio and give me four times the meter and proceeded to pay $40 for an $8.60 fare. (Which is actually five times the meter and secures Ann a plaque in the Best Tippers Hall of Fame.)
I've got to start telling that Leonardo di Caprio story more often.
Now as great and fun a night Saturday was, it was outdone by Halloween II on Wednesday. Not because I made more money, which I didn't, but because of the Halloween Parade. This is the night when Greenwich Village, which is crazy on a normal night, really goes wild. This thing gets bigger, more surreal, more Dali-esque every year. Here are some shots...
What's that? You say you want even more pictures from NYC? Well, then, just click here for Pictures From A Taxi.