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!