Saturday, May 26, 2007

Kangaroo Exchange Student

Now here's something different. I was taking a fare of three cheerful ladies from the Upper West Side to Central Park South last Saturday evening and wasn't really paying much attention to them until they started taking pictures of something in the back seat. Looking back at them through the rear-view mirror, I thought I would see them taking snapshots of each other. Instead, they were propping up a little kangaroo doll and taking pictures of that.

This called for taxi-driver intervention. Why in the world would three sober, intelligent-looking women demonstrate such enthusiasm for a stuffed animal? I got the story, and here is my report...

Liz, Alice, and Christy (left to right) have been friends since high school in Philadelphia. Liz now lives in England, Alice lives in Massachusetts, and Christy lives in New York. They were together here for a reunion and, from the looks of it, having a wonderful time.

Liz has a five-year-old son, Henry, who goes to the Old Buckingham School in Suffolk, England. Henry's class has a "foreign exchange student" program with a class in a school in Australia. What happened was that Kelly the Kangaroo was sent to Great Britain and Harold the Hedgehog was shipped off to down under. And the classes exchange pictures and stories about the adventures of their mascots. Henry's teacher asked Liz to bring Kelly with her on her trip to New York and take pictures of her (that's a female kangaroo) in various New York City locations. Like a taxicab.

So that's the story. Just a bunch of dedicated people making the world a friendlier place - one kangaroo at a time.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Australian Bullet Story

This Karma Vs. Coincidence thing seems to have a karma of its own. What I mean is, ever since I wrote that post a few weeks ago I've had some attention on the phenomenon of unlikely things happening simply because I have my attention on them. And as a result of that it seems to keep happening. Or maybe these things happen all the time but I haven't been really noticing it as much as I have been recently.

Anyway, here's the latest installment...

Last Thursday night at 9:05 I picked up a middle-aged, Australian woman in the Meat-Packing District who was headed for the Holiday Inn Hotel in Chinatown. She was in great spirits and quite chatty and we wound up having one of those lively conversations that easily bounce around all over the place. We somehow got on the subject of internet dating and she told me that she'd tried it and had gone through a couple of dozen dates that didn't amount to anything, except for one particular man whom she'd dated for eight months. And then she told me this truly bizarre story of something that had happened to him years before she'd met him...

He was a policeman in Perth. One day he pulled a motorist over to the side of the road in a deserted area for a traffic infraction. While he was speaking to the motorist, a third man approached them on foot. For no reason whatsoever this third man suddenly pulled out a gun and fired it into the head of not the cop, but the motorist sitting in his car, killing him instantly.

Her former boyfriend (the cop) immediately did what he'd been trained to do, which was to run away in zig-zags to make himself a difficult target. Nevertheless, he was hit by a bullet in the thigh. Fortunately he was able to keep running and he did elude the maniac with the gun.

I asked her why he didn't pull out his own gun and she told me that at that time police officers in Australia did not carry weapons. But that now they do. And that the reason that law was changed was this very incident. So it was a famous case in Australia.

Anyway, later that evening the gunman, whom my passenger described as a "psychiatric case", went to the home of his boss with the intention of killing him, too. The boss, however, was somehow able to talk him out of it and his would-be killer left, only to turn his gun on himself and commit suicide a few hours later.

Ten years went by. Apparently according to Australian law, evidence must be held by the government for ten years even when the perpetrator is dead and no one had been put on trial. At the end of that time, the evidence is either given back to whomever it belonged to, or it is destroyed. In this case the policeman, who at that time was dating my passenger, was notified that if he wanted the bullets that had been recovered at the murder scene, he could have them.

He decided to accept them. But then, having accepted them, he didn't know what to do with them and this became an odd dilemma. He was considering, among other options, having them mounted in transparent plexiglass as a trophy, but, as this was at the time when they stopped dating, my passenger wasn't sure what he had finally decided to do with them.

And that was the Australian bullet story.

Two hours later I pick up another middle-aged Australian woman. Now right away the odds of picking up two middle-aged Australian women in the same shift are quite slim, probably on the order of 10,000 to 1. I can't recall that this ever happened before. This one also is quite chatty and we engage in a lively conversation. The discussion turns to the danger of crime being commited in a taxicab, and then to crime in general. And then to the police.

Without any prompting from me, she makes this statement: "The police in Australia don't carry guns. Well, they do now, but they never did until recently."

After picking up my eyes (which had popped out of my head) and my jaw (which had dropped to the floor), I informed her that the ex-girlfriend of the cop whose case caused that law to be changed was sitting in the seat she now occupies only two hours ago.

Once again, I ask you, what are the odds here? What are the odds of a second Australian woman appearing in my cab and bringing up the same subject that a previous Australian woman had been talking about only two hours earlier? Was this coincidence?

Or do things actually appear out of nowhere simply because we have our attention on them?

Come to think of it, this might be a pretty good time to put your attention on Pictures From A Taxi. Just click right here.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Just Another Saturday Night

It's hard to drive a cab in New York on a Saturday night without seeing something or hearing about something that's basically outrageous. Here are last Saturday's entrees.

11:50 pm - I was taking a fare up 1st Avenue and we hit traffic at 56th Street. This isn't unusual because there's often a back-up here for the 59th Street Bridge, so I wasn't taking much notice of what was going on. But after we moved inch-by-inch for a couple of minutes I finally noticed some flashing police lights up ahead at 58th Street. And then, as I approached the intersection, I discovered the actual cause of the jam-up.

