My commute is awful. I realize it's not that bad compared to people who live in the upper reaches of Connecticut or on the Jersey Shore, but I live in Manhattan - for crying out loud - and it takes me about an hour to get door to door. I've tried the subway, the bus and the subway, the bus, sometimes I'll walk, sometimes I ride my bike and I've even been driving to work lately. But, more often than not, I find myself taking a cab. Again, something you would think - in Manhattan - wouldn't be such a trial. You'd think that I could just step off the curb in front of my building, stick my hand out and a yellow taxi would stop at my feet for me to climb in and ride to work comfortably and relatively smell-free. But you'd be wrong. Catching a cab in my neighborhood (the Upper East Side) is a full contact sport. This morning is a perfect example.
Let me start by enumerating my cab-catching strategies. We all have them - and I happen to think mine are pretty good - and have a high chance of success. Here goes:
ONE - FORGET ABOUT DIRECTION. I have long ago abandoned 2nd avenue when it comes to finding a cab. Too many people over-estimate the importance of the direction in which the traffic is moving over the availability of cabs. Sure - the cabs on 2nd avenue are headed downtown, but there are more available cabs (and gypsy cabs) on 1st avenue and once you get in them - they can make a left and then another left and be on second avenue before you know it. I know it's a difficult concept for the average denizen of my neighborhood to grasp - but it's true.
TWO - THINK OUTSIDE THE YELLOW BOX. Just because a car isn't yellow doesn't mean it can't get you to work. I live in a mostly residential neighborhood. I can't afford to be snooty about the color of my conveyance. I look for and frequently use car service cars. You can spot them a mile away - they're usually black (sometimes dark blue, maroon or green) late model sedans (Lincolns, Buicks, etc.) and they have a license plate that starts with the letter T. It's illegal for these gypsy cabs to pick you up (without booking them over the phone) south of 96th street. But I've found that on my street (92nd) and even as far down as 86th - they'll still pick you up.
THREE - STAY ON THE MOVE. Another reason I prefer 1st avenue to 2nd is that while the traffic is moving uptown - I can walk downtown and still see all the cars moving past me. I can spot taxis with their light on, or car service cars which you really have to jump up and down to hail. Standing in one place and expecting a cab to just appear is the laziest thing I've ever heard of. And if you do decide to stand in one place - you shouldn't be upset if someone walks by you and manages to catch a cab one block in front of you. Which brings me to what happened this morning.
To the right is my crude attempt at diagramming the situation. The right angle at the top left represents the corner of 1st avenue and 92nd street and the red boxes are the cars parked along 1st avenue. The blue box was a truck, double parked in order to make a delivery. The yellow arrow is the direction the traffic (including the cabs - hence yellow) is moving up the avenue. The brown dot (with the letter A) is the asshole who was blocking traffic by standing next to the blue truck and the red line was the path I took when I walked by him. Now that I've set the stage...
As I'm walking by him and he's frantically waving his hand in the air at no one, I know he's going to be a problem. There are no yellow cabs and all the gypsy cabs seem to have people in the backseat. Because I see him there I keep my hand at my side and walk by. As I get near 91st street (about a half a block past this guy) I extend my arm and try to get the attention of some gypsy cabs. The light turns red on 91st and the traffic stops so I'm about to cross 91st street to continue my morning routine of trying desperately to get to work on time. As I wait for the few cars coming west on 91st to go I hear this guy yelling after me.
"HEY, CHUBBY! CHUBBY!" he yells. Chubby? He can't be talking about me, right? I may not be a size 2 but I'm far from chubby. OK, I am wearing my puffy down vest this morning so I'll let it go. I just ignore him, because, really? What am I supposed to do? Is there a rule that if you're trying to hail a cab I'm not allowed to walk past you? I missed the big sign on your back that said I couldn't proceed past this point until you were firmly ensconced in your taxi on the way to your stupid investment banking job. Idiot.
"CHUBITA! CHUBITA!" - What the..? Does he think I'm Latin? After a long winter, my usually lily white skin is nearly iridescent. And I have freckles, for crying out loud.
"YOU SHOULD GO BACK TO MANNERS SCHOOL!" - I'm floored. What a great zinger. He must have gone to zinger school. (Go wildcats!)
So - wuss that I am - I just ignore him. I think it's important to turn the other cheek. And, lo, I am rewarded for my zen-like effort to let it roll off my back because what do you think is happening right in front of me on 1st avenue and NINETY FIRST street? That's right, there's someone getting out of a cab. A Yellow Cab. The ones with meters and lower fares and non-shady drivers. HA!
As the person is getting out and I'm waiting to get in I'm trying to think what I should yell at the idiot when my Yellow Cab rides by. Maybe I shouldn't yell? Maybe I should just give him the finger? I finally decide I'm going to make a sad face and trace a tear down my cheek. Poor little investment banker. Left on the corner without a cab. But before I can do that the cab makes a left on 91st street, so we don't drive by him. It's probably for the best. I didn't go to zinger school.