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Articles by

<Marian Lorraine>

03/17/10 1:00am

One man’s art is another man’s scribbling, especially in this city. For the record, if we had to say art or not art about graffiti, we’d say “art.”

ALDEMAR
Where I hailed him:
Midtown
Where he hails from: Colombia
Years as cabbie: 3
Previous profession: Always a driver
No way. Pictures are art—graffiti is just people writing their names on walls or drawing shit on ads. There’s nothing artistic about that. It’s vandalism… kids messing around. I used to do it myself when I was younger. I used to think it was funny, but not anymore. People need to respect other people’s property and not cover it with scribbling.

YAZID
Where I hailed him:
Hell’s Kitchen
Where he hails from: Morocco
Years as a cabbie: 7
Previous profession: Worked in a deli
What do you mean by graffiti? [Stuff people do on walls for fun.] Sure. Why not? I don’t really think about it, but I don’t see why not. I live in Brooklyn, and there are some nice things done on walls near my apartment. Big pictures of famous people, black people like Martin Luther King and Obama. People paint those things because they like those people, so sure, that’s art.

ASA
Where I hailed him:
Williamsburg
Where he hails from: Pakistan
Years as a cabbie: 10
Previous profession: Always a driver
I can take it as art, a kind of art, I guess. Some people have a problem with it, but I have seen some amazing samples. You probably don’t go to the Bronx much, am I right? [Yep.] Well, I go all over. I go to Harlem and the Bronx, and they have some great samples up there, where it’s really art.

Delwa
Where I hailed him:
Port Authority
Where he hails from: Queens
Years as cabbie: 3
Previous profession: Bus driver
I don’t like graffiti. I know that’s not what you’re asking, but I don’t like it. The thing about graffiti is that a lot of the time, it’s on buildings that are bad for other reasons. They get abandoned, or people break in, or they start falling apart and get a lot of rats. A lot more rats than other buildings, at least. I think graffiti is ugly, and all the nicer neighborhoods in the city don’t have much of it. So if it is art, it’s art I don’t like.

Homer
Where I hailed him:
Port Authority
Where he hails from: Queens
Years as cabbie:3
Previous profession: Bus driver
I don’t like graffiti. I know that’s not what you’re asking, but I don’t like it. The thing about graffiti is that a lot of the time, it’s on buildings that are bad for other reasons. They get abandoned, or people break in, or they start falling apart and get a lot of rats. A lot more rats than other buildings, at least. I think graffiti is ugly, and all the nicer neighborhoods in the city don’t have much of it. So if it is art, it’s art I don’t like.

TJ
Where I hailed him:
East Village
Where he hails from: Nigeria
Years as cabbie:2 months
Previous profession: Parking lot attendant
Oh, they have graffiti in Nigeria, so I’m used to it. Of course there is more in New York, probably too much. Some people like it, some people don’t. For me it’s no problem, I think it’s part of the city. Is it art? I don’t think so. Art should be more than just writing some words on something. But it doesn’t bother me.

ALI
Where I hailed him:
LES
Where he hails from: New York
Years as cabbie: 2
Previous profession: Business owner
It is painting, so it must be art. I think if you call it art, then it is. I don’t know what else you’re going to call paintings of things, if you’re not calling them art, what are they then?

03/05/10 4:16pm

so lonely

Perhaps we were overly critical yesterday of New York’s new Share-a-Cab plan, whereby people can meet at designated spots uptown, and share a cab down to Grand Central Station. To be fair, we sent our resident cab expert all the way to 57th and Eighth and forced her to try to share a cab. The results, we think, speak for themselves.

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.

02/17/10 1:00am

You know what we hate even more than cabbies talking non-stop on their headsets? When we see people on bicycles yelling into their cell phones. Actually, it’s more anxiety than hate. Also, we once saw a dude on a bike carrying an umbrella.

JOHN
Where I hailed him:
LES
Where he hails from: NYC
Years as a cabbie: 26
Previous profession: Teacher
I don’t use the phone. I’m not trying to be on the phone with Bangladesh. The new laws are fine with me. You ask me, a $200 fine isn’t enough. No phones. You should know the city if you’re a cab driver, and you shouldn’t be on the phone.

