Friday, June 23, 2017

The last of the breed.

This morning I had one of those happy circumstances.

My wife, an inveterate veteran freelancer, gets to bring Whiskey, our five-year-old golden retriever to her current office, and we share a cab to get there.

I hailed a beaten Toyota Prius as I was exiting my building and a cab-driver with a leonine grey mane screeched to a halt. As I was sliding across the vinyl, I checked out the number on his hack license. It was in the high 300s.

“You’ve been driving for a while,” I began.

“Ah, you noticed my white hair.”

“No,” I said, “I looked at your number. 35 years?”

“40. I’m the last white, English-speaking, Jewish cabdriver in New York.”

“You own the medallion, I take it.”

“Worthless. We’ve been done in by Uber, Lyft, Gett, Jett, Via, Scmhmia and Gonorrhea. There are more ride services than you can shake a lug wrench at. There are 60,000 cabs on the streets.”

We were speeding down Park, where the rich folk (the ones who get tax cuts live.)

“What was the best cab you ever drove?” I asked.

“The Checker. No more iconic cab for New York than the Checker. Just two problems with it.”

He waited with Jack Benny’s timing.

“No heat in the winter, no air in the summer. Outside of that, you could fit five people in it and they weren’t even touching.” I thought about my family, when I was young, piling into the back of one. My brother and me on the rickety jumpseats, my parents and sister sitting in the bench across.

He turned, disconcertingly while we were crossing East to West on 47th, to pet Whiskey’s head through the opening in the bullet-proof plexi.

“This is a dog,” he began. “My mother just got Chloe, a Muttipoo. Half-poodle half something else.” He showed me a small picture on his flip-phone.

It was time for me to exit the cab.

We shook hands goodbye.

“Julian Krause,” he said with his grip. “The last Jewish cabdriver in New York.”

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