The other night I worked moderately late and so when I left the office, the first thing I did was look for a cab. (BTW, most mornings I get in before eight, so when six rolls around, I have had enough for the day. I don't shortchange anyone on the hours I work. I usually put an hour in when I get home. I'd just rather be home than hang around the office.)
I noticed about half a block ahead of me a cab pull to a stop and I saw a delightfully long pair of gams swing out. The owner of those gams batted her eyes at me and pointed to the hack. "He's all yours," she purred. And then she rolled her peepers.
I slid in and buckled up. "Eighty-third and York," I directed.
The cabbie hugged the wheel and stuttered, more in Mandarin than in English.
"First day on job," he said brokenly. "You tell me how."
I checked his hack number. It was 560,000 or something. He was truly brand new.
He drove like it was not only his first day driving a cab, but his first day driving as well. We creeped east on 48th Street and I told him to swing up 10th, where the lights are elegantly timed, and if you play it right you can make it all the way into the 70s or 80s without hitting a red. We stopped pretty much every five blocks. He went barely 20 miles an hour.
I started to react like a real New Yorker. "Can't you hurry up," I thought. "Give it some gas," I felt like saying. But I bit my tongue. It was his first day on the job.
We finally made it to my apartment about 30 minutes later. It took a full ten minutes and about three dollars longer than it should have. I thought about stiffing him on the tip, but then thought about my first day on the job in advertising and gave him $25 for a $19 fare.
I'm a freelancer now, I figured. It's all deductible.
"Good luck," I said as I exited.
He was hugging the wheel like a soldier on leave seeing his girl.
"Good thank you," he said.
And he drove off at about eight miles per.