I love New York taxis, always have. It has a lot to do with the fact that someone else does the driving (there’s a reason my brother often refers to me as “Miss Daisy”). Restraint also plays into it, as cabs are a luxury I don’t often allow myself. Loaded down with luggage from a weekend in PA? I’ll hail a cab. Late for work? I’m taking the subway. My love affair with taxicabs started with my first ride in a Checker cab when I was but a little kid, and lasts through today’s rides in the newfangled hybrids. Only in rare instances does my heart turn cold at the sight of the yellow cars: in a rainstorm, when hundreds of occupied warm dry cabs pass by, or when one runs a red light at 23rd and Broadway and hits my friend Chris.
My favorite rides occur late at night, coming home from an evening spent downtown. The 20 minute ride passes too quickly as I watch the neighborhoods whiz by. The staticky murmur of 1010 WINS lulls me to the verge of sleep just before we arrive at my front door. I fantasize that some day I’ll pay someone to ride me all over the island in the wee small hours of the morning, or at least the length of Manhattan down Broadway, from Washington Heights to Battery Park.
Cabdrivers remind me of hairdressers in that they’re either dead silent or chatting you up. Usually I get the silent ones, and am happy for them. However, the other night I was treated to a ride with Mr. Jean Dupont, who talked my ears to bleeding. From the moment I got into the car until the door shut behind me, I listened to Mr. Dupont’s philosophy of love and life. The conversation got so ridiculous, at one point I looked around for a camera, convinced that I would be starring in a future episode of Taxicab Confessions.
We started out talking about the rain, and before I knew it he was lecturing me about paying closer attention to my biological clock. How the conversation took such a sharp turn, I have no idea.
“How old you are?” he asked without any gentlemanly reserve.
“Thirty five,” I replied, afraid to hear what was coming.
“Tirty five?” he shrieked, in a thick Caribbean accent. “Oh! You are ready for the babies!”
I looked through the partition to double check it wasn’t my mother dressed up as a Haitian cabbie.
The Gestapo-like questioning continued up 40 blocks and over 5. I don’t think I have ever been so happy to see my ghetto apartment building since I’ve lived there. Unfortunately, even though we had arrived at my destination, he idled for another 5 minutes solid giving me advice upon advice about my love life. I’ll spare you the entire diatribe – suffice to say it boils down to this little chestnut: “You must not have the sex right away. The man, he need to work for it. You invite him over, you feed him a good meal, then you tell him he have to go. Kick him out, yes. He go home, he tink about the meal, he tink more about you and decide, ‘Yes. I will marry the woman.’” Camille Paglia would be so proud.
I told Mr. Dupont he was a very wise man and that I would take his advice to heart, as I wriggled free of his vehicle and shut the door behind me with finality. The light changed, and as I watched the cab drive off into the night, I swear I saw Mr. Dupont’s lips moving in the rearview mirror. Apparently he had more to say, but at least I was listening no longer.