DIEGO
Where I hailed him:
Port Authority
Where he hails from: Colombia
Years as a cabbie: 2
Previous profession: Worked in a theater
I think the law makes a lot of sense and it should be extended to all drivers, not just cab drivers. It’s always good to be careful, and there’s never any reason for using a cell phone while driving unless it’s an emergency. If you have to work, do it at your office. Not while driving. I have a cell phone here in the cab, but I only use it for emergencies unless I’m on break.

DOMINIC
Where I hailed him:
West Village
Where he hails from: Brazil
Years as a cabbie: 4
Previous profession: Always a driver
I think it’s like every other law. It will be broken sometimes and people will get caught once in a while. It’s hard to see if someone is on the phone, though. With the Bluetooth, things like that. Probably the laws are for the best, but people don’t take laws that seriously around here, I’ve noticed.

PHILIP
Where I hailed him:
Chinatown
Where he hails from: Ivory Coast
Years as a cabbie: 8
Previous profession: Construction
I know they think it’s dangerous to be on the phone and drive, but come on. As a safety issue, it doesn’t make sense. It’s just as bad for passengers if we can’t use our phones: lots of times we’re looking for directions, or fast ways to get them where they’re going. And they use the phones, so we should be able to. Also, I want to be able to call for help. No one ever worries about my safety.

02/03/10 3:00am


We’ve never actually had sex in the back of a cab. This one time we almost kissed, but the plexiglass got in the way.

Chata
Where I hailed him:
West Village
Where he hails from: Sudan
Years as cabbie: Less than a year
Previous profession: Student
No, that’s never happened to me. I wouldn’t want it to; I wouldn’t want to clean that up. People kiss here, but that’s it. Why, does it happen to other drivers? I can’t imagine that. Women wouldn’t have sex in a car, not with a driver there. They’re always trying to keep the guys from touching them. There’d be no way they could hide it. [Maybe they want to be seen?] That’s… no. My wife, she won’t even… well, I’m not saying anymore.

Salim
Where I hailed him:
Hell’s Kitchen
Where he hails from: Pakistan
Years as cabbie: 3
Previous profession: Research assistant
All the time. The gay guys are the worst. They won’t try to screw, what they’ll do is one guy will say he’s tired and put his head on the other guy’s lap. The other guy will say, “Hey, let me keep your head warm,” and cover him with a coat. They act like nothing’s happening but I know they’re dick-sucking. (Do you call them on it?) One time I did. I kicked them out and threatened to call the police. Another time I knew it was happening and started acting pissed. The guy who wasn’t sucking could tell and made the other guy stop, though he kept his head there. Then when they left they tipped me $100.

Seth
Where I hailed him:
Midtown
Where he hails from: Brooklyn
Years as cabbie: 7
Previous profession: Always a driver
One time a guy flags me over and says he wants to fuck this woman he’s with. He says they can’t use their apartments, so would I drive them somewhere private and take a walk for a half-hour so they can use the cab. He offered me $50, but he could’ve offered $500 and I wouldn’t have done it. I think he was trying to steal the cab, and if he wasn’t, he was cheating on his wife. I’m not going to help some asshole do that.

01/20/10 5:20am

AKMED
Where I hailed him: Midtown
Where he hails from: Syria
Years as cabbie: 5
Previous profession: Student
Some people would say something like “Happy Holidays” when they tipped me, but I don’t know if they were giving me more than they would have otherwise. I didn’t make much money during the holidays this year, but that’s because I didn’t work as much. I think people are pretty generous with tips, though. Not as much as I’d like, but with the recession going on I think tips have held up pretty well.

DAVID
Where I hailed him: Crown Heights
Where he hails from: Queens
Years as cabbie: 4
Previous profession: Limo driver
You know, people have been cheap this year. They did tip a little better around the holidays, but it wasn’t much of a change. On New Year’s, someone gave me a bottle of champagne, which I think they stole from a party. They were all laughing about it, drunk, you know? So they gave it to me, and also a nice tip. I was afraid they would just give it to me and not tip, but they tipped. My wife doesn’t like me to drink, so a bottle of champagne would not be a good tip for me, see what I’m saying? But I brought it home and we had it, she said it was ok because it was New Year’s.

