There is a traitor in my house. And not just your run of the mill cookie cutter traitor either, this one is also a racist. Yes, dear friends, my poor old taxi 8D69 is the victim of a hate crime. Well, not really a crime, but it has been spoken ill of, and all because of it's color. Shameful. Let me explain. You see, this past weekend, I was planning on driving the taxi on a road trip through Boston and then to the southern tip of Rhode Island to complete Stage 1 of 8D69's travels, by rolling through all of New England. My plans were initially foiled by an alarming pop pop popping noise emanating from my left rear wheel, which always followed with a nasty black puddle of fluid wherever the car parked. A closer examination revealed my axle shaft, after having made over 800 zillion revolutions decided to say enough is enough. In a nutshell, my rear wheel bearing and seal failed. BUT - I was able to purchase an offset bearing, and after re-filling the rear end with 3 quarts of fresh smelly gear lube oil (at $24 a quart), my trusty friend was back on the streets. So - good to go, right? Wrong *que in reality show shocked sound while focusing on picture of an evil looking woman*.....that is to say - my darling fiance.
So....car is fixed - and it is off to Boston I say - and inform my darling and dear wife to be, Orianna, that the taxi would be the transportation of choice. Now, you know the noise a balloon makes when you blow it up and then let it go as it zig zags, straddles and strafes imaginary walls in a room until it runs out of air? Well - that is what one would have heard if they were around when I informed Orianna of my plan. Orianna is not a fan of my cab. Nope. Not at all. In fact, I think it is safe to say she absolutely despises it. Orianna is Dominican. She was born in Santo Domingo but moved to Harlem in NYC when she was seven. She came here not knowing a lick of English and had a tough time integrating into school when she was young. Now that she lives in Vermont, which is statistically the "whitest" state in the U.S., the odds of running into another individual of Dominican descent is, well, low. Because of this, we have discussed that the cab's life shares many similar hardships with her own.
For instance, since my cab's owner and list of drivers were from Pakistan, it stands to reason it has been cursed at in Punjabi and Urdu it's whole life - so when I say 'come on baby start', I mind as well as be talking in Klingon; so if you're into the whole talking to your car bit, well, 8D69's first language is not English, just like Orianna, whose first language is Spanish. Other similarities to Orianna:...it emigrated here from another country (Canada) to live in New York; it moved to a new town with no friends; as a minority it is always stared at and judged because of it's color, AND....when people are up close they are nice and politically correct to it's grille, but stab it in the taillights when not around. So knowing this....you would think Orianna would have a little more in depth feeling of identity for my cab. But alas, she doesn't. Since she grew up in New York, a yellow cab means nothing to her. Well, wait. Actually that isn't true, it does mean something - but it isn't positive. To her, a yellow cab is just some random meaningless blob of metal that doesn't stop for her unless she is wearing high heels. These stories of hers trying to get home from work in mid-town Manhattan have always perplexed me, as I never seem to have a problem hailing a cab. Plus, in my blog links, my NYC cabbie friend, Noah, who also is the author of a great blog - www.nyctaxiphoto.com, recently shared the other day that after working a 12 hour shift, and paying for his daily lease rate for the cab plus gas, he made a profit of $34. $34 in 12 hours. And people expect these guys/gals to kiss our ass when we demand rides in New York?! Ha! Anyways, despite the abysmal pay he received that day, his love of his job, the few interesting people he might meet or things he might see plus pride in his chosen profession keeps him doing what he does. But back to Orianna. I know she will be reading this, and the last thing I want is for her to think for one minute I am going to segue this blog post from her to something else. Oh no no no my sweet Orianna. It is time to pay the piper and let the world know of your traitorous ways.
Now, the day I bought this cab and made the trek home, I stopped at her work with it. She knew I was beyond elated, so she was happy for me; a little surprised to see a NYC Taxi in front of her, but all in all - totally embarrassed. Within the first week of my having the old cab, Orianna announced at 5 pm one evening that she needed a ride to a conference in Burlington, VT, which is well over 2 hours away. My personal car was having issues, so 8D69 swept her off her feet and drove her there without a hitch. One week later, she needed a ride to another conference in Lake Morey. Same situation applied with same successful results. Now, when Orianna NEEDS a ride, it would seem my old cab is good enough for the Obsecrating Obsequious Orianna. But if there are other modes of transportation available, well, lets just say the balloon hissing noises can sometimes turn to POPS and BANGS. Each time I have ever dropped Orianna off someplace in the taxi, it has to be someplace no one can see her get out of it; she is that embarrassed by it.
