Saturday, June 05, 2010

Good Time Charlie

What's always good in the taxi business is an immediate turnover of passengers - that is, a new one gets in as the old one gets out. That's what happened on a recent Tuesday night just before midnight on 69th between 1st and 2nd. Actually it wasn't really "immediate". There was a gap of about a minute and a half between the two fares as my passenger-to-be, a thirty-something male, stood on the sidewalk kissing a woman who was staying there on 69th. I was patient. It starts getting slow at that time of night on a Tuesday, so even with a delay it was good business for me. Finally he got in the cab, waving goodbye and blowing a final kiss or two at his beloved.

I drove west on the one-way 69th toward 2nd Avenue. "So... where are you heading?" I asked when no destination was forthcoming.

But instead of a location, I got this: "Man, that was the best make-out session I've had in, what? I don't know, man, a really long time!"

Right away I liked this guy. In his mind I wasn't being viewed as "taxi driver who's just there to take me someplace". I was being elevated into "my man". I was his buddy, his suddenly-appearing pal, his comrade-in-arms. I knew this was going to be a fun ride.

"Yeah, you two were really going at it," I said, smiling. "I was afraid you might get invited upstairs and I'd lose the fare!"

"Hah, yeah, I wish, but, you know, it was the first date."

"No sex on the first date, huh?"

"Well, it depends. Sometimes, maybe. But she wasn't a first-date-sex kind of girl."

"Is that good or bad?"

"I don't know... good, I guess. I don't know. Man, she can really kiss!"

We had hit a red light at 2nd which was now turning green. "So where are we going?" I asked.

"I don't know... go straight."

I drove to 3rd Avenue where another red light awaited us.

"So there'll be a second date?"

"Oh, yeah, she's definitely second date material. Maybe third and fourth date material."

"You think she might be 'the one', as the saying goes?"

"You know, it's not out of the realm of possibility."

The light turned green and I started driving toward Lex, still not knowing what our destination would be. "Could I ask you a personal question?" I inquired.


"Where the hell do you want to go?"

The guy seemed to be more interested in going anywhere than in actually going somewhere. As a general rule, I think that is fine as long as the passenger isn't semi-coherent. But we were going to run into the wall that surrounds Central Park at 5th Avenue if we couldn't decide to make a turn before we got there. So I pressed the issue a little.

"Well, there are basically two things we could do," I said. "We could go uptown or downtown. I know it's a tough call, but what do you think?"

He gave it some thought. "Where are the bars that are open?" he asked.

"They're all open. It's only midnight. The bars stay open 'til four, most of them."

"Well, let's go there."

I made a left on 5th and headed downtown, where most of the nightlife is found.

"Okay," I said, feeling like we were making progress, "so now out of the maybe two thousand bars that are open, all we've gotta do is figure out which one you want to go to."

"One where there's lots of girls," he said.

I was surprised. "You mean after your date and all that kissing you still want to go to a bar and try to pick up some girl?"

"Actually, man, you know what would be better? Just a hooker. Where can we go to find a hooker?"

"Craig's List," I replied, reminding him that since Giuliani had been mayor in the '90s there haven't been any hookers on the streets of the city.

"So should I take you there?" I asked.


"To Craig's List."

Well, this was just unmitigated hysteria for my passenger, who doubled over in laughter and jumped into the concept of the thing. "Yes, take me to Craig's List and make it fast!" he demanded.

"Next stop, Craig's List!" I joined in, and stepped on the gas a bit as if it was really a place we could drive to.

We continued rolling down 5th Avenue in great spirits. I asked him again which bar, or at least which part of town, he thought we ought to be heading toward, but it seemed that once he had actually let it out that he was thinking of looking for a hooker he began to think maybe it wasn't such a great idea, after all. He became reflective.

"You know, I've probably been on something like two hundred dates in the last two years," he said.

"No way," I replied, trying to do the math in my mind, "like two dates a week?"

"Oh, definitely, yeah, I've been dating like crazy."

"How do you find all these dates?"

"Match dot com."

"But no matches?"

"Well, there have been a few who looked like maybes, yeah, but they didn't pan out."

"Too bad."

"Or maybe I didn't pan out," he added, laughing.

The thought crossed my mind that a guy who could go out on what he thought was a great date and then want to go looking for hookers after that date might, in fact, be the one who didn't pan out. But of course I kept my mouth shut, only asking him again for some kind of a destination. We were still on 5th, down in the thirties now.

"You know what, tomorrow's a work day, I think I'll just call it a night."

I expected him to say that. It often happens that someone in a party mode comes down to Earth after riding aimlessly in a cab for a few minutes.

"So where's home?"

"39th between 2nd and 3rd," he said, and then made the faux pas of giving me directions to a simple destination. "Just cut across 32nd to 3rd, then go up to 40th and cut over to 2nd," he said.

I gave him a painful look through the mirror and, being an astute observer of taxi driver attitudes, he realized his mistake. "I guess you knew that already," he apologized.

I searched for the proper analogy and came up with this little gem:

"It's like telling a kindergarten teacher what a crayon is."

Well, I hit another bull's eye with that one. He again doubled over in laughter and the rest of our ride was spent in Glee Land. That's a place where anything that's seen or heard is hilarious simply because it's there. I decided right then that if I ever became a stand-up comedian I would want to order a couple hundred duplicates of this guy and bring them with me to every show. He was a perfect audience.

When I got him to his building, a luxury high rise, I was given a twenty dollar bill for a $12.70 fare and was informed that I was the best cab driver who ever lived. The door of the cab was opened by Johnnie, the best doorman who ever lived, and as I drove off my final glimpse of my passenger was of him and Johnnie, his new comrade-in-arms, laughing uproariously together about something. Or anything.

It occurred to me later that if the woman I wrote about in my last post might be considered typical of what a female goes through in her search for a mate, Good Time Charlie might be nominated as a candidate for the quintessential male.

As a taxi driver, particularly as one who's been doing it for quite a while, I see them from a distance. And I find a kind of beauty in their bumbling around.

And if you happen to be looking for a place to bumble around, might I suggest clicking here for Pictures From A Taxi.