Wednesday, September 16, 2015

The Taxi TV And Me

My God, how I hate these things.

For those who may not know, let me first tell you what the Taxi TV is. It's a television monitor situated in the rear compartment of all yellow and green (outer borough) taxicabs in New York City. It's not, however, a regular TV like you'd have at home. Rather, it consists of pre-programmed information, the majority of it being clips from television talk shows, along with commercials and the occasional public service announcement. The entertainment, the pitches, and the hear-ye-hear-ye's are packaged in continuous loops which the passenger may see and hear twice or even three times during the course of a ride. The driver hears it whenever the meter is turned on, which on the average is 60% of his twelve-hour shift.

The speakers of the Taxi TV are situated about 24 inches behind the driver's head. Not only does the cabbie have no control over its coming on automatically when the meter is engaged, he has no control over the thing's volume. The passenger can, with a tap-tap-tap of his finger, raise the volume to make it suddenly blasting into the driver's ears. He may also turn it off, and many do just that if they can figure out how to accomplish the task. Most, however, simply ignore it while conversing with their riding companions or the driver, texting, or chatting on their phones. Thus the Taxi TV is, more often than not, just "noise".

And if all this weren't enough to make you scream, let me add that it was the city itself (Mayor Bloomberg, in particular) which mandated its presence in all cabs in 2008. It is there primarily to raise advertising revenue for medallion owners and the companies which won the contracts for its installation and maintenance. The drivers don't see a dime - of course!

It is very unpopular with the majority of the taxi-riding public.  And needless to say, the drivers universally hate the thing.

Well, my dislike for the Taxi TV has been welling up in me for all these years.  The only positive thing I can say about it is that it has given me a worthy replacement for my Giuliani rant.  (I had my Giuliani rant perfected to such a point that passengers in my cab, who may have made the mistake of saying something positive about former Mayor Giuliani to me, would have been happy by the end of the ride to sign a petition to have the man tarred, feathered, and run out of town on a pole.  It was a thing of elocutionary beauty.)

A few weeks ago an acorn dropped on my head and the idea occurred to me to make an offer to passengers in my cab to raise awareness of the outrageousness of the presence of a television monitor in a taxicab, or at least of its continuous noise.  I decided to give them a one dollar rebate on the ride if they would just turn off the damned sound.  

It made the New York Post.  

Click here for the link.


Anonymous said...

Great idea, Gene. Wishing you every success.

Lee Hubbard said...

Good luck, Gene. The best customer response would be to turn the sound off and not take your dollar.
When is your next book coming out? My kindle is panting.

Anonymous said...

We have the same thing in Philly, but we drivers have some control over the volume. If you have the same system--a cheaply made yet expensive unit from verifone--try hitting menu -> settings -> volume. This should bring up a screen with volume settings for the driver unit & back tv unit. I keep this screen up on the front unit all the time and hit the mute button for at the begining of every fare. Of course, some customers turn the volume back up using controls on the rear unit, but this is so rare that I usually don't have to listen to the same Fallon clip twice. Failing this, a screwdriver through the diaphragm of the speaker is a more permanent solution. May all your lights be green and your taxi tv quiet.

Eugene Salomon said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Eugene Salomon said...

Although many taxis in NYC have Verifone, the cabs at my garage use Creative Technologies (CMT). Yesterday I went through all the options from the system's menu hoping to find a function that would enable me to turn off the sound but, alas, there were none. What a disappointment, I was really hoping this would have been the end of my long national nightmare. But thanks so much, that is really excellent information and I will pass it along to other cabbies here in New York.

dinesh g said...

Thanks for sharing and I hope that all the time and hit the mute button for at the begining of every fare. Of course, and some of the customers turn the volume back up using controls on the rear unit, but this is so rare that I usually don't have to listen to the same Fallon clip twice Taxi Booking

Don Snakini said...

I drive one of the rare cabs that has no partition, so each ride I reach my arm back and in an impressive feat of guessing, press the mute button.

Eugene Salomon said...

Don - Wow, I'd love to see a video of that! I'll bet after all these years of practice you can nail it nearly every time!

Rocky Ahmed said...

I am driving my own cab and I know all different kinds of passenger. I talk to them and they are glad that I became friendly to them. Privacy is very important, if they don't want to get disturb I completely respect that. Thank you for sharing your post. It's interesting and very refreshing post.