ERIC
Where I hailed him: Port Authority
Where he hails from: Brooklyn
Years as cabbie: 3
Previous profession: Always a driver
Definitely. The holiday season is big for tourists, and it helps to have so many people around. [Do tourists tip as well as New Yorkers?] No way. But it all adds up. Plus, the airport is one of the best places to be asked to go in terms of getting money, and you get asked to go there a lot around the holidays. I try not to work on actual holidays, though, since I want to be with my family. I’ll do Christmas Eve, but that’s it.

ASHTER
Where I hailed him: LES
Where he hails from: India
Years as cabbie: 3
Previous profession: Student
Everyone is pretty nice to me all year round. I don’t complain about tips. It’s not up to me what someone wants to give, and if they are cheap, they are cheap. There’s someone right behind them who will be more generous. Some people do tip better around the holidays, but January is bad because everyone already spent their money. It becomes even.

JIMMY
Where I hailed him: West Village
Where he hails from: India
Years as cabbie: 4
Previous profession: Perfume salesman
People used to tip better during the holidays, but no more. People do tip better during the daytime. I used to hear stories about people getting crazy tips on New Year’s Eve, but there were no stories this year.

01/06/10 3:00am

The first thing we did when the economy went south was to downsize our personal staff, from a valet, a manservant, a driver and a chef, to just a chef and a valet. It’s been tough.


ABID
Where I hailed him:
Williamsburg
Where he hails from: Pakistan
Years as cabbie: 6
Previous profession: Waiter
Don’t join a gym if you want to save money. It’s amazing how much money people spend on gyms—and for what? I have a shower at my house. I can run in the park. Don’t buy any real estate right now, obviously. Mortgage rates are too high. Rent, and rent with a roommate. Never use a credit card. Too much interest. Remember you’re paying more than the price when you use a credit card, and that includes cab fares and everything. If you have one, chop it up. If you want to keep it, just don’t carry it around with you, especially not when you go drinking in bars. Have friends over and drink with them. At the bars they only put this much liquor in the drink and they charge you $10. Then you have to tip, of course. Three drinks and you’re already up to $35. I myself, I drink Chivas Regal. That’s $40 a bottle. See what I mean? Drink at home.


AZIZ
Where I hailed him:
Grand Central
Where he hails from: Pakistan
Years as cabbie: 12
Previous profession: Always a driver
You should always put 10 percent of what you make in the bank, or more if you can. You should also have a retirement account, especially since you’re young.


Obiajulu
Where I hailed him:
Midtown
Where he hails from: Nigeria
Years as cabbie: 2
Previous profession: Delivery man
I’ve always had a budget, even before the economy went bad, since I’ve never been rich. I have a lot of expenses every month, and since I don’t know how much I’ll get in tips each month I can’t spend too much without eating into my savings or going into debt. I was in debt, but I got out of it—I don’t want to go back in again. The only sacrifice I’ve made because of the economy is I don’t buy food from restaurants anymore. I used to sometimes get sandwiches or halal cart food, but now I only eat stuff I bring from home. I save maybe $20 a week.

12/23/09 1:00am

ALI
Where I hailed him: Hell’s Kitchen
Where he hails from: Afghanistan
Years as cabbie: 2
Previous profession: Always a driver
I had a pretty good year. My son started going to school, so my wife had the chance to start working; that’s been useful. We needed the money. Other than that, I still have my health and job, so that’s good. But I am looking forward to 2010. Changing years is like changing clothes; you feel better when things are fresh.

PAT
Where I hailed him: Port Authority
Where he hails from: New Jersey
Years as cabbie: 5
Previous profession: Retail
2009 wasn’t a bad year, but it wasn’t anything special. It was like we were all hungover, since 2008 was so crazy with the economy and election. 2009 was just recovering from that. [What did you make of the 2000s?] Man, what a terrible decade. It started off bad with Bush, then we had 9/11 and the wars and then Bush got re-elected! Unbelievable. Nothing good happened this decade. Well, Obama. But that’s eight crappy years of Bush and then one year of Obama.

