My grandfather used to say: life is astoundingly short. For me it’s so compressed in my memory that I can no longer understand how, for example, a young man can decide to take a ride to the next village without the fear that–aside from accidents–the span of a normal, happy life is far from adequate for such a journey.
–Kafka, "The Next Village"
Normally I find it pretty insipid when people yammer on their blogs about some dumb thing they did that day ("I made pad thai but I was out of rice noodles so I used old egg noodles and it was gross! But I ate it anyway!"). However, for the first time in many moons I have actually done something interesting, so read about my banal life and love it! Enemies list will return soon!
One of the many advantages to being single is the ability to, if one chooses, ride around in the shotgun seat of a taxi all night long without worry that such an activity would offend anyone or set anyone into a jealous and/or fretting-for-safety rage. While many people might be disturbed by the thought that nobody in the world would notice them missing until they didn’t show up for work two days in a row, I find such lack of personal accountability liberating and I choose to flaunt that lack of personal accountability by sitting on my ass in the front passenger seat of a cab, yappin’ like it was about to be illegalized.
My impending departure from New York has made me more susceptible to possible adventure and less worried about sleep deprivation than I normally would be, so when my pal Adrian offered to come pick me up from my other pal Brittany’s on the Upper East Side at 11:30 p.m., I said, "How ’bout fuck yeah!" I didn’t set out for a no-sleep-till-Queens ridealong marathon, but that’s what ended up happening.
It being the Thursday before Memorial Day Weekend, the night shift, which Adrian always drives (you can read more about it in a piece he wrote for the L once), was, according to him, "pretty shitty." Fares were at times few and/or far between, and therefore I remember most of them. There was the guy going from the Meatpacking to the UWS who told us a little about his job (he’s a financial planner, but apparently had no advice for the "have a nickel and a half to rub together" set) and then decided to divert his journey by way of Taco Bell. There was a hipster couple who, understandably, remarked that this was the first "couple taxi driver" they’d ever seen–I assured them that a) we were just friends!!! and b) they were not on "Taxicab Confessions" (I’m not sure they believed me). It’s easier than you might think to get people to jump into a cab that already appears to have a passenger; all you have to do is yell out the window, "I’m just riding along! I’m training! I’m a journalist, journalisting! I’m special! Fucking get in! Hooray!" It also helps that most of the fares were total Drunky McGees, my favorite being a set of four boisterous Australians who found absoulutely nothing out of the ordinary about a 20something white cabbie carting around a pale black-haired chick for absolutely no discernible reason. They were staying at the White House Hotel, an allegedly "legendary" flophouse on the Bowery, and it didn’t sound pleasant. However, they were super loaded so they didn’t seem to care. (Also, they imparted some valuable information about Australia, including that often cab drivers get paid in weed!) There was a cadre of sad-looking youngish women who took short rides confined to downtown one after the other, and a guy who punctuated the 3:45 a.m. no-faretastic wasteland with a jaunt out to JFK. There were also some partiers who insistsed on being driven to a very particular address on Greene St. where it looked like jack fuck-all was going on and then seemed confused; one of them introduced himself to me as "Bob Gnarly." And they kept referring to themselves as "SpaceCamp Counselors." And they smelled like booze, pot, something-to-cover-up puke, and, according to Adrian, "peanut-butter sandwiches," (but that could have been because he was hungry).
Around 4:30 and after several completely barren trips through a what-is-the-sound-of-seventy-signs-blinking-at-nobody Times Square, the sky began to lighten and a few more random fares trickled in. The last group, at 5:15, wanted to go to Queens, which is luckily enough where the taxi garage is, so my friend’s exhaustion (these fuckers drive for twelve hours straight! And I complain about having to watch three episodes of "Biker Build-Off" in a row! I’m an asshole!) was punctuated by a little bit of relief at the end of another shift and a $20 fare that made his entire night of driving people around mildly profitable.
By this time it was almost completely light, that sort of periwinkle dawn-ish time that you might catch slivers of coming home from a particularly late night or starting off an agonizingly early day, but rarely see from beginning to end. We drove across the Queensboro Bridge, which my friend spent about ten minutes extolling in a Becherovka-fueled diatribe last week, and I saw his point, so much so that I managed to shut up for a few minutes and take in the view.
Manhattan loomed over my shoulders, the first attempts of early-morning sun beginning to glint off its more impressive skyscrapers. But the real sleeper hit of the morning, as it were, was Queens, whose usually-wrenching jumble of townhouses, industrial wasteland and mega-apartment complexes leaves much to the aesthetic imagination. In this odd morning light which my occupation and general laziness (and normal dearth of cab-driver ridealongs) usually prevents me from seeing, Queens’s buildings all looked the same purplish-grey and their lights glowed despite the softly-bright morning. If I squinted for a second it looked like I was driving to Paris, Prague or Athens.
For those five of you who actually read this bullshit (Dad, Frank, Audrey, Impalement Guy and Jason), you’re well aware that the last several months have been a bit of the loneliest rollercoaster on earth, what with all the chapters opening and chapters closing and youth ending and hearts breaking and other crap that doesn’t seem very impressive when you’re sitting next to a guy who’s just had to swerve around two adjacent garbage trucks to pick up some SloshedMaster5000 who won’t even tip well, etc. But for the three minutes it took to cross the Queensboro Bridge at 5:30 this morning, everything looked purple and sparkly and fresh. For those weird little seconds, with three displaced Wisconsonians in the back yapping about their valedictorians and an entire night spent driving around for no other reason that that it was an option for me to do, every damn thing in the world was beautiful.