So anyways, when it came to a trip to Boston, she just wasn't going to have any part of it, at least if I felt like having a functioning agreeable human being to accompany me with for the day that is. I say this half wittingly, but I have been around Orianna enough to know the volatile volcano that can erupt in her Dominican head. It is sort of like Mount St. Helens. Peace, calm and blue skies one minute, and the next....sizzle, crack, KaaaaBOOM - as curious repetitive sounds erupt from her mouth like "Cono Diablo" and "Ay Dios Mio". I choose my battles carefully with her. It's tricky really; unlike my European roots, you can see my face turn red when angry; not so with Orianna - its just rainbows, sprinkles and unicorns one second, and Poltergeist the next. Gotta be on your toes around here. Could I have gotten her into the taxi for a trip to Boston? Sure - I am a master of manipulation. But when I go into battle, it is for life or death, and this battle did not meet that criteria. In this particular Boston scenario, it would have been a battle that could only result in wounds. The kind of wounds you WANT to die from, but in the end, it's prognosis would be a full and complete recovery. I initially told her Boston had plenty of cabs roaming around, so in reality, not many people would even bother to look. People are not driving into Boston to look at cabs (not even me) so since she wasn't a celebrity, no one would bother or care. I told her even if someone did notice, and looked her square in the eyes, she would be forgotten about in roughly 15 seconds. But, I could see the face frown developing, where not just the mouth turns upside down, but the whole face including the jet black hairline. And like a see saw on the playground of death, while the face starts to frown down, the shoulders start to go up.....there is no fight OR flight....it is fight (her) AND flight (me). So, I said bag it and we took my other car. She may have won the battle, but I will win the war.
But there is GOOD news! Once we were there, we drove by Fenway Park. Seeing it for the first time for her up close, she decided indeed it would be a good opportunity to take a photograph of a NYC Taxi in front of Fenway. Sort of stir the chowder pot so to speak, or to tickle the lion's whiskers and then escape before the sneeze turns into a roar. I'm no dummy though. I know why she would agree to this - and it isn't to fuel or otherwise partake in some baseball rivalry. And it isn't to appease her Marvelously Mabsoot Michael either. I think she *likes* the idea of a city rivalry, but has trouble deciding if she is too smart for that, or if it somehow keeps her connected to her "beloved" city of New York. Orianna loves loves loves New York, that is, right up to the minute we get off the 2 miles in 2 hours Cross Bronx "Expressway" into Harlem - then...like Sylvester Stallone in that arm wrestling movie where a switch of the hat equates with the switch of personality; she turns HOOD. It takes approximately 5 seconds at the first stop light to transform this new found sweet country gal into this hard nosed TMZ video. From the banged up gypsy cabs cutting us off, to the guy selling his stolen oranges and Dominican flags in the middle of the road to the chimmichurri trucks slowly sinking into the pavement on Amsterdam Avenue; it just sort of turns the key for a face frown to the "on" position.
Bottom line is this - after having been a prisoner of war this weekend, having poor 8D69 locked in the garage and grounded by the traitorous Orianna, I vow I will no longer back down from her aggressions. This I PROMISE. Read my lips. NO. NEW. TAXES! Seriously though - 8D69 will be hitting Boston and Rhode Island on my next day off. After that, I am rolling south to the land of the sun, where coconuts fall. There is nothing more inspiring to me then to take something that is an underdog, and make it shine like a diamond in the end. Come hell or highwater, after New England is through, I will be starting on Stage 2, which is the entire east coast. I think a good first leg to this end will be a leisurely stroll to Washington D.C. and let it enjoy the green grass of the National Mall for the day while I jet about the Smithsonian. Gas prices are nuts; they are really really really irritating me, as are all the parts I have to buy for this car, so my east coast goal will be in bits and pieces, but I'm not going to stop. Just not going to happen. Unless the engine blows up, that.....might actually make me stop. But not for long. And it will never be the end.
Not so interesting facts:
* Mileage at the moment: 332,000 miles.
