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!


King of New York Hacks said...

Oh I gave it a click Gene, and you are the true King of New York Hacks...They really should have printed this because it is SO true...great interview nonetheless, and well deserved...I hope whomever interviewed you follows up..The Post interviewed me a while back but I refused to give them my name so they would not print my story, and then I saw the same writer post a story about an anonymous pimp. O_O ..too funny, but I hope Yassky does the right thing...Kudos Gene, thanks from all us cabbies everywhere for speaking what needs to be heard.Peace my friend.

Suzy said...

Great interview Dad, good read! :)

Mad Cabbie said...

The day they bring that shit in DC taxicabs would be my retirement time!

I will be a toll collector or something!

Mad Cabbie said...

and I hate it when you moderate the comments! come on man, we live in America!

NYC taxi photo said...

Mad Cabbie- you don't moderate your links? we all practice moderation one way or another

विजय सिंह said...

Great interview.

Good to know that Indians and Pakistani are law-abiding people. Here in India I have seen people break traffic rules like anything. Road rage is becoming a common phenomenon. A good number of the auto-rickshaw drivers in Delhi don't prefer going by meter, they charge extra and if it is not where they want to go they will say no.

The same people when go abroad start behaving meekly and follow law more than anybody else. Why don't we do for our own country I couldn't understand.

Anyways, reading your blog is a pleasure. I am associated with theatre in Delhi and wish to know more about the stage plays you have written.

With Best Wishes

april said...

From stoplights to spotlights, you always tell it like it is with intelligence and dignity, balancing the bad with the good. It's a shame others often take a backseat, but that's human nature for you. I hope this great article does not prove the highlight of your career; I feel the footlights beckoning bigtime.