Monday, May 08, 2006

End/Start

I finally sent in my e-mail of resignation from the department last night. As of thirty minutes ago, no one had gotten back to me, oddly. I'm glad it's done and I'm done, but I'm really not looking forward to dealing with the fallout. So how was this news taken back in Brooklyn? Well, Sadie had just seen our landlady, who informed us we'll be evicted on July 1! Now, this is an old, crazy, non-English speaking Palestinian woman, so we shouldn't lend her words all the credence they deserve. Her son, whom I just called, told me this was balderdash, we weren't being evicted. We'll see.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Pass

Finis, I passed. Ten days to license, unless something else is fucked.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Thwarted

So when I set this thing up, I of course had in the back of my mind that the inevitable book deal was just a few months away. In truth, aren't we all getting tired of the bloggers-turned-real writers, anyway?

Then imagine my chagrin when I just realized that I've been trumped by someone whose blog has not only been going longer, but she's a woman and a real hack to boot, not just a trainee. I almost nearly stole her name, but I swear nychack was my first choice. Go over and read about real cabbing here. And of course, she already has a book deal.

Test

The best part about blogs is the ability to infiltrate and spy on someone's life. Maybe you know him, maybe you don't, but you don't have to apologize for your Rear Window-like desire to know what's going on behind the shades. With these anonymous readers in mind, I write.

I finally took my taxi driver test on Friday. After 24 hours of taxi class (perhaps I'll rewind and talk about this later), you would have thought I would be prepared for the rigors of a 50 question, multiple choice test. But I was shitting bricks the night before. Simply put, I don't know anything about the outer boroughs. OK, I know more than you, but less than all these Pakistanis who live in Queens and study six hours a night. In fact, I was so nervous heading into the test that I was actually trepidacious about the English Language section of the test. Yes, a native born, white American was scared that he might not be as fluent as your most recent cab driver. Needless to say, these fears were misplaced.

I turned up bright and early Friday morning to Master Cabbie cab school to take the test with about fifty other gentlemen (and one woman). I had actually taken my classes at Laguardia Community College, but they had a fucking month long wait for their test. In case you're keeping track, yes I have dropped out of Yale to take classes at Laguardia Community College in fabulous Long Island City, Queens. The guy who ran Master Cabbie took us through an hour long review session, for which I was thankful. But at that point, I was still concerned about my chances. To pass, I'd need to get 35 questions correct out of 50. Now, the first ten we get to answer with the aide of a map. We had 45 minutes mandatorially allotted to answer these ten question. Yes, that is correct. You'd be surprised how difficult some of these guys in school found the map reading part of the exam. The process of looking up a street in the index, finding the map and grid number, and finally finding the street was real alien to them -- especially the West Africans. Oh, in case you're wondering, the ethnic make up of all of this was about 30% West African (I gathered since they were speaking French), 65% Middle Eastern or South Asian (I was pretty convinced that I identified some Turks), and the rest was other. Just in case you're curious. Anyway, for some of these guys this was a challenge, but I think I got these ten questions. Best of all, it gave me about 40 minutes of review before the tough part began.

This time alone also gave me an opportunity to engage in some semi-legal cheating. The test had those full Stop pages between the sections, but if I pressed down on the sheet, I could see through and read about six questions and use the map I had in my hands to answer them. Now for most of the questions I saw, this was really unnecessary. E.g., where is the Chrysler Building? But fittingly enough, the one I kind of did need, I completely blanked when I turned the page, meaning I have never successfully cheated on an exam. That question I need was: which bridge is at the western end of West Fordham Rd? The two reasonable options were the Washington Bridge and the University Heights Bridge. I checked in the map, saw it was the latter, then promptly forgot when I turned the page. In the end, I bubbled Washington Bridge which is south of W. Fordham Rd.