NATHENIEL
Where I hailed him: Midtown
Where he hails from: The Bronx
Years as cabbie: Less than a year
Previous profession: Parking lot attendant
This year was nothing for me. I can hardly even remember anything that happened in it. I remember Michael Jackson dying and the Yankees winning, but that’s it. Oh, and I started this job. That’s it. Boring year. Go Yankees.

ASLAM
Where I hailed him: Williamsburg
Where he hails from: Pakistan
Years as cabbie: 4
Previous profession: Construction worker
The best thing about 2009 is that I’m still alive, man! I’m sitting here with you! Every year I make it through, I’m happy. I love my job, and I’m glad I still have it. Each ride brings a new atmosphere in my cab. When you stay in public, as I do, you are never bored.

12/09/09 4:00am

We look forward to the holiday tradition of sitting in a bar with Christmas decorations, playing “Fairytale of New York” over and over again until we’re all cried out.

ROY
Where I hailed him: Soho
Where he hails from: Indonesia
Years as cabbie: 6 months
Previous profession: Waiter
My family goes on retreat for the holidays. It’s a spiritual retreat. It’s very good, we need it. I’m Christian so I mostly think about praising my god on retreat. On Christmas we go to church, but we don’t do the trees or the presents. It’s just not a priority for us… God is the priority.

DAPUT
Where I hailed him: Williamsburg
Where he hails from: Bangladesh
Years as cabbie: 3
Previous profession: Always a driver
Just because I am not Christian doesn’t mean I can’t celebrate Christmas, so me and my family, even though we are Muslim, like to have a big tree and stockings and all the rest of it. We do the thing in the morning with food and family and Santa Claus. I think now it’s more of an American thing than a religious thing.

GAMAL
Where I hailed him: Midtown
Where he hails from: Egypt
Years as cabbie: 8
Previous profession: Construction
We open gifts on Christmas, but that’s only because we have kids. I have two daughters. They grew up here but my wife and I didn’t. As you can imagine, it’s hard to have kids here and not have them hear about Santa Claus. They hear that kids get toys on Christmas so they want them too. They don’t care what the holiday is about. And my wife and I don’t mind getting them gifts. It’s nice to give things to family. [What did you get them this year?] It’s a secret.

ELLIS
Where I hailed him: Grand Central
Where he hails from: South Africa
Years as cabbie: 3
Previous profession: Tech support
I love Christmas! This is the best time of the year. Everyone is always in a better mood around the holidays, even when it’s snowing and cold out. My favorite tradition is, every year all my family who lives in New York comes to my apartment for a big meal. Everyone brings something to eat and my wife cooks a ton. It’s great. All kinds of food. You should come! It’s more food than you can imagine. Then after we eat everyone sits around talking and laughing.

MUHAMMAD
Where I hailed him: Hell’s Kitchen
Where he hails from: Pakistan
Years as cabbie: 4
Previous profession: Always a driver
I don’t celebrate Thanksgiving or Christmas. I usually work on those days; a lot of jobs give you overtime on holidays and I don’t feel like I’m missing anything. Also, I’d rather make money. I don’t have kids, but I used to have traditions with my family, my parents and brothers and sisters. On the anniversary of my parents’ nikah, which is a wedding ceremony, we would all get together to celebrate. Unfortunately I haven’t been able to do this since I moved here. It’s too expensive for any of us to travel frequently.

11/25/09 4:00am

The worst gift we ever received was a desktop darts game… FOR THE SECOND YEAR IN A ROW. For the record, we have never liked darts, and at the time, we did not have a desk.

