Now the great majority of taxi rides are pretty mundane. A to B is what they're all about and the reasons for them are things like getting to train stations, going home from work, arriving at the theater, meeting up at a restaurant, and so on. But every once in a while one of them steps out from the crowd, turns, faces the wannabees, and pirouettes like a duck in Swan Lake. These are the Unusual Reasons For Taking A Taxi. They might include:
1. The quintessential "Follow that taxi!" seen so often in movies.
2. The reverse of that, which is "Lose that taxi!" (or another vehicle) that's following the passenger.
3. Having some kind of sex in the back seat.
4. The No Destination Ride. Just drive.
5. The Shake the Paparazzi Ride, in which the passenger, a celebrity, wants to go just far enough to be out of sight of the frenzied photographers.
6. The "I'd Rather Die in Your Taxi" Ride in which the passenger, who has just had a heart attack, chooses to go to his hotel room rather than to a hospital.
7. The Getaway Ride. Unbeknownst to the driver, the passenger, who has just committed a crime, is using the taxi as his means of escape.
8. The Commandeered Taxi Ride. A cop suddenly jumps in and orders the driver to take him to a crime scene. No, not a doughnut shop! Who said that?
9. The "I Just Want To Be Able To Say I've Seen It" Ride in which a tourist who has only a few hours before he must catch his flight, takes a cab across the Brooklyn Bridge for the sole reason of catching a glimpse of the Statue of Liberty.
I've had all these rides over the years. And then a few nights ago, this happened...
Two twenty-something party girls in tight dresses kind of hailed me on 8th Avenue at 26th Street at 4:30 in the morning. I say "kind of" because it was one of those tentative arm raisings that people sometimes do when they think they want a cab but they're not quite sure. I stopped anyway. It's the time of night when I'm looking for that one last ride. The shift ends at five.
They didn't open the back door and get in. Instead they both came over to the window and one of them quite desperately asked me this question:
"Can you take us to a bathroom?"
They had been in a nearby club until closing time, 4 a.m., and then they'd found themselves out on the sidewalk in a little section of Chelsea that had nothing going on at that particular hour in the early morning. Everything was closed, not an all-night diner or even a deli anywhere in sight. And now whatever they'd been drinking was heading for the exit. It had become an emergency. If they'd been guys there would have been no problem. They could have just found a dark corner somewhere and fired away. But ladies do not squat in public places. Absolutely not! Help!
Of course the first thing I had to do was make fun of their situation in a good-natured way. After I got that out of my system, I told them not to worry, they'd come to the right place. Yessir, a veteran cabbie knows where all the bathrooms are. They jumped in and we started cruising uptown on 8th Avenue. Only seven blocks later, at 33rd Street, I pulled over at the north side of Penn Station. Pointing to the entrance, I told them to go down the escalator, walk a few steps to the left, and that's where the Ladies Room is located. I know the station well.
I might as well have told them they'd won a year's supply of Grey Goose. They were ecstatic. The $3.90 fare, which consisted only of the first drop and one click of the meter, had taken merely twenty seconds to complete. I felt a little guilty to be charging that much for such a quick ride and said, "I don't know if I'm ripping you off or rescuing you" to the damsels in distress.
"You're rescuing us!" they squealed in unison, then handed me six dollars and hurried off toward the escalator.
"Aww, shucks, m'am, I'm just doin' my job," I blurted out Jimmy Stewart style, although they were too far away to hear me. I shoved the bills in my shirt and drove off into the sunset, a hero.
Actually, the sunrise.
It was 4:30 in the morning.
A perfect time to click here for Pictures From A Taxi, by the way.