However, the rest of the test was a bit easier. Where is Times Sq? Between which North-South running streets is Central Park? The best thing for me was the emphasis on rules and regulations in the test. These rules are in a little book we got in taxi school, and all one would need to do to basically memorize all of them is to read the book through twice. Difficult if your grasp on English is tenuous, but really too easy for me. At the end of the exam, I calculated I had about 40 questions I was almost certain about, with a few more I thought were right. Not a brilliant performance, but I'd be surprised if I fail. Results on Wednesday, so stay tuned.

Should that come back positive, I would supposedly receive my hack license (# 5227191, if you want to make a complaint) in ten days through the mail. A hop, skip and a jump would take me to the two Brooklyn garages near me (Susan and J & I) and into a cab!

Friday, April 21, 2006

Progress

Dear reader, I'm sure you've gotten the impression that I had given up on my dream. Fear not! Finally, I have real, taxi-related news to report to you all!

This week which started so poorly (drugged out cunts ruining my Wolf Parade show) steadily improved day by day. At long last my New York license arrived featuring a sick-inducing design that prevents anyone from looking it dead on for more than a few seconds. With this in hand, I returned to Long Island City and the TLC licensing bureau. My last visit to this office concluded with my getting booted out the door, but I did secure a free pass to butt ahead in line. With that, I waited only a few minutes before breezing through the process with the same Asian woman who had rejected me last time. A fingerprinting session and mug shot later, and I was out of there officially on my way to hacking! It was all so easy, so anti-climactic after the weeks of torporific agony.

The only color from the day was provided in the drug test office, a few blocks away from the TLC. As I walked towards Labcorp, I got to pass by the Queens correctional facility. I suppose Friday around 11 is when perps get to walk free because there were several BMWs, Mercedes and other expensive cars emitting booming bass sounds lined up in front of the exit. By the time I made my return trip, they were gone, newly released ex-con, I can only assume, safely in the back seat. At the drug testing facility, I was served by a middle-aged Indian chap whose ire was raised by the license I produced. I have a numeral at the end of my name, traditionally rendered: IV. The chubby Asian guy who served me at the Yonkers DMV, instead rendered this as: IIII. I told him this was the Medieval fashion, he didn't seem to know he had made a faux pas. This story set off the Indian guy. "Fucking asshole," he muttered. "He's not living in the fucking Middle Ages. And he's a stupid moron and gets a job with the city. My English no good, and I no get job with the city. These assholes serve three people an hour, and they keep their jobs." Ha ha ha, I responded. Where's the bathroom? "Follow the smell," he said. Since this lab is the only one where you can get drug tested for the TLC, I imagine his whole damn job is pouring cab drivers' urine from a cup into a vial. I can understand his anger towards the municipal workers.

Tomorrow, I return to LIC for day one of my three day, 24 hour Taxi School. Will report on that later.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Porn

As you could have expected, my first trip to the TLC was a bit of a failure. The woman who was serving me frowned when I pulled out my Temporary License (which doesn't have my pic). When she saw my passport, she claimed the person pictured was not me. Admittedly, it is an old pic, but give me a break. The combination of these two transgressions led us to her manager's window. The manager was a good deal kinder than the original woman, but she repeated the party line on the temp. license. "I'm sorry," I chimed in, "but if I had read that I couldn't apply with this license, I wouldn't have come in and wasted an hour." "It does say that on the website," she replied curtly. Now, looking forward to just this type of altercation, I actually printed out and brought all of said website literature. I pulled it out and asked her to kindly show me where it said this. She pointed to a spot on the first page: "Right there." I read over the passage, paused, and told her it said no such thing. Five minutes of poring over all the literature went on to prove that I was, in fact, right. "I still can't take your application, but I will give you a pass to come back." A tactical draw.

So the moral of the story is that an over-educated, smart-assed kid can score minor victories over a Byzantine bureaucracy. But talking about this episode to a friend of mine (one who cavorts with dukes and marquises), he came up with an alternate lesson. "Driving a cab is doubly insulting. Firstly to you and your background, secondly to the people out there who actually need to drive a cab." I'm not quite as ridiculous as this good friend of mine, so we can toss objection one out the window without any further ado. But what about the second point? Is this expedition merely a modern equivalent of visiting a Victorian sanitarium?

