Tuesday, March 1, 2011

The Run Around

Penn Station, NYC, courtesy visitingdc.com

The last time I blogged about a New York City cab ride, I thought I was being kidnapped. I'm not sure why I didn't think I was being kidnapped last Thursday, when I encountered the first New York cabbie in the history of New York cab drivers who had no idea where he was going.

Perhaps this is just my history, but of all the times I've hopped into a taxi in New York, precisely once has the driver looked at me blankly when I gave him an address. Thursday. It has never mattered what the address was. Major, iconic building? The driver knew it. Minor, charming site? The driver knew it. Tucked away sister office? No problem. Cousin's crumbling brownstone in Brooklyn? I swear.

So last week, I did what I always do. I emerged from Penn Station, got in line, and slid into the first available cab. I gave him a street address.

"I don't know this."

I was confused. I repeated the street address.

"I don't know this."

I tried again, giving the building's common name.

"No. Where is this?"

My boss was with me. He speaks/is familiar with five or six languages. He began asking the cab driver if another one would be preferable.

Shaking head from the front seat.

I pulled out a business card that had the address, wondering if I'd gotten something wrong. I spelled it. I read the card again. At a loss, I tried, "Do you want the phone number?"

"No. Where is this?"

Desperate, I named a major city landmark. His eyes lit up. "Oh, yes! Fine, I'll take you there." He then proceeded to drive pell mell through the city, which actually comforted me. At least he was driving like a regular city cab driver because otherwise, really - did he come in on the train with me? Was this really a cab driver?

If I had not been with my boss....

The cab driver passed the street we wanted and then drove four blocks beyond it. "I'll let you out here."

I looked at him blankly. "You can walk that way," he said, waving helpfully in the general direction behind us.

I looked at the meter, wondering if he had been trying to increase his fare by pretending to be lost, but the amount due was about three dollars less than the same ride from Penn Station usually cost. He really had no idea where he was going. He could not possibly have been a real New York taxi driver.

My  boss handed him money. He returned only part of the change.

"Where's the rest?"

The driver looked confused. "Tip!"

Wait, I take it back. He was definitely a New York City taxi driver.

My boss growled. "Nah, man - no tip!" relenting in the end to pay our lost cabbie one additional dollar.

Which I hope is spent on a map.

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