Two police cars were parked in the right two lanes, and all the other vehicles had to merge to the left to get by them. So what was the emergency? Someone on the 3rd or 4th floor of a townhouse had rigged up the pay-per-view broadcast of the Mayweather/De La Hoya fight so it projected onto the wall of an adjoining building. It could be seen from the street and a small crowd had gathered at the corner to watch it. Were the cops monitoring the crowd? Policing the traffic flow? No, they were standing there next to their patrol cars, wide-eyed, watching the fight. All that was missing were their bags of popcorn.

Add that one to the Traffic Jam Hall of Fame.

2:14 am - In the field of humor, there's a difference between a funny thing happening to a normal person and a someone who is a "funny person". For example, if Betty wore a fruit basket hat on her head to a costume party, it would be funny. But if Betty wore it on the street because she thought it looked pretty good and at the same time would remind her to pick up some peaches at the supermarket, she would be a "funny person". She would not think of herself as being funny, but others, seeing the outpoints in her behavior of which she was not aware, would laugh.

I had a "funny person" in my cab on Saturday. He was a twenty-something guy en route from 33rd Street and 11th Avenue to 60th and Amsterdam. He was a cheerful and pleasant person, but not the brightest star in the sky. The first thing that happened was that he noticed that I was a white-skinned, American guy driving a cab.

"Oh, wow, you're white!" he said.

Observations like this from passengers are so mundane to me by this time that, to try to keep it interesting, I feel compelled to play around with it whenever someone mentions it. I looked at my arm in mock surprise.

"You're right! I am white!" I said. My sarcasm went right over his head and out the window. He continued on in the same way.

"You know how long it's been since I've had a white cab driver? Like... years!"


"Yeah! All these guys are from Pakistan or someplace."

"They are?" I thought for sure he would pick up on my attitude, but he absolutely didn't get it.

"Yeah! I don't know, maybe India, I don't know, but, man, you are like the first American driver I've had in a really long, long time, man!"


"Yeah, serious, man."

I found myself smiling at his profound inability to understand that, of course, how could I not know this extremely well. Not to be unkind, but the guy was stupid in a charming sort of way. He was funny. I decided to change the subject as it was hopeless to keep on being sarcastic with him.

"Where are you coming from, the Copa?" I asked.

"No, I was at Stereo," he said.

Now this was a huge surprise to me. There are two clubs right next to each other at 33rd and 11th, the Copacabana and Stereo. The Copa gets a primarily Hispanic, hetero crowd and Stereo is hardcore gay. Although this guy wasn't Hispanic, I figured he had been at the Copa as he didn't fit the gay mold at all.

"Oh... so how was Stereo? Big crowd in there?"

"I don't know, I didn't get in," he said.

"Why not?"

"I was supposed to meet a friend of mine in there, " he said. "So what they do is, first they make you wait outside. Then they finally let you come into this entranceway they have before you can actually get into the place. And then these two guys frisk you to see if you have any weapons."

This is standard operating procedure at clubs in New York. The police department is very tough on club owners if there's ever any violence inside the premises.

"So what was the problem?"

"Well, when they frisked me, they felt me up," he said flatly. "They touched me all over. They even touched my dick. And then they tell me I'm not on 'the list', so I don't get in anyway."

I was shocked. "They touched your dick!" I blurted back to him.


Actually the incident struck me as being not only outrageous, but humorous, too. The idea that gay security guys get to molest the customers in a gay club as a normal function of their job seemed highly comical to me. And that they could do this and still not even let the guy into the club made it seem like their real function wasn't to find weapons, but to feel everybody up. But my passenger wasn't reacting like it was either outrageous or funny. To him it was just something that happened, like receiving change at the check-out counter of the deli.

I tried to delve a little to see if I could get more of a response to the incident from him. "Maybe you should look at this as a bonus," I said. "You got felt up for free."

"But I'm not gay," he said.

"You're not?"

"No, I'm straight. It's my friend who's gay."

"Oh... uh, okay... so... what are you going to do now?"

"Go see my girlfriend."

Just another Saturday night.

Nothing funny about clicking here for Pictures From A Taxi.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Springtime For Fido

It's springtime in New York and a young dog's fancy turns to thoughts of dragging his owner out into the beautiful weather for a stroll in the street, a sniff in the garbage, and, best of all, a free-for-all romp in one of the city's dog runs. These are fenced-in areas in city parks where dogs can run around with each other unleashed and unrestrained.

I happen to pass by one a couple of days ago in Chelsea and was so taken with the exhilaration of the dogs as they ran around playing with each other that I stopped to take a few shots.

I did a little research and learned that there are 41 dog runs in the five boroughs of New York, 17 of them in Manhattan. Which just goes to show what a dog-friendly place the city is. And which also serves as a segue into my latest taxi dog...

Here is Pebbles, a 5 year-old mixed breed who was traveling with owner Bob from Hell's Kitchen to the Upper East Side. Bob told me that Pebbles was abandoned in the Bronx, rescued by one of the city's animal agencies, and then discovered by him at an adoption fair for dogs that was held in Central Park. It was boy meets dog and they have been together ever since.

Pebbles' special skill is playing a game called "ready, set, go". He will remain in place as Bob moves further and further away from him and will stay there until a signal is given. And then he comes running to Bob at full speed.

Pebbles does have a weakness, however. Perhaps even a shameful weakness, considering that he is a dog. Pebbles is afraid of cats. I would suggest to Bob that maybe, as therapy, he should take Pebbles over to a dog run. A few hours of running around with the guys, no cats allowed, might bolster his self-esteem and cure him of the phobia.

Hey, just a thought.

Another thought would be to click here for Pictures From A Taxi.