In some ways, yes. I don't need to drive a taxi. I could go get a job at a bank or temp or bar tend. On the other hand, all of those Pakistanis don't need to drive a cab either. They could cook or bus or stay in fucking Pakistan. I need money just like them, even if I live in a yuppie neighborhood and buy expensive coats. But because there are simply more options open to me, my taking this one, even if only part-time, is a different choice than theirs. That could come across as a rich kid slumming, and I won't even deny that there isn't a part of me that is doing this for just that reason.

But at the same time, I think I'm doing this for a lot of really genuine reasons -- genuine reasons that still might make all of this an exercise in porn. As I said in a recent email to a friend, when I was living abroad, I was really struck by the absence of the immigrant culture that pervades the US. I really think it gives this city, and in some ways the country, a lot of energy. Yes, energy that is founded on a central harshness -- because if they don't work their asses off, there is no help for them -- but energy that infests everything. Cab driving appeals to me in some ways because of its connection with both sides of this equation. I can both participate in and observe that culture that feels so American and the lives of the people that get in the back. Okay, as I write this, I'm more convinced than ever that this is a big exercise in porn. But then, I always really liked Rear Window and never understood people who thought his voyeurism was creepy. To me, it seemed the most natural thing in the world. I've also always been a fan of self-examination through contrast. Thus, my tremendous egoism allowed time in Europe to serve as a time of examination of American-ness. Driving a taxi can help me look at myself, precisely because I'm not a natural cab driver.

Anyway, when my goddamn picture license comes, I'll go back for even more stories.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Snood

Dear reader, my apologies for keeping you hanging for the weeks between my last post and now. Fortunately, Yale's spring break has meant more time in NYC and less here in front of my computer. But fear not, I haven't been lounging around during this recess. No, sir. I'm so, so close to getting the hack license. Let's recap:

Get NY chauffeur's License:
Done! A mere four hours at the Yonkers DMV saw me emerge with a spanking new interim license (they'll mail me my real one soon). I was a bit nervous about the whole affair seeing as how I don't actually live in that state, but no need! Friends, I'm here to tell you that as long as you have a pal to check the mail, you too can get a NY license! One note of warning. Don't forge the forms. When I walked up to my last station, the heavy-set Asian chappy was talking with his neighbor about the poor quality of forged signature he had just rejected. Seemed more disappointed than anything else.

Take a Six Hour Driver's Safety Course:
Done! This was a long six hours, dear reader. Fortunately, like most (all) classes of this sort, we discussed rather little that one could consider relevant to this topic. We did discuss the instructor's army reserve service (in Saudi Arabia, Panama, Japan, et al.) and the numerous pet peeves of the Hispanic woman sitting in front of me. My favorite of her outbursts was her whining plaint: "Wiiilleee, I no like airbags." Madam, neither do I. I shouldn't kid, I did learn a few interesting things. Did you know you can check the performance of your rear break pads based on the stiffness of your emergency break? I also learned that we should always go to court to fight our tickets. Indeed, the only handout he gave us was a Daily News story about the statistical likelihood that your ticket will be thrown out. An interesting side note, everyone there was attending to take points off their licenses. When our instructor began the course he alluded to this fact, but went on, "but maybe some of you, like Knight, are here because a judge told you to come." I was, as you can guess, flabbergasted by this assumption and I piped up to defend myself. Nothing could quite shake the feeling he had that I was here because of a recent accident or ticket. The class also watched some amusing industry sponsored videos about safety. The one produced by GM included this kiss-off: "Car safety isn't the problem. The problem is the people who drive the cars." Also, old cautious ladies, listen up! You all should "learn to be more assertive in merging" according to another vid. One last point that I won't dwell on. This class was one of my first entrees into the world of inter-immigrant relations. More on that later.

Prove That I Don't Own Child Support:
Done! Almost. But can't quite divine why this would be necessary to apply for a hack license.

