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.

4 Comments:

Blogger Bernardo de Balbuena said...

I'll be excited when you sit down for a martini with all your friends with low-level jobs in publishing and tell them that you made $200 in one day, while they worked extra hours to scrape out a minimum wage.

9:50 AM  
Blogger 8yearoldsdude said...

I have an odd feeling that there must be something that sucks about cab-driving which restricts its appeal. But I have been wrong before. I am interested to see. Let me know hen you meet andy kaufman

11:14 AM  
Blogger johnnydgood said...

I'm sure you will answer this question in an upcoming post, but where do you stand (or sit) on the beaded seat cover? Will you get one? It occurs to me that I haven't seen a single one in Paris. Could it be that the driver's seat in a Peugeot 404 is more comfortable than that of a Chevy?

3:56 PM  
Blogger Matt said...

Have you thought about having a gimmick? Like the crazy singing cab driver does....you could dress up and be the medieval knight or something. I bet it would get you on Letterman.

6:31 AM  

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