57th and Eighth Ave, 8am
This Share-a-Cab stand, turns out, is a myth, as far as I can tell: I walked the length of the four surrounding blocks and did not see any sign of a cab stand. I asked a policewoman, who didn't know what I was talking about. "You can try to share with someone on the corner," she said skeptically. "But I would just take the subway." She gazed across the street with a steady eye. "I see him," she said into her walkie talkie. She headed toward an African guy who, after apparently getting an alert on his walkie-talkie suddenly rolled up a blanket full of fake handbags, threw them into a trashcan, and melted into the crowd.
72nd and Third Ave, 8:35am
Outside of an old movie theater that only shows one movie at a time (It's Complicated), on this quaint little block, is a taxi share sign. Someone has tied two yellow balloons to the sign and they are bouncing in the breeze. The instructions state that for four dollars a person, a group can be dropped off one at a time anywhere between 72nd and Park and 42nd and Park. It's a great deal—if you can find a buddy. But there is no one there. It's just me and the balloons. I wait and wait for a buddy, feeling like no one has come to my birthday party.
72nd and Third Ave, 9:15am
A delivery truck parks in front of the sign.
72nd and Third Ave, 9:36am
A woman walking her dog asks if I'm ok. I say yes, and ask her if she knows about the taxi share program. She shakes her head.
72nd and Third Ave, 9:40am
I break down and get a cab—by myself—to Grand Central. My cabbie's from Morocco, and he doesn't think it makes sense to have a taxi share program, unless it's from Midtown to Wall Street. "I mean, what, you're going to find four people—strangers—going the same way as you? You're going to wait around a long time. Better just to take the subway. If you really want to share a cab, try this line," he says, and drops me off at the taxi stand outside Grand Central Station.
Grand Central Station, 10:00am
Of the eleven people in the taxi line at Grand Central, four are already traveling together (tourists, headed to Times Square, where else) and the other six don't want to share. But that's not what the line is for anyway. I catch a cab for the other stand, at 72nd and Columbus.
72nd and Columbus, 10:20am
There are no balloons attached to this stand, just delivery bicycles. I wait with no luck. When I see a girl in a yellow leather jacket and green strappy heels hailing a cab on the corner, I ask her which way she's going. "Downtown," she says, smiling. "Me too!" I say. I point at the sign, about 10 feet away. "Want to share?" She looks at me like I've just suggested we share a toothbrush. "Oh, um, no thanks," she says. I amble back to the stand.
72nd and Columbus, 12:06pm
A man loiters outside the Starbucks, and I ask if he's waiting to share a cab. He's waiting for a friend. She arrives fifteen minutes later and says, "It's been what—25 years?? It's so good to see you!" They share an awkward hug. "How on EARTH did you find me on Facebook?" she asks. His response is too low for me to hear. She says, "Let me buy you a coffee," and they disappear.
72nd and Columbus, 12:45pm
A taxi pulls right up to the stand! I jump in. We can just wait for other people, pick them up, I think. Like a shuttle. The cabbie scowls at me in the rearview. He's on the phone and a spicy aroma fills the car. "I am sorry, Miss," he says firmly. "My meter is locked." I hop out, embarrassed that I've obviously interrupted his lunch.
72nd and Columbus, 12:48pm
An elderly man with bright blue eyes and a walker shuffles by me, and sees I'm gazing at the stand sign. He tells me very seriously to watch where I park please. He explains this is the Upper West Side, and fines can be very heavy for illegally parked cars. I promise I will be careful. He shuffles off.
72nd and Columbus, 1:00pm
A Sysco truck ("People and products you can count on") parks in front of my little stand. I get another cab, back to 72nd and Third. This driver's name is Edward and he's from Moscow. He's not optimistic about the sharing program. "This will never, never work," he says sadly in a Russian accent. "Never. And can you imagine if everyone wanted to pay separately, with a credit card? Nightmare. I will never want to share a cab, why should I? And I think most people feel the same." He pauses, musing. "Well," he amends. "I would never share a cab... unless it is with a pretty girl. But you don't need a special stand for that."
The balloons are still there, but there are no people.