Get Checked Out by a Fake Doc:
Check! But wait, this one's a real pain in the ass. A few months ago, I phone my pediatrician (still my physician) to get him to sign the form, but the precise bastard dated the form July 5, 2004! I guess this was the last time I saw him, but still, a rude surprise. My next point of contact was Sadie's Dad's cousin, who cheerily agreed to sign off on the form. But we're still not out of the woods. The form requires a "Official Physician's Stamp" something which, according to this doc, hasn't been used since the Eisenhower administration [ok, ed., has anyone else noticed the use of the Eisenhower administration as a byword for humorously antiquated? No one makes a joke about the Truman administration, do they?]. He'll attach a blank prescription form, so hopefully that'll do.

What does that all mean, dear reader? It means that later this week I'll be cruising up to Queens to actually apply for the hack license! So close! So close!

Snood

Dear reader, my apologies for keeping you hanging for the weeks between my last post and now. Fortunately, Yale's spring break has meant more time in NYC and less here in front of my computer. But fear not, I haven't been lounging around during this recess. No, sir. I'm so, so close to getting the hack license. Let's recap:

Get NY chauffeur's License:
Done! A mere four hours at the Yonkers DMV saw me emerge with a spanking new interim license (they'll mail me my real one soon). I was a bit nervous about the whole affair seeing as how I don't actually live in that state, but no need! Friends, I'm here to tell you that as long as you have a pal to check the mail, you too can get a NY license! One note of warning. Don't forge the forms. When I walked up to my last station, the heavy-set Asian chappy was talking with his neighbor about the poor quality of forged signature he had just rejected. Seemed more disappointed than anything else.

Take a Six Hour Driver's Safety Course:
Done! This was a long six hours, dear reader. Fortunately, like most (all) classes of this sort, we discussed rather little that one could consider relevant to this topic. We did discuss the instructor's army reserve service (in Saudi Arabia, Panama, Japan, et al.) and the numerous pet peeves of the Hispanic woman sitting in front of me. My favorite of her outbursts was her whining plaint: "Wiiilleee, I no like airbags." Madam, neither do I. I shouldn't kid, I did learn a few interesting things. Did you know you can check the performance of your rear break pads based on the stiffness of your emergency break? I also learned that we should always go to court to fight our tickets. Indeed, the only handout he gave us was a Daily News story about the statistical likelihood that your ticket will be thrown out. An interesting side note, everyone there was attending to take points off their licenses. When our instructor began the course he alluded to this fact, but went on, "but maybe some of you, like Knight, are here because a judge told you to come." I was, as you can guess, flabbergasted by this assumption and I piped up to defend myself. Nothing could quite shake the feeling he had that I was here because of a recent accident or ticket. The class also watched some amusing industry sponsored videos about safety. The one produced by GM included this kiss-off: "Car safety isn't the problem. The problem is the people who drive the cars." Also, old cautious ladies, listen up! You all should "learn to be more assertive in merging" according to another vid. One last point that I won't dwell on. This class was one of my first entrees into the world of inter-immigrant relations. More on that later.

Prove That I Don't Own Child Support:
Done! Almost. But can't quite divine why this would be necessary to apply for a hack license.

Get Checked Out by a Fake Doc:
Check! But wait, this one's a real pain in the ass. A few months ago, I phone my pediatrician (still my physician) to get him to sign the form, but the precise bastard dated the form July 5, 2004! I guess this was the last time I saw him, but still, a rude surprise. My next point of contact was Sadie's Dad's cousin, who cheerily agreed to sign off on the form. But we're still not out of the woods. The form requires a "Official Physician's Stamp" something which, according to this doc, hasn't been used since the Eisenhower administration [ok, ed., has anyone else noticed the use of the Eisenhower administration as a byword for humorously antiquated? No one makes a joke about the Truman administration, do they?]. He'll attach a blank prescription form, so hopefully that'll do.

