Saturday, July 19, 2008

Taxi Driver Cop, Part Two

If you've been reading this blog for awhile you know that I'm big on the karma vs. coincidence thing. I'm not an extremist - I do think there's such a thing as coincidence. Let's say an asteroid has been on a collision course with Earth for a billion years and it comes down on YOU. That's a coincidence. But if you've been playing a favorite song in your head for an half an hour and then the person who sings that song from out of nowhere suddenly gets in your cab, that's karma. It's a your universe being senior to the physical universe or the universes of others thing. There's an energy involved.

So what happened merely 30 minutes after my pathetic attempt to be a taxi driver cop with the fake cab (see my last post) cannot be written off as coincidence. Karma, baby!

It was a bit after 4 in the morning, the time of night when I'm looking for "one more fare" (the shift ends at 5 a.m.). I was cruising up 6th Avenue, approaching 15th Street, when something caught my eye on the right side of the avenue. There was a yellow, medallion taxi stopped in what should be a moving lane and a twenty-something guy standing there with a bicycle on the cab's right side, opposite the driver. I pulled up a bit behind them and stopped, thinking maybe the guy wanted to put his bike in the trunk and for some reason the driver didn't want to do that and maybe I would get the fare for myself. I have no problem putting bicycles in trunks.

But what was happening was actually the beginning of some kind of a confrontation. The guy with the bicycle started screaming at the driver. I couldn't hear what he was saying nor could I even see the driver of the cab. But I could see that for some reason this guy with the bicycle was extremely angry. Right away I decided that I wanted no part of him and locked my doors. I was about to pull away and continue up 6th, but before I could do that, the situation escalated. He started whacking at the taxi's windows with his arm, perhaps trying to break them.

For me - and this is one of the things I like about driving a cab - it was one of those little instantaneous moments of truth. I could drive away. Or I could stay there.

I stayed there.

I had no idea what this guy was so pissed off about, but now it didn't matter to me. He was attacking a taxi and that zone of human activity is mine, so I was on the side of the taxi and its driver. Even so, I had no intention of getting out of my cab and confronting the guy. I just thought that the presence of another yellow cab might act as a deterrent to him.

To the contrary.

He then lifted his bicycle in the air and slammed it against the side of the taxi, breaking the side view mirror off. I'm not sure what category of crime this would fit into - assault with a deadly bicycle? - but it was felony stuff, no doubt. I expected him to then take off, but instead he just stood there and removed his bicycle chain from its prior location, around his neck, and held it in his hand in anticipation of the driver coming out of his cab to attack him, which would have been the all-too-common response to the stimulus. The "thinking" here is that sufficient motivation has been given to warrant a violent reaction, so what he really wants to do, pummel the driver into a paste, could be justified as "self-defense". Psycho.

But, amazingly, the driver did not get out - he just stayed in his cab. The two-wheeled assailant stood there for a quarter of a minute or so and then, deciding that the game was over, walked his bike across 6th Avenue and turned south toward 14th Street when he set foot on the sidewalk. I backed my cab up to the intersection of 14th Street and saw him pick up his bike and begin to walk down the stairs of the subway station there.

The need for justice runs deep in the human psyche. In the relative scale of criminal activity what I had just witnessed was not that big a deal, although it wasn't nothing. Yet I felt something stir deep within that demanded the situation be rectified. Even so, in this society, one is entering a minefield when action is taken. Considerations of physical danger, retribution, lawsuits, lawyers, legal fees, and enormous stress set in the moment one decides to take it upon oneself to do something about it. But there is one thing you can always do, although in these situations it never seems to work.

You can call the cops.

That's what you're supposed to do, right?

So I got out my cell phone and called 911. Inevitably, whenever you dial 911 with a need for immediate assistance, the person on the other end seems to be in no rush at all. I believe it's a game they play. As I tried to communicate the urgency of the situation, the driver of the cab, an Indian fellow, finally emerged from his vehicle, also speaking into a cell phone, and walked toward me. As I explained to him that his assailant had gone down into the subway and that I was calling the cops, the guy suddenly reappeared on the street, bicycle in hand, and began nonchalantly walking down 14th Street toward 7th Avenue. The window of opportunity for having this guy arrested was rapidly disappearing.

What happened next could be described by some as a modern urban miracle. There is an axiom of life in the city that is as unshakable as "you can't fight city hall" and "shit happens". It is this: "you can never find a cop when you need one".

What happened was that, perhaps for the first time in recorded history, I found a cop when I needed one. A cruiser was coming along on 14th Street. I flagged it down, explained the situation to the officers, and they took the Indian driver in their back seat to go hunt for the guy with the bicycle while I kept an eye on his taxi (which he left with the engine running). Within a minute three or four more cruisers arrived on the scene and the guy and his bicycle were under arrest. An officer returned to me to take my name and a statement, thanked me, and said they had all they would need. I wished the Indian driver good luck and was on my way.

The whole incident took about 10 minutes.

And I'm thinking as I zipped up 6th Avenue, still looking for one more fare, wait a minute, this never happens. Some anger management clown with a sense of entitlement in the area of taxi drivers bashes in a cab and then gets arrested?

This never happens!

But it did.


It kind of makes you want to click here for Pictures From A Taxi, does it not?


Anonymous said...

As the story continued it grew more and more apparent that you wouldn't end the story by mentioning how you then started to hum a song and the "person who sings that song from out of nowhere suddenly" got your in cab... glad that worked out for you!

I saw two taxi-'civilian' altercations that led me to call 911. In one case it was the cab driver who did something crazy angry right in the middle of the business district. I let the victim call using my phone.

The second time some whack-job was angry with a cabbie and started kicking his door - so I called 911 - it was around midnight in the heart of Toronto's entertainment district.

Within maybe a MINUTE about a dozen cops showed up. Wagon, bikes, car.

They took that guy down and he was going into the wagon in cuffs with a bunch of other yahoos they had rounded up.

Crazy times.

bob mullen said...

Good idea staying in the cab thats exactly what I would do. You are right about never being a cop around when you need one usually though, I have been in that situation myself many a time.

Lugosi said...

It's safe to say that if you had nothing, the Indian driver would have ended up having to pay for the broken mirror out of his own pocket. That may or may not still happen, but at least there's a police report to back up his side of the story.

Anonymous said...

wow. that makes me feel good for all the times i've wanted to call a cop on someone. glad at least one person got caught. all is not lost.

King of New York Hacks said...

I always pull over when I see another Taxi in a confrontation, glad to see this one came out on our side, thanks to the new Dirty Callahan of the city . Nice work Gene !!

jodester said...

the question 'are you feeling lucky punk?' springs to mind... good work G! x

John said...

Nice one Gene, hope good Karma comes back to you.
Years ago in Dublin taxi drivers would stop to help a fellow driver, but alas not now.

Mad Cabbie said...

I hope I will be in your back seat tonite.

Real cab driver said...

We had a dispatcher who would refuse to call the cops for anything but an accident. How many drunk drivers have you bagged?

Gusgamashuq Abunoori said...

I love the way you get really cheesy at the end of your posts with the picture blog propaganda and link. It works though. About the showdown, I salute you on a job well done. On behalf of all NYC cabdrivers, thank you for not simply just driving away from the scene.