Thursday, February 10, 2011

Village Voice Interview

I was interviewed last week in the online edition of The Village Voice, New York's "alternative weekly" newspaper. Here's the link:

I liked the way it was done - questions sent to me in advance - as it gave me a chance to give thoughtful and hopefully entertaining answers. My only gripe is that some of my answers were edited out, for brevity's sake, I am told. So since, hey, I have my own voice right here, this is what I wanted people to know about one of the touchy subjects in the interview that was not published...

If you haven't ridden in a New York taxi since 2008, all cabs are now equipped with television monitors in the back seats which give out information, advertising, news, feature stories, and more advertising to passengers. The pictures and sound - the volume of which is under the control of the passenger - come on automatically when the meter is started. The speaker is about nine inches behind the head of the driver who must listen to the same repetitive programming over and over again during the course of a twelve-hour shift.

Obviously, the drivers hate these things. And most passengers, who may or may not be aware that they can turn it off, aren't too crazy about it, either.

Here's the thing that I wanted known that wasn't in the Village Voice piece, and I think it's an important point that has been overlooked by the public, the media, and the Taxi and Limousine Commission. It's that these things are dangerous. How so? They are distracting and irritating to the driver. As if driving a cab in the streets of New York City wasn't distracting and irritating enough without them!

The analogy I make to passengers in my cab when this subject comes up, and it comes up often, is how would you like it if, when you were flying in an airplane, there was a television nine inches behind the head of your pilot, the volume of which was under the control of the passengers? For that matter, how would you like it if this thing was nine inches behind the head of your bus driver? Well, guess what? Statistically, riding in a taxi is more dangerous than riding in either a plane or a bus.

Several years ago I was hailed from the street by a woman in a wheelchair. After helping her into the cab and putting the wheelchair in the trunk, she told me her story. She had been paralyzed in an accident in a taxicab in Chicago.

Have I made my case?

The main justification for the existence of the city agency known as the Taxi and Limousine Commission is to ensure the safety of the passengers. That is priority number one. So to add an unnecessary and unwanted element into the environment of the taxicab which is distracting and irritating to the driver is utterly contrary to its mandate.

And it needs to be changed.

So there is my rant. Other than its omission, I was quite happy with the interview. Hope you'll give it a click.

And while you're clicking, let's not forget to click here for Pictures From A Taxi!