What does that all mean, dear reader? It means that later this week I'll be cruising up to Queens to actually apply for the hack license! So close! So close!

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Commitment

OK, I need to either decide to keep this up or drop it. For now, let's continue posting. I've nothing new to report on the cabdriving front. I'm just waiting for March to get a NY license. I was playing ultimate last night and was asked about my future plans. No one quite thought my cabdriving was serious. Wait till they hear about the bagpiping. Seriously. I've always loved the sounds of the pipes and remember when my family happened to go to the Edinburgh tattoo with all the pipes and drums bands. It was fantastic. What I really fantasize about re: bagpipes is busking. I heard a piper in the Paris Metro in one of those stations with a huge tunnel to transfer between lines, and it was terribly moving. I have visions of myself in the 14th St. tunnel doing the same -- not in tartan rags, but in normal street clothes. Just imagine for a moment the strains of a highland tune growing louder and louder as you moved from, say the F to the 1. Wouldn't you toss a dime into that guy's hat?

Also, just keep in mind that many of these shows like American Idol and now American Inventor (or whatever it's called) were developed in England. So all this malarky about the ultimate American dream being inventing looks a bit silly. Incidentally, on the English version of that show, I saw a guy who had come up with the best invention I've ever seen. A toaster that detects how done your toast is based on particulates in the air rather than time in the toaster (so the second or third round of toast is a perfect as the first). It also had personalized buttons so everyone in the family could have their own doness setting. Fucking amazing.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Rethink

OK. The iPod was fantastic at the gym where it insulated my mind from my body's pain. Those fucking earbuds still hurt, though.

I just completed my first trip to Huffington Post, a site I've always avoided because these liberal circle-jerks just make me think we're all morons on the left side of the political spectrum. I went because I just found out a friend's father is a semi-regular contributor. This once again recalled my mind to the deathbed scenes from Waugh's Brideshead Revisited. I don't have the text in front of me so I can't quote literally, but at one point, after hearing a news report of Chamberlain's mismanagement of the German situation, Lord Marchmain says, "I knew Chamberlain. Ordinary fellow." My parents, specifically my Dad, and Sadie's father could usually come up with an anecdote or two about many of the important members of the American zeitgeist. We had a friend in London, now sadly deceased, who had known everyone and could tell stories about them grinding cigarette butts into her carpet. I once commented to Sadie that I didn't think anyone we knew would evolve to the next business moguls (sp? I've been watching a lot of Olympics), political bigwigs or social dynamos. I sort of think I would like that to change, but that depends more on Sadie than me. Don't want to go further than this, but keep it all in mind.

Monday, February 13, 2006

New SSN Card

So my Social Security card arrived in the mail in what must be record time. Next stop is either the New York DMV or a driver's safety course, depending on some specifics I need to investigate. All potential fake New York residents should note that it couldn't be simpler to "move" to NYC based on their DMV's website. No gas bill or anything like that -- I just can't move within six months of my CT license issuance date. In this case, it means I can't get a new license until the end of February. Still, I'm well on the way.

On another note, I've been carrying around my fiancee's iPod for a few days. I really thought this would be a liberating time. I would whisk around the city with my chosen soundtrack playing in my ears. But I feel totally conflicted about this new accessory. First, walking along the streets, I feel divorced from my surroundings. I know others have railed against this, but as my current foray into graduate school shows, I don't believe received wisdom, only experienced. Second, I don't know how to resolved the conflict between my public demeanor and my aural experience. I can't very well rock and tap along to my soundtrack unless I want to look like a fool. But at the same time, I'm not used to listening to my own loved music with a mien of stony impassivity. Plus the earbuds hurt like fucking hell. I'm off to the gym where I'll use the new toy in its final arena. We'll see how that goes.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

