This past Sunday night, after paying a visit to the Black Rabbit
, New York City’s premier house of fun, where Bobby Tisdale
was hosting the fuck out of Bingo Night, I walked to the corner of Greenpoint and Manhattan Avenues in Brooklyn to catch a cab home. There were plenty of yellow cabs rolling down the street, so I was feeling pretty confident that things were going to work out just great in the me-getting-home-in-a-cab department.
After waiting a few seconds on the corner with my friend Maura, who wanted to make sure I didn’t get myself stabbed or anything, a beat up yellow cab stopped in front of me and I climbed in. Once I settled into the backseat, I quickly sensed that something was up. For starters, there was no cabbie medallion hanging in the car. Then I looked at the meter to find that all identifying labels had been seemingly sanded off with steel wool or some other powerful information-removing agent. Finally, I noticed the cab driver- a sixtyish guy with long gray hair and a beard and wearing a straw hat- was smoking a big cigar (historically frowned upon cabbie behavior). “Um, is this a real cab?,” I asked.
“Sure it is,” he answered between puffs.
“Does the meter work?,” I countered.
“Yeah, this is a meter,” he responded, playing it close to the vest.
I’m not a detective (well, not a professional anyway), but I was about 97% sure at this point that I wasn’t in a real yellow cab. Since I was kind of drunky drunk and had a taste for adventure though, I decided to let the nutjob up front drive me home anyway. The combination of him and his car reminded me of that one Playstation video game where evil clowns drive around some burnt out city trying to kill each other and win a race at the same time (NOTE: There may be more to the game than this). I was pretty sure this was going to be awesome, a sort of “Through The Looking Glass” ride home. And it kind of was.
What with the crazy hair, the straw hat, and the cigar and all, I wasn’t too surprised when the guy started randomly talking about obscure places to buy raw meat around the city as he pulled away from the curb. In fact- being a big fan of meat talk and all- I was delighted. And as he rambled on about meat and made his way to the bridge back to Manhattan, I decided to watch the meter. Just as I expected, it was jumping very quickly and randomly, like one of those billboards keeping a death toll about smoking or some increasingly popular cellular phone plan. Being slightly hammered, it was hard to focus on it, but as best I could tell the meter would jump 40 cents after two blocks, another 40 cents after the next 30 yards, another 80 cents after the next 20 feet, and so on. “Um, what’s up with your meter?,” I leaned forward and asked.
“What do you mean?,” the evil clown answered like nothing was up.
“It’s crazy. It’s jumping all over the place. That’s hilarious,” I laughed.
“You ever been to New York City?,” he fired back seemingly suggesting I didn’t know shit about meters or tons of other shit either.
“Yeah, I live here and your meter is totally illegal,” I shot back. “But I’m having a really nice time so keep driving.”
The evil clown cabbie didn’t respond to that last bit, but instead continued monologuing about assorted meat bargains around town. I wasn’t listening as much by this point though because my thoughts had turned to figuring out how I was going to handle things once he got to my stop. I quickly decided I was riding in a “pay-as-you-wish” cab, like when you got to the MoMa or Met and can pay just a nickel and they can’t do a damn thing about it. And since I was drunk and all, I naturally assumed the cab driver wasn’t carrying a weapon of any sort and couldn’t possibly run as fast as me so it wasn’t going to be a big deal anyway. And it wasn’t.
By the time we pulled up to my apartment, the meter read close to 30 dollars, almost double what an actual cab would have charged for the same trip. When the evil clown announced my fair, I drunkenly announced that I wasn’t paying that much.
“What do you mean?,” the now clearly irritated faux cabbie asked.
“You’re meter is t-totally illegal, dude,” I answered. “The fare should be about half that.”
“My meter is set for the area I drive in!,” He barked.
“You mean New York City?,” I laughed. “I don’t think so.”
“Well, why didn’t you just ask for a flat rate if you have a problem with my meter?,” he shot back.
“Because you claimed to be a yellow cab and I thought it would be fun to believe you,” I replied. “Duh.”
At this point, I figured I’d reach into my wallet and hand him fifteen bucks or so, what seemed fair. Unfortunately, however, I only had twenties. And since I knew this guy wasn’t about to give me any change, I somewhat reluctantly offered him the twenty.
“Look- what you’re doing is totally illegal,” I said in my best attempt to sound like a sober guy who cared about such things. “But I think you’re hilarious, so I’m going to give you this twenty. I had a really nice time.”
“What?!,” he fumed. “Why didn’t you just call a car service if you were gonna pull this crap? Or can’t I just take you to an ATM?”
“I’m only paying you twenty,” I declared and got out of the car. I didn’t feel any sense of victory or anything at this point though since I had still paid way too much for my ride home. And there was a small part of me that figured a bullet might whizz by my head at any moment. But in the end, the driver just pulled away in a huff.
Figuring I might pull a Barney Fife on him, I managed to take down his license plate number before he got too far away (which, in case you are looking for fun is 71056LA). Yesterday, I e-mailed the New York Taxi and Limo Commision (the people in charge of such things) to file a complaint. A while later I received a phone call from a woman at the TLC (not to be confused with the great 90’s female R&B trio of the same name, though that would be awesome if one of them called me) who explained to me that there was no record of a cab with that license plate number and furthermore there was no record of that license plate number even existing at all.
After the lady (No, it was not T-Boz or Chilli, the remaining living members of TLC, so stop asking. What is wrong with you?) hung up, I pulled the phone away from ear in shock.
“Did any of this really happen?,” I wondered. “Or did I maybe travel to another dimension, one where cabbies smoke cigars and talk of meat? Or was I just really, really hammered last night?”
I guess I’ll never really know the answer to those or many other life questions. But I am home, dammit. And I am alive. And I am apparently really good at writing very long and boring accounts of my not-always-so-fascinating life. Or maybe it wasn’t all that bad. Anyway, if you’ve read this far, thank you. Now get out there and live, dammit!Dave Hill