– For several years I worked in the lower east side of Manhattan on 1st and 3rd ave, a barista at a local coffee shop. I also worked next door at a two level hookah lounge/bar/comedy club where the bar basement served us many a long morning after our shifts. Hailing cabs at all hours of the morning wasn’t the easiest when you lived in Bushwick at the time. Five stops in, off of the classically out-of-service L train and no one was interested in taking you over the bridge that far. It brought to mind a segment of Gloria Steinam’s writing in her book “My Life On The Road” where she discusses the history of the Black Pearl cab service. Not saying that my discrimination at all was on a similar par as any person of color in the 1970’s, minus the refusal to enter my neighborhood. That particular cab service was created by a returning service man who longed to create a safe, solid, calming escape for mothers, members of his community and the rest of the world the time has purposefully and continuously ignored. I was a white female in my early 20’s, in the the 2000’s and had to still had to deal with the insane scrutiny and illogical refusal to service people in my neighborhood. Sometimes based on how I was dressed, I myself was refused service due to my appearance. One morning around 4am I hailed a cab and got them to agree. Upon entry , in my slow state, I noticed the telling signs the made it a cab, had been removed from the car itself. The barricade still existed between the driver and I, no ID could be seen and the meter itself had been ripped from the bracket the still remained. It was questionable, but they were willing to drive me home.
In my neighborhood, traveling down my street was a straight shot, minus one small cut over, which due to a one way street caused you to travel around the block to continue. When this spot approached, I called out to the “cabbie” to avoid the one way, as they watched for people taking the obvious short cut down the one way. Ignoring my advice, he went through it. Within a block I saw the gum balls of the police car in the mirror. I clutched my bag closely as at the time was filled drugs and at two blocks from my home, my only question was, when is the right time to ask if I can finish my walk from here. The driver said nothing as the cop approached. Sparing you the dull conversation of the police man discovering not only was this not a legally registered taxi, it was not even a legally registered vehicle. It wasn’t; even his vehicle. The cabbie also didn’t have a taxi license, he didn’t have a valid drivers license.
He was removed from the car and his hands were placed on the hood. As I sat there watching it all happen, I was unaware if the police man even knew he had taken a fair. I finally opened the door with my hands up and exclaimed “excuse me sir, I was unaware of this mans illegitimacy as a driver, I’m heading home from a long night at work and I’m two blocks away, may I continue walking?” Startled, the cop agreed to let me walk and as I walked away the cabbie, hands on the hood yells “hey lady! You gotta pay me the fair!” I laughed. The cop stared at me and shrugged. I replied “are you serious? You’re not even a real cab!” After a brief ridiculous exchange I tossed a crumbled $20 on the hood of the car and wished him luck on his endeavors and walked home. I wonder where he is now.
– Again, taking a cab service from the LES to Bushwick on an early morning from a late night, I hailed a cab. I mentioned I was headed to Jefferson Ave, which many mistook often as Jefferson Street. Both are still in Bushwick, but not areas you’d want to wander between at these hours. However, this particular cabbie didn’t even have the right borough and as we careened over the wrong bridge, I began to question the correct address. He assured me he had it correct an we continued. I didn’t recognize any of the streets, without a phone and was exhausted. The man continued to drive as I asked him to pull over and reassess where we were. We were 40 minutes away fro my apartment and he stopped at a bodega. I grabbed a 40 oz of beer and sat in the car. The driver was an older Pakastani man, whose name I’d remembered at the time and over course over a decade later, I fail to recall. We came up wth a game plan which entailed an agreement in the original cost of my fair, which was under $20 at the time, I got to drink in the car and we would share a peace pipe on the way home. We headed home, me in the front seat this time talking about his family and his career. Giggling at the mix up and being thankful that kind and trustworthy people still thankfully existed in our world. When we finally arrived at my place, we wished each other well and he watched as I entered the building. That situation isn’t the most exciting, but it could’ve been a whole lot worse if I didn’t keep my head and trust my gut. People will always surprise you when you enter their world.
– One fall night I was done with one job for the day and was drinking at a local bar in Williamsburg that I worked at off of the L at the Lormier Stop where it interjected with the G train. Whiskey was my jam at the time and I sipped it alone while reading, Im not sure what it was at the time but I can only guess it was heady and too involved for my mindset. I started conversing with the man next to me. He was in his 30’s, wearing a grey wool peacoat, with nice camera bags slug around his shoulder. We gabbed about life and our occupations, what our plans were for the evening. Both of us were headed into the same area in Manhattan and decided to indulge in one final drink, split a cab into the city and go our separate ways. Whether he was actually who he claimed to be or not, his details and photos were fascinated and beautiful. He claimed to have been one of the photographer’s assistant on a National geographic shoot I’d recently seen and loved, of divers swimming with whales. In this particular photo I’d known, Brian Skerry (the photographer who’d captured the shot) snapped an image of his assistant next to one of the whales, which gracefully grazed the bottom of the ocean. Either way, we split a cab, some laughs and I never saw him again. Not something to particularly write home about, combined with my uncanny inability to remember anyones name this story doesn’t dazzle as I’d imagined, like it did at the time, however I deemed it worth remembering.
