I got a ticket.
Not a parking ticket, a moving violation ticket. The kind that adds points to your license.
And this reminded me of a truism I discovered quite a few years ago when it comes to tickets. And that is that there are two kinds of tickets:
1) the ticket where you are mad at yourself for having made such a dumb move, and
2) the ticket where you are mad at the cop for having been so mean that he would have written the ticket at all.
An example of the first kind of ticket would be, say, you make a left turn at an intersection where there is a sign that clearly says, "No Left Turns". You see the sign but you make the turn anyway. A cop sees you do this, pulls you over, and writes you a ticket.
You are mad at yourself. You knew you were doing something illegal but you did it anyway and you got caught. "Stupid dumb ass me," you say to yourself.
An example of the second kind of ticket would be this: you are approaching an intersection where there is a stop sign. When you get to the intersection you check to see that no other vehicles or pedestrians are present and bring your car almost to a stop but not completely to a full stop. As you proceed your speed is less than three miles per hour. A cop pulls you over for failing to stop at a stop sign and writes you a ticket.
You are mad at the cop. What you did might have been technically illegal but you were in good control and knew that your actions in that situation were completely safe. You don't introvert and call yourself a goddamned freaking moron for not having come to a full stop. You curse the cop instead (in your mind, of course).
Well, guess what kind of ticket I received? Here's a hint - I wasn't mad at myself.
Okay, this is what happened...
On a Monday night at 4 AM - the time of the night when the "city that never sleeps" is taking catnap - I was cruising down 2nd Avenue in Manhattan with a couple of cars in front of me but no cars behind me. I was in the middle of the avenue. Suddenly a person appeared on the sidewalk to my left waving at me in the classic "I want a taxi" fashion. As a veteran cabbie who has been in this situation once or twice during every shift for the last 31 years, I did two things:
a) I instantly checked my side view mirror to make sure no vehicles were behind me, and
b) I turned sharply, cutting across two lanes, and got to the passenger.
I knew, before I made the turn, that it was a safe move. No one had to swerve out of the way to avoid hitting me. No one had to step on their brake. In actuality, it was an expert maneuver made by a professional driver in order to do his job.
But the cop didn't see it that way.
The passenger, a twenty-something female, entered the cab and told me her destination. During the time it takes to open and close the rear door, our light turned red. Then, just after it changed to green and I began to move forward to begin the ride, a police car pulled up beside me and a not pleasant officer informed me that he wanted to see several pieces of identification. The passenger departed to seek another means of getting to point B. As I handed over my driver's license and the taxi's identification card to the officer, I knew immediately that I was in trouble. Because just as there are two kinds of tickets, there are two kinds of cops you may encounter in this situation:
1) The "let's talk about it" cop, and
2) The "there's nothing to talk about, so don't talk to me" cop.
With a "let's talk about it" cop you at least have a chance of talking your way out of it. Even by allowing conversation, the cop is saying, in effect, that he is willing to allow the possibility that he will let you off with a warning. I must say that in the past I have been quite successful in this situation.
But not this time.
This cop was a "there's nothing to talk about" cop. In fact, he might have even been a "if you dare to try to talk your way out of it I will find something else to write you a ticket for" cop. So, actually, there are 3 kinds of cops in this situation.
And apparently this cop was of that third variety because, even though I didn't say a word to him and handed him the papers he wanted to see, he thought multiple tickets for a single offense, if in fact there was an offense at all, was the way to go.
Did I say above that I got "a" ticket? Uh, correction... make that four tickets.
1) Unsafe lane change.
2) Failure to signal.
3) Not stopping within 12 inches of the curb when pulling over for a passenger. (Believe it or not, this absurd rule is actually on the books in New York City.)
4) Stopping in a crosswalk.
This was from a cop whose powers of observation were so good that he could see all of this from a full block behind me, but whose powers of observation were not so good that he couldn't avoid making several errors in trying to copy over the information from my driver's license onto the tickets he was writing.
When I got back to my garage and told the dispatchers and a couple of the drivers what had happened, I was informed (belatedly) that "the heat is on" in the city. And, in fact, I noticed in the following couple of weeks that an inordinate amount of taxis were being pulled over, and presumably ticketed, by the cops.
This situation - the possibility of being selected as fodder for ticket blitzes - is one of the crosses that New York City taxi drivers bear and I suspect is one of the main reasons that many competent people decide to get out of the taxi driving business. It's just too much to take, considering everything else we have to put up with.
And it reminds me of what I consider to be a fascinating observation about an aspect of life in New York City that I have made and I don't think anyone else has noticed. I would like to invite every New Yorker who may read this blog to consider this.
Here is the observation: we have over 13,000 yellow medallion cabs and many more thousands of car service vehicles roaming the streets of the city. Some of these drivers are amazingly competent and some of them are not. But competent or not, one thing even a casual observer would notice is that taxis are pulled over by police cars all the time. I see it every night.
However, we also have in New York, thousands of buses crowding the streets. We have hundreds, if not thousands, of garbage trucks roaming around, apparently, with impunity. And we also have quite a few newspaper delivery trucks making their rounds. During my years as a cabbie I have seen countless instances of buses gridlocking intersections, running red lights, and cutting off other vehicles (although I do think, generally speaking, that bus drivers are highly competent). I have seen garbage trucks commit every imaginable traffic offense frequently. And I see newspaper delivery trucks running red lights and speeding every night.
But here's what I have not seen. And I think this is so amazing that I will put it in boldface:
I have never seen, not even once in 31 years, a bus, a garbage truck, nor a newspaper delivery truck pulled over by a cop. Not once!
And if you're a New Yorker, I'll bet you haven't either.
Isn't that amazing? I have always assumed that the reason for this is that the fix is in with the city due to agreements made with their unions. The taxi drivers, of course, have no union.
Anyway, I pleaded "not guilty" to the tickets and now have a court appearance scheduled for April.
The story of which I will post in this blog. So stay tuned.