The Tao of Riding in Cabs

Please tell me I’m not special. I’d hate to think that I’m the only person in the world who has terrible luck with New York cab drivers.

Last fall, during the trip to deliver my daughter to her dorm at NYU, I got into a verbal altercation with a cabbie complicated by the fact that his verbiage was, simply put, NOT English.

My ire started when he refused to help us load the six massive suitcases filled with my daughter’s belongings into his trunk. Thankfully, the hotel valet came to our aid.

Once in the car, I said, “We’re going to 75 Third Avenue, at the corner of Third and Eleventh.” We were at 57th street, and I know enough about New York to know that the street numbers get higher as you go north. In other words, number-75 anything is closer to the south end of Manhattan.

The man turned north.

“Excuse me,” I said, “shouldn’t we be heading south?”

“You say sebennty-fife. I go sebennty-fife street.”

“No, I said 75 Third Avenue. Not 75th street. I told you it’s at the corner of Third and Eleventh.”

An argument ensued, but it wasn’t over what I’d said. The man was arguing with me over whether or not 75 Third Avenue was actually at the corner of Third and Eleventh. He insisted it wasn’t possible.

I finally said, “Just humor me, and take us to Third and Eleventh. Forget the 75.”

The man grumbled in Farsi, I think, for the remainder of the ride. Then, when we arrived, he actually stopped the car and pointed across the two-way, four-lane street we were on and said, “Sebennty-fife across street.”

“Yes, I see it. And you’re going to take us over there, since we have six suitcases in the trunk,” I said. “And once we get there, you’re going to help us unload the six suitcases, or NO TIP FOR YOU!”

Last month, my girls and I found ourselves once again the unlucky passengers of a crazy New York City cab driver. He was driving like a hamster on heroin while on the phone describing the noise his car was making. “Dit-dit-dit-dit-dit-dit, it goes,” he was saying when the car in front of us stopped abruptly. Our distracted driver slammed on the brakes, and my head slammed into the seat in front of me.

My most bizarre cab driver experience, though, actually happened in Las Vegas. My friend, Fran, and I landed at McCarran International Airport and waited in the perpetually long cab line. When it was our turn, a nice looking fifty-something man wearing cowboy boots, a belt buckle the size of the Hoover Dam, and a bolero took our bags, tipped his Stetson, and said, “Good evening, ladies. Where to?”

A pleasant, English-speaking gentleman who drove safely? We took this man to be the equivalent of winning the taxicab MegaMillions.

Traffic was bad on the Strip, but we enjoyed a pleasant conversation with our driver. It took twenty minutes to go two miles, and by the time we finally pulled into the Aladdin, we had exactly ten minutes until our dinner reservations at Tao, which was more than a ten-minute walk from our hotel. We got out of the cab, and I handed the valet a $20 bill and said, “We have dinner reservations at Tao in ten minutes. Can you hold our bags until we get back?”

“Of course, ma’am,” he said. I looked over to the cab line and saw that no one was waiting for a cab, and then I said to our cab driver, “Is it okay if we just stay with you?”

“Oh, no, ma’am,” he said, quite emphatically.

Now, I understand the rule about waiting in line for a cab. But there was no line. Puzzled, I looked at the valet for help. “Aw, come on, dude,” the valet intervened. “These ladies just need to go to Tao.”

The cab driver hesitated, and then he relented. We jumped back into his car, and he turned right out of the Aladdin and onto the Strip. And that was when he looked into the rearview mirror and said, “Could you tell from my response that I’m married?”

“Huh?” Fran and I looked at one another, wondering what he was getting at.

He quickly explained: “When you asked if you could stay with me, I thought you meant you wanted to STAY with me. I said ‘No’ because I’m married.”

The old cowboy thought we were propositioning him.

Even in Vegas, I can’t get lucky with a cab driver.

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