* In 94,000 miles, if there was a road to the moon, 8D69 would be arriving back from a round trip.
* If the equator of the earth was paved, 8D69 would have circumvented the globe a few miles shy of 13 times.
* With an average MPG of 14 mpg, my car has burned approximately 23,700 gallons of gas, which equates to
approximately 4.5 tanker trucks of gas.
* With oil change intervals at 3,000 miles, 8D69 has undergone 107 oil changes, which at 5 quarts each is 536 quarts
of oil, which equals 134 gallons. Medium price for a quart of oil is $5.00, which equals $2,683 paid for motor oil.
* If the medium price for gas during it's five years of use was $3.50 a gallon, then roughly $83,000 has been spent on fuel.
* States 8D69 has grazed thus far:
New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Maine, Connecticut,
Michigan, Ohio, West Virginia and Canada. 1/5 of the country. Baby steps......baby steps.
Stay Tuned for more exciting travels ---------
This blog is not one of my travel ones as found below - I’m planning on another trip in a couple of weeks to Cape Cod and Rhode Island, but in the meantime, I thought I would write a top 5 list of FAQ/Considerations as applied to owning a former NYC Taxi.
Now, IF….and I am sure that is a very BIG IF, for some reason my little website inspires you to take that leap of faith into the waiting clutches of a retired NYC Taxi, there are a few things you should know, based on my experience. And....if you do - welcome to the club….a greasy thumb club for gentlemen and gentlewomen. It is an exclusive club reserved for only those with astute tastes and a love of being comfortable with themselves, as ownership comes with certain perils. In this club, when we roll up to a stoplight and ask people for mustard, we ask for French‘s, not Grey Poupon. In this club, we drink tap water from lead pipes and eat goldfish instead of haddock. So, without further ado, here are the perils. You ready for them? Okay:
1.) People think you’re weird as hell if you own one. Like out of your mind weird. And even more weird if you have a website about it. People love to mock and express some pseudo humor about it; unfortunately, it is the kind of humor that isn't very clever. For such individuals, they either think the cars are nasty disgusting germ pits, or that they are simply a symbol of the downtrodden and poor. People who do not understand modern day NYC likely conjure up images of 1970’s/80’s burned out Harlem, which simply doesn’t exist anymore. Personally, I don’t really care what anyone thinks, but if you’re the ilk that does, this ‘issue’ of ownership takes spot #1 in the ‘things to consider’. I’ve had people say right to my face they wouldn’t even want to sit in it, which is weird, because they would be the first ones to hail a NYC Taxi if they were in NYC. Just because it is retired doesn’t mean they shovel human feces into it or have hot dog burping contests in it before kicking it out of service. But…be prepared for snootiness. I get it’s not for everyone, I really do, but, well….what to do. Even the fact I have a website about it some people sort of scoff at. I don’t know why - it’s just a minor blip in my day as a form of expression in which I spend some spare time on - creating websites in 2012 is really not an unusual thing. Maybe people think I should watch football instead? I don’t know.