– Quick and easy. My sister and I once rode in a speeding taxi cab, she was convinced we would die in, recently blinded by red lights, after receiving our first open container tickets. We drank a Budwiser tall boy and a Sapporro on the train and tossed them when we got above ground. The cop still gave us shit and forced us to stand facing the car with it’s blaring lights. I stood in court all day for us the following month. The only good I can recall from that day was getting a buffet from an amazing nearby deli, where I’d eaten some of the best mashed potatoes I’d ever had, while leaned on the court house, under the scaffolding, in the thick odor folds of urine. I also learned that many people publicly pee and have to say it out loud, in front of a judge.
– On a late summer night probably around 2009, I decided to skateboard around Brooklyn swaying in the sweet, heavy breezes. It was a shortened long board to be fair, but looked the size and set up of a fat 80’s style board. I was wearing a green sweatshirt, I’d found in the trash and hand washed in my bathtub. It had a choker hem around the neck and always made me feel like I was being mildly strangled or was being worn backwards. I was also wearing my favorite teal skinny jeans. I’m only mentioning these details because I’d remembered them. Drinking at the same bar in Williamsburg, I’d drank, mingled and met someone to entertain my mood . With the combination of my friends on the other side of the pine, someone interested in my story and mine in theirs, the night came to a head. We meandered back to his place and played records, used each other and fell into the night. As I began to doze off, the light coming in through the curtainless living room window brought me right back into the moment and I leaped up, grabbed my board and was out the door as the sun rose. I started to ride, still exhausted from the night before and found myself weaving left to right, becoming way too comfortable in the lean. One single stone on a freshly paved road and it wedged its way into my wheel. I was down, knee first, hard onto the road. I laid there for a minute staring at the pale sky. Thinking “maybe I’ll just lay here forever”. Feeling low and dreary, but full of the adrenaline of the quick start , I’d jumped back on the board and the second I took off I felt a sharp stabbing pain down my leg, felt a cold wetness and looked down only to discover a huge brush burned gash, through those very same teal jeans. I jumped off the board and walked towards the closest main road I could find. I didn’t even know where the nearest train stop was. I had no clue what neighborhood I was in. Every cab I hailed refused to pick me up because I was bleeding, muddled with I’m sorries and a open lack of compassion. I limped to a bodega and asked where the nearest train was. After getting there begrudgingly, I started my first part of the transfer from the G to the L. I sat on the train with professionals, men in suits headed into the city to manage accounts and right off lunches, Coroners, secretaries, all filling my void with their empty tired eyes. I will always remember that feeling, ashamed and dirty, even though I’d truly done nothing wrong. What was worse was a day and a half later as I started to feel pains and something strange, I went to pee and pushed out the condom we had used. I freaked out obviously. After a quick check up I was back to normal, but swore to never think of that story again. But why? It happened and I’m here to tell it.
-When the L train was in service, without shuttle buses which were ridiculously indescribable stories in themselves, I would wait at the 1ST Ave station with the hoards of wasted hipsters waiting to return home. They would be leaned on each other like crutches or slumped melted together resembling Dali paintings, clutching broken bags and bras in their hands, mowing pizza and being atrociously loud. I’d wait patiently with my headphones on. The same way I was heading into work, now leaving, my social anxiety would be so bad I’d get nervous that I was breathing too loud and take out one of my headphones to continuously check. I’d listen to my heart beat between songs. I’d try to stand perfectly line up with the sliding doors, stare at the reflection in the fore front of the speeding patterns of concrete. Each time we entered the void underneath the water, I’d imagine large waves crashing through the walls and into the tunnels and drowning us all. I’d attempt to “surf” the cars when mostly empty, or stand feet shoulder length apart and try not to touch anything to maintain my balance. Little games like “don’t touch the moving trail of vomit as we pass the very rigid bend right before the stop that always makes someone fall or throw up”. After I exited the train was two blocks through rows of warehouses until the street once again became residential. My mind muttering “hide your phone, look around, don’t stop moving, hold your bags tight, have your keys ready and swing one arm like you’re a crack head so that no one tries to rob you”. Once you enter the code for the building, climb three flights and enter the smoldering or freezing apartment, attempt to sleep, repeat.