DEAN
Where I hailed him: Hell’s Kitchen
Where he hails from: New Jersey
Years as cabbie: 13
Previous profession: Always a driver
Probably clothes when I was a kid. It’s no fun to unwrap clothes on Christmas. I don’t remember anything specific. My best gift was when I was in seventh grade. A friend of mine let me hide in his sister’s closet so I could see her undress. She had huge tits, like this. [Cups hands about a foot in front of his chest.] Then she opened the door and found me, so I pushed her out of the way and ran out. We got in so much trouble, but it was worth it.

UDAYAN

Where I hailed him: Midtown
Where he hails from: India
Years as a cabbie: 4
Previous profession: Accountant
Last year my kids got me the Harry Potter books. They know I like to read when I have a chance, but I don’t know why they got me those. I think they wanted them for themselves; I don’t like fantasy books. [Did you ever read them?] I started the first one and didn’t care for it. But I don’t want to complain about my children getting me a present. Do you think they’re good books? [Millions of kids can’t be wrong, I guess.] I think they can be.

GEORGE
Where I hailed him: Penn Station
Where he hails from: Bayside, Queens
Years as cabbie: Less than a year
Previous profession: Telemarketing
Last year I got fired a week before Christmas. Does that count? It should. It’s like, “Merry Christmas, here’s your pink slip.” A bunch of other people got laid off, too. You know the worst part? One of the people who didn’t get fired told me that my old boss got a huge bonus last year. He didn’t know how much, but it would’ve been enough to keep at least a couple guys on through the year. That’s my worst gift. Thanks, you’ve put me into a shitty mood.

JOSEPH
Where I hailed him: Bushwick
Where he hails from: Ecuador
Years as cabbie: 15
Previous profession: Always a driver
The worst president? Obama? No, I like him. What? Oh, present? Oh, I’m too old for presents. Presents are for children. My children are teenagers now, and I can’t even give them presents. Better to give them money, fifty dollars, or a hundred dollars maybe and tell them to go to Macy’s. That way they buy their own coat. I don’t care so much to get presents, bad ones or otherwise. I am more afraid to give a bad present, so I give money, which everyone seems to like.

11/11/09 4:00am

Will it ever really happen? It’s pretty much been planned since the very day the idea of subways came into being. At this rate, we’ll probably have flying cars before we have a Second Avenue subway.

SUKHDEV
Where I hailed him:
Hell’s Kitchen
Where he hails from: Iran
Years as cabbie: 10
Previous profession: Dentist
The whole idea is very bad. There are a lot of places that need a subway more than Second Avenue, especially since there is already a subway line near there. Other boroughs need subways a lot more than Second Avenue does. It’s a waste of money. If they want to spend millions of dollars constructing stuff, they should improve the subways we already have.

JOSE
Where I hailed him:
South Williamsburg
Where he hails from: Ecuador
Years as a cabbie: 8
Previous profession: Dishwasher
New Yorkers are really into convenience, because they are inconvenienced so much just by living here, so I think it’s a good idea to build the Second Avenue line as quickly as possible. Even though it will be expensive, it will make everyone happier. I’ll still get fares, though, people like to be picked up in front of their house or work. Besides, if there is a subway, there will be less cars, there will be less traffic on the roads, which is good for me.

ROGER
Where I hailed him: Midtown
Where he hails from: Queens
Years as cabbie: 1
Previous profession: Car salesman
That whole thing is crap and worthless. The only reason they’re building it is because rich people don’t want to walk from Lexington. Definitely other areas need a subway more. (Are you worried it might mean fewer fares for you?) Well, whenever I go up to the Upper East Side I’m taking some rich guy. I don’t think all the rich guys will stop taking cabs and go into the subway. The only thing it might impact is sometimes I take people from Lexington to their apartments near the river because they don’t want to walk. That might not happen anymore.

DELWA
Where I hailed him: Chelsea
Where he hails from: Chad
Years as cabbie: 13
Previous profession: Maintenance worker
I don’t think about it too much. I’m worried about the construction making traffic, but so far I haven’t had to deal with that. It’s not supposed to open for a long time, so I don’t think about it much. I won’t ride it. (Do you think a line is needed there?) I don’t know. I guess people will use it, so that’s the only thing that matters. But so long as it doesn’t affect me, I don’t care.