2.30

Why do I stay up till this hour listening to music and sabatoging my plans for tomorrow? Cause I kinda like it.
Mix CD (sorry) for Sadie -- just threw this together of stuff I don't think she has:
  • Blur - Boys and Girls (Best Dance Song Ever)
  • Dinosaur Jr. - In a Jar
  • The Clean - Diamond Shine (they are a NZ band and a forerunner of the Bats)
  • Beat Happening - Indian Summer
  • Arab Strap - Act of War
  • Interpol - NYC
  • Neutral Milk Hotel (just Mangum really) - Now I'm Going down (ooh, look at me with my ultra-rare Mangum track)
  • Beat Happening - Fortune Cookie Prize
  • Wolf Parade - Grounds for Divorce
  • The Clean - Beatnik (I don't usually like repeating artists on mixes, but this was just a hasty contraption, and that's a childish hang-up)
  • Dinosaur Jr. - Tarpit
  • Wolf Parade - I'll Believe in Anything

  • Now to bed.

    Cette Mitzi!

    I just watched Ernst Lubitsch's Trouble in Paradise and can't recommend it highly enough. Not only was this a genuinely funny film it was also surprisingly arousing for a movie that's 75 years old. Included in the Criterion Collection DVD was also a German silent film directed by Lubitsch in the Teens. God almighty, the Germans are an ugly nation, and I say this as a proud bearer of their heritage. Every close-up was truly shocking in the new layers of hideousness it revealed in the actors who looked passable in the wide shots. And to think, each one of them was either an emigre, goosestepping or dead within fifteen years.

    I also just spoke to the old friend with whom I'd been playing phone tag. He is probably the biggest mensch I know -- a deeply good guy. We concluded that it had been more than three years since we'd actually seen each other which depressed me to no end. It was really good to talk to him about leaving where I'm at since he's been thinking a lot about this in very similar ways. Truth be told, I don't know if any of my old friends, save one or two, really knows what they're up to. I like that. It comforts me -- really reminds me why I want to be close to my friends.

    Wednesday, February 08, 2006

    Long Lost ...

    So the trip to the Social Security administration was a total success, though in the process I discovered that my new coat will set off metal alarms because of its damn clinky metal buttons. The potential conflict about my numeral was judiciously resolved by the woman who attended me. I explained the problem and she took her pen and put a vertical line next to my last name -- I thought to separate my numeral from my name. But no, she completed that hard stroke with a V and just tacked the damn thing on there.

    In the last few days, few weeks even, my old friend Britt has been trying to get in touch with me. We've been playing phone-tag, but my Britt fix was satisfied when my fellow Eli Nick told me about Britt's blog. I really like secretly reading friends' blogs. I feel like I'm spying on their lives and I am genuinely interested in their inane details. I especially like discovering new ones and getting the chance to pore over several months of their lives that I had not been privy to. This carries a heavy aftershot of depression because of course I've lost touch with so many of my old and dear friends. Reading what they're up to now just reinforces how little I know about their current lives and how much I miss a lot of them.

    I also need to decide whether to tightly focus this on the taxi or just verbally cum all over the page. Let's try to restrain ourselves for now, shall we?

    Tuesday, February 07, 2006

    First Step

    So my first task on the road to a hack license is procuring a Social Security card. I was a bit surprised to discover that I will be required to provide an original card. As a native born American, I of course have no idea where my card is. I learned after talking to my Mom that she doesn't either. The end result will be a trip to the local Social Security office to hand in my forms.

    Now, here's the key issue. I have a numeral at the end of my name. More than a numeral. A IV. My Dad's name, also on the form with his SSN, is identical to mine save for the III. This form doesn't leave a space for a numeral, and I'm now terrified that I might have to lose part of my name to gain a Social Security card.

    I've also noticed that it's difficult to really care about finding a real job when all I want to do is get behind the wheel of a taxi. I was scoping out Craig's List and found one interesting job, but it's really difficult to sift down to the good stuff when your potential range is EVERYTHING. Still, it's good to see all the jobs out there.

    Monday, February 06, 2006

    Meter Drop

    This blog will chronicle my life cruising the streets as an NYC taxi driver. It will also hopefully witness my transformation from pathetic graduate student to confident city professional.

    We'll see.