Hands Free

According to my completely unscienterrific survey recently, I’ve noticed that the taxi drivers in New York and Los Angeles have completely different styles. Yes, I know, why am I using a taxi in LA, what kind of social deviant doesn’t have a car? In our defense, it was just a overnight stop, quick trip to the hotel, and then back to the airport in the morning. No plans to go out on the town, and though this meant we wouldn’t be making the obligatory stop at In-N-Out, we were just steps away from the oldest Hot Dog-On-A-Stick shack in Santa Monica, so it would all be smiles and kisses from the marital partner. We didn’t actually need a rental car, even though we knew this would likely brand us as outcasts and pariahs.

Anyway, back to today’s subject, taxi drivers. New York cab drivers are on the phone from the minute you get into the cab till you alight at your destination. If you’re very, very lucky your hackney driver will have a hands-free set. I should point out that this appears to be a pretty rare occurrence, and should not be counted on by any prospective riders. I haven’t a clue whom the cab drivers are communicating with, though I’ve come to suspect that it’s with each other. I mean who else has the opportunity to converse on the phone all day? One fact that I can state with confidence however, is that the every cab driver will be communicating in a language that is emphatically not English. I believe that the current breakdown is approximately 30% Eastern European, and 55% percent dialects from the Indian sub-continent. The remaining 15% are either some obscure dialect like Udmurt, or possibly Quenya. I have a theory that the cabbies are all part of a vast conspiracy, dedicated to concealing the location of all the best Sri Lankan restaurants.

In LA, by contrast, it seems as though cab drivers have taken a vow of silence. We jump in a cab at the airport, give the driver our destination, get our answering grunt in reply, and settle in for a quiet albeit not stress free drive. The truth is that I can deal with taxi drivers in NYC because god knows I don’t want to drive there. Plus, though cabbies will attempt to gun it when they get a chance, the traffic in NYC means that they’ll never have more than a block free to get up to speed, so they can only get it to sixty at best. Except on the Expressway and then only between the hours of 2:15 and 3:30am. I don’t know what Expressway they’re talking about, and whether there’s more than one but outside Manhattan itself, everything seems to revolve around taking the Expressway.

Back in LA, having someone else drive you around seems unnatural and weird. I feel unsettled not having the wheel, and since the cabbies will be doing a minimum of ninety on the freeways, there’s always that little frisson of fear. Of course it being Southern Cal, everyone else is doing 90mph too, except the vacationers from Dubuque, who will be plodding along at the signed 65, and putting theirs and everyone’s else’s lives at risk. Rocketing down the freeway in a cab at a velocity that can best be expressed on the Mach scale, shouldn’t be that big a deal, unless of course, you meet the Dubuquians (Dubuquters?). That being the case, I can deal with LA cabbies since they do not spend all their time on their phones. Of course, this means that there is all this quiet time to fill so the drivers all seem to have the radio on and tuned to talk radio. And it’s usually the weird talk radio, where they’re discussing the newest plot to take away our freedoms and/or force us to eat locally sourced organic food. The ‘They’ in these circumstances seem to be from a rotating cast that includes, but is not limited to: the government, the socialists, communists, Birchers, the Bilderburg group, the Trilateral Commission, the UN, aliens, lizard people, and the Sri Lankans, which you just knew were going to be involved in there somewhere.


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