I had a little episode a few nights ago that could serve as a model for the efficiency that is possible in today's world. The chronology went something like this...
11:41 p.m. - I pick up two ladies, one a twenty-something, the other middle-aged, coming out of the Mark Hotel on East 77th Street. They tell me they will have two stops, the first on Central Park South. As we head downtown on 5th Avenue, I can tell from their conversation that they are business colleagues.
11:46 p.m. - The older woman gets out across the street from her hotel on CPS. I'm told that the next stop will be the Marriott Marquis Hotel in Times Square. "Do you know where that is?" the twenty-something asks, demonstrating that she is an out-of-towner. Any cabbie would be familiar with the gigantic Marquis. "Sure," I reply, unoffended.
11:47 p.m. - We stop at a red light at 7th Avenue. Looking at her in the mirror, she seems friendly so I decide to liven up the ride by making an out of the blue comment to her. "Do you see that building on the left?" I ask, indicating the stately New York Athletic Club.
"Yes," says she.
"You know the Christmas song 'Santa Claus Is Coming To Town'?"
"Thirty years ago I brought the man who wrote that song to that building."
Her eyes widened. "Really! Wow!"
Bingo, we were off to the races. I tell her my J. Fred Coots story as we make the left onto 7th Avenue and proceed toward the Marquis on 45th Street.
11:50 p.m. - As we wait at the red light at the special right-turn-only lane at 45th Street, she asks me what time the stores close tomorrow, a Wednesday - she's catching a plane in the morning and wonders if there'll be enough time to do some shopping. I tell her I think the stores open at 10, but caution that I can't be sure because I haven't seen that hour of the day for years since I drive the night shift and sleep in the morning. In fact, I add, I'm not even sure that there actually is a ten o'clock in the morning, a little joke. She smiles.
11:52 p.m. - We pull up beside the Marquis on 45th. Somehow the conversation has meandered onto the subject of what the odds would be of getting a passenger twice in a cab in New York City. I wind up telling her a story about having had a Major League baseball player from the California Angels in my cab twice in two successive years. This then leads into a related story about how the only way to have an advantage when betting on baseball is to have some inside information about particular circumstances that could affect the outcome of a game, and that these two rides had provided me with just that. She appears to be fascinated.
11:54 p.m. - The conversation finally comes to an end. She pays the $11.00 fare with a credit card, adding a $3.30 tip, then smiles, leaves the taxi, and disappears into the hotel. I drive off down 45th Street toward 8th Avenue, looking for my next passenger.
11:56 p.m. - Not finding anyone after driving up 8th for ten blocks, I decide to take a break as it is almost midnight and that is routinely when I stop and eat. I make a few turns and wind up on 59th Street between 10th and 11th Avenues, a quiet block where I won't be disturbed.
11:58 p.m. - Stepping out of my cab, I continue my routine by opening the back door to search for any debris left by passengers and, whoa, sitting on the seat is an iPhone. I pick it up and bring it to the front for examination. I find two things, one good and one bad. The good is that it is not locked. The bad is that it says it's down to only ten percent of its charge remaining, which means that if its owner doesn't call me soon, the phone will loose its charge and will likely never be able to be returned. However, since it's not locked I am able to open the address book and look for the name of the person, I have learned from experience, who is the single best person to call for help. And that person's name is "Mom".
12:00 a.m. - I scroll and find Mom. I call Mom. The call is immediately answered because Mom thinks her daughter or son is calling. "Hi, honey," says Mom. I explain that I'm not honey, I'm a taxi driver in New York City who has just found this iPhone on the back seat. She thanks me for calling, mentions that she is in Ohio, and tells me it belongs to her daughter. I tell her the iPhone is nearly out of charge and that I'd like to leave my own cell phone number with her so that in case I'm not able to make contact with her daughter she will still have a way of reaching me after the next time she talks to you. I give Mom my number, who then says that if she knew what hotel her daughter was staying at, she would call her herself to give her my number. I tell her that it's likely her daughter was my last passenger and that she's staying at the Marriott Marquis hotel in Times Square. Mom thanks me again and gets off the line.
12:03 a.m. - I am munching on my grilled chicken and whole wheat bread while adding up the money numbers thus far into the shift . My cell phone rings. It is my last passenger calling me from the Marquis. I tell her I'll be there in ten minutes.
12:11 a.m. - I arrive back at the Marquis. After a minute of waiting, my relieved former passenger approaches on the sidewalk and is reunited with her precious iPhone, which, in today's world, pretty much contains her life within it. She thanks me profusely and offers me a twenty dollar bill as her way of showing her gratitude. Thinking it would be noble to refuse the reward, upon seeing the bill coming toward me I accept it anyway, thinking it's important for a person's self-esteem to be able to keep their exchange in. We chat for a minute and go our separate ways. I stuff the bill in my shirt.
To think that all of this - from picking up a passenger at the Mark Hotel, to having an extended and enoyable conversation with that passenger, to contacting her mother halfway across the country in the middle of the night, to reuniting the passenger with a lost possession - all of this took place within half an hour.
What a world we live in today.