New York cabs sure have changed since I last rode in one.
Granted, it’s been more than two years since I’ve been in New York City, but getting into a cab Friday was like being a Stephen King character and waking from a coma to find that the world has been turned upside down, Flair pens have been invented and the new Coke came and went unnoticed.
For one thing, the cab I rode from the airport was a Lexus. I thought the cab line director was kidding when she handed me a slip and said, “The Lexus is yours.”
“Ha! Oh, that’s a good one. Lexus . . .” I laughed as I took the ticket and walked down the line to find my taxi. Well, blow me away if it wasn’t a Lexus. Painted yellow.
Our cab driver was a one-legged guy named Shushil Maggoo. But that’s where the New York cab experience ended.
Inside, the seats weren’t ripped and it smelled like something that was definitely not urine. There was a credit card swiper in the back seat, so apparently now you can pay for a cab on a credit card. Also in the back seat was a GPS map so you can watch as the cab driver takes side streets at 80 mph to try to get you to your destination faster. (Covering your eyes is no longer necessary; you can use the screen as a distraction.) And there’s a little TV screen that runs ads and promos for New Yorkers and tourists, including an ad for a campaign to convince Lebron James to come play for the Nicks.
“No! No, no, no!” I said to the little screen. Mr. Magoo sideswiped a bike messenger.
I honeymooned in New York in the ‘80s and back then cabs were as close to being a homeless heroin addict as I wanted to be. Honestly, I enjoyed it because why go all the way to New York if you were going to experience the same stuff you did in Columbiana, Ohio? But a New York City cab ride was the definition of the word “seedy.”
Then in the late ‘90s and the Zeros (or whatever we’re calling that decade. Really, it’s unfortunate that anything at all historically significant happened between 1/1/00 and 12/31/09 because we’re still having a heck of a time referring to those years by a decade with a catchy name.) I lived in New Jersey and visited New York as often as possible, since it was just a short train ride away. We used to pack a bunch of us into the back seat of a cab and even put some people up front. And then once, while in Little Italy with three Hubbard friends and all of our kids, we started to pile five of us in a cab and the driver said, “I can’t take more than four.”
“What? Since when?” I asked. I was the fifth person and had one leg in the cab and was ready to sit on Lisa’s lap.
“Since new regulations. Four max.” I thought about arguing with him about the word “regulations” and how there are regulations and then there are regulations. You know, like there are regulations about not selling Rolex watches out of a suitcase or fake purses to women from Texas who think they’re getting an actual Kate Spade bag for $10. But I didn’t want to get into it.
“Fine, be that way. I’ll just walk.” I slammed the door and gave him my best pouty face and started walking. Pretty soon I noticed that the cab was sidling up alongside me, creeping along next to me.
The driver rolled down the window. “Get in.”
I smiled and said, “Thank you!” I am from the Midwest, after all.
On this current trip, the first three days of my New York stay has been with my daughter, who doesn’t like to walk everywhere like me, so there were a lot of cab rides in our weekend. Once the princess and her cute-but-uncomfortable shoes go off to NYU for the week, I’ll be hoofing it a lot more, so I won’t be cabbing around as much.
But I’m grateful I got to experience and new-and-improved New York cab of the Twenty Teens . . . or whatever we’re calling this decade.