2.) Like I’ve mentioned above with people thinking they are nasty, disgusting germ pits, well.....actually......they ARE! There is filth, grime, scrapes and discarded fingernails in every crevice of it’s interior (I jest….I did not find any fingernails in my car…but it WAS as dirty as a beggar‘s teeth). I thought at one point I would need a belt sander to scrape the cemented sinus excretions off the partition. Sure, they get a weekly application of armor all when in service, but - well, I think you know what I mean. Thousands of people ride in these things and not everyone who uses cabs works on Wall Street or live in the Dakota on Central Park West. The average fare in NYC is roughly 2.7 miles. At 310,000 miles (the mileage of my car at retirement), you can do the mental math to understand how many people sat in my car. Underneath the back seat of my car were numerous candy wrappers, notes, receipts, plane tickets, a jack knife, two cell phones, personal items and enough spare change to buy a tank of gas. If you end up buying one, expect to spend a considerable amount of time with some elbow grease in cleaning. As an aside, inside of the cab was a ton of old fare receipts. One of the nice things about the old fare receipts, is the driver's hack license number, which is searchable on the NYC TL&C site, Naturally, I did so, got a name....and after a little internet sleuthing, learned he was interviewed by Corey Kilgannon of the NY Times in July of 2011 about driving through Central Park, in which an attached video was included (I'll respect the driver's privacy by keeping his name out of it). I watched the video -
(http://cityroom.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/07/14/the-guilty-pleasure-of-a-drive-through-central-park/?scp=1&sq=driving%20a%20car%20in%20central%20park&st=cse) and well well well.....what do you know, there is 8D69. The same four "sunny citrus" trees positioned on the partition, the wire to the license holder behind the head and the wrinkles on the seat belt. Out of ALL the cabs in NYC....I actually got a video of mine from the NY Times. Here is the short clip of 8D69 at second .33 :
A comparison pic of my cockpit
3.) They are high and hard miles. Yes, they are inspected every three months. But, by the time they are retired, they are TIRED. Mechanical issues become chronic at times and without much warning. One day, you might hear a squeak or rattle. By the next day, it will be a shriek and a gallon of gear lube pouring out of it. Little things go on this car....like for instance, I’ve never had to replace a body bushing on a car….I mean really….who does that? Well, NYC Taxi’s suffer from this requirement at times…lots of bouncing and jouncing on those streets create a lot of metal fatigue and stress. These are vehicles that for the most part, have never really had an ‘owner’ per se. They are money makers - no more, no less; they mean nothing to the owners of them. Once their careers are over in the Big Apple, they go from money makers, to money wasters - unless of course the vehicle is bought by a nutcase like me. I've had to do a lot of work to this car - and there is no doubt in my mind given the mileage and history, I am very likely the ONLY one who would invest the time and money into it. From bushings, to seals, to rear axle bearings....you name it, my hands have touched it. And if they haven't touched it, my checkbook has. Gotta be dedicated and certifiable to be in this club - seriously.
4.) If you live in a place anything like where I live, you probably know there are some people out there who are uh….how do I say…..?….not too bright. I have heard NUMEROUS times, and have even been asked once, that/if my car is an ‘undercover’ police car. Obviously, anyone who thinks driving a bright yellow NYC Taxi around in Vermont or any other place other than NYC is an effective ‘go like the wind’ undercover car, is an idiot. But alas, it is true, you may experience such paranoia and dum dummery in your particular locale. However, if you’re an attention whore, this kind of car might be for you. Staring, waves, picture taking, parking lot conversations and the occasional road raged person who hates that you are driving an old cab, are all things you will experience if you choose to drive an old NYC Taxi. I’ve also had the local taxi guy in my town giving me prying evil eyes as we pass each other. He called our local police chief and complained a NYC Taxi company was illegally taking fares and taking food out of his mouth. I did end up speaking with the local taxi owner at one point, and made peace with him with the assurance that I was not taking fares at anytime.
5.) Besides “Why” being the number one asked question of ownership, the second most asked question is “Why don’t you paint it?”. Maybe if you join this exclusive club and end up owning one you will - and that is okay. But me? I won’t. I like it the way it is - that is what makes it unique. It is a NYC Taxi, why on earth would I change it’s entire personality and make it look like one of the other 50 old police cruisers roaming around my town. No thanks. I’ll stick to yellow, but of course, I always appreciate the rude remarks from others. It is important to note, that the design on this cab, is not the design that is used any longer - from the checkering to the door decal. No different than an antique Checker that still retains it's original design. Another segue regarding paint color, is….”isn’t it illegal to have those markings on it?”. Quick answer is “No”. There are no regulations in the NYC Taxi and Limousine Commission codes that requires decal removal upon sale, at least that I could find in the 800,000 pages of rules and regs. And even if there were, as stated, this design is no longer even used. It’s not an emergency vehicle (like a police car). It’s just an old cab. In fact, I met someone who said he was one of the deputy commissioners of the NYC TL & C here in Vermont a month or so ago. He followed me into the parking lot of the VT Country Store Outlet on his way home from leaving a ski resort, and was thrilled to death to see the car. Even had his wife take his picture next to the car with a covered bridge in the background. She didn't seem as impressed or enthusiastic as he was. Nice guy though.
So - while I realize most people I personally know locally would not consider EVER having one of these exquisite automobiles, I do know of many others who DO actually like the idea of it. And for those that do, well, thus concludes the five to things to consider if you have ever thought of buying and driving an old NYC Taxi.