Tuesday, February 18, 2014

The Kissing Hail

It’s quite common in New York City to see people kissing each other on the sidewalk, like this:

What’s not common is to see someone hailing a cab while kissing someone. Imagine one of the people in these pictures waving an arm in an attempt to communicate to a taxi driver that his services are required while maintaining the kiss. In Chapter 16 of my book this is referred to as “The Kissing Hail”. It’s a thing of beauty, requiring balance, agility, peripheral vision, upper body strength, and a need to make a train.

I saw one recently in Tribeca at around 10 p.m. as I was driving up Hudson Street in search of my next passenger. I was impressed not only with the inventiveness of the hailer, a young man with an attractive young lady wrapped around him, but with my own ability to see it coming. You see, an alert taxi driver sees people kissing on the sidewalk not only as an urban sideshow, but as a business opportunity.

It comes in two forms:

1. There’s the First Time We’ve Done This kissing. Usually (but not always) seen quite late at night - say, after 11 - it’s what happens after two people have either been out on a date or have met in a bar, have taken a liking to each other, and are bringing the attraction to its next logical step. They will often be propped up against the side of a building, perhaps just off the sidewalk a bit, in an attempt to create their own little space. There’s no separating them. An explosion could go off on the other side of the street and they would continue to stare into each other’s eyes, run their hands gently across each other’s faces, kiss passionately, come up for air, and do it again.

There is no business opportunity here. Just keep driving.

2. But then there’s the Until We Meet Again kissing. Again, two people are embraced in a passionate kiss, but there are subtle differences. They are usually close to the curb. There is no gazing into each others eyes. There are no exploratory caresses. There’s just the tight embrace and the prolonged kiss, as if to say, “I want you to remember that I love you, you mean a lot to me, sorry we now have to part, we’ll be back together again soon.”

When a cabbie sees this, slow down. One of them is about to hail you.

What happened on Hudson Street was that I was cruising along, looking for my next one, but caught a red light at Franklin. As I waited for the light to change I couldn’t help but notice the two people going at each other with some vigor. After fifteen seconds or so of careful observation, I decided they were Until We Meet Again kissers. I was pretty sure one or both would be wanting a taxi, but I had a problem. There was construction taking up half the road and I wouldn’t be able to stop and wait for them to cease osculation without blocking cars behind me. I would have to keep moving when my light turned green.

As more seconds ticked by, tension grew. The light on the Franklin Street side turned yellow. Then red. My light turned green. Damn, why don’t these two stop kissing each other already? I mean, come on, enough! I inched my cab forward, keeping an eye on them. Slowly, slowly, until I heard a car behind me start leaning on his horn (a New York City tradition). And then, just as I was about to step on the gas and forget about them, it happened…

…the Kissing Hail!

Yes, without parting bodies, without unlocking lips, without even looking at the vehicles approaching on Hudson Street, the guy’s hand went out behind his back and started waving! I hit the brakes, pulled over, and brought the cab to an abrupt stop. The cars behind me expressed their displeasure and one driver gave me a little scowl as he squeezed around me, but I didn’t care. This was business. Like a fisherman reeling in his line, I awaited the arrival of my catch.

The young gentleman walked his girlfriend to the cab, gave her a final kiss, and she climbed in. “Make sure she gets home safely,” he said, not so much really a communication to me but a gesture meant to give her one last assurance of his caring about her before they parted for the evening. I thought it was a nice touch.

And off we went on a long ride out to Queens.

The hail was so extraordinary that I felt I should acknowledge its brilliance, even though it wasn’t she who had performed it. So I told her about “The Kissing Hail” and how rare it is to see one and how it’s in a book that I just happen to have on my dashboard and here take a look at page 323 and why yes as a matter of fact I wrote it myself.

My passenger was kind enough to overlook my need for attention and we engaged in one of those conversations that can occur sometimes in a taxicab by which at the end of the ride you feel that you’ve made a new friend.

There’s something about the randomness of that, like the randomness of life itself, that I find so appealing. It’s the reason I’ve stuck with this profession for so many years, if truth be told.


Avina said...

Hello Gene... This post has left an incredibly huge smile on my face. My boyfriend and I still speak of that night and how in it's own special way it was both magical for us and for you. Who would have thunk in a million years that I would be in the arms of my love, smooching away while he hails me cab only to find out that the cab driver wrote about said scenario in his book?!?!? A Unicorn indeed. This is definitely one of those moments that will leave a lasting impression on our lives. Thank you so much for sharing. And yes I definitely felt like I made a friend after that ride. It was wonderful speaking to you and hearing about your interests and how you got in your profession... I wish that you continue to find more unicorns and have many, many more wonderful trips.

Anonymous said...

Stories like these are so seldom, even more so when you're friend is involved :) . It is a pleasure to read that not only was the couple being athletic in hailing your cab Gene and that you've made it a phenomenon but that they showed such affection in what sometimes is a cold world.

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