Adventures at the NYC Taxi Garage
There exists a weird stillness to New York City at right about 4 AM. It could be 3:57, or maybe 4:10, but whatever the hands are pointed at, it's at that precise moment where there is no yesterday and no tomorrow - it's a void of sorts, where the glow of the street lit sky sort of bounces along not knowing where to go. So many things end at 4 AM on a Saturday night in NYC, and slowly, so many things start soon after. The phenomenon is experienced anywhere I imagine, not just New York, as I remember when I was a young patrolman on nights, when at about 4AM, I struggled with simple existence; the stillness, despite the noise and occasional sign of life knocking my conscious, was quite evident. It's that time of day/night, where you can say good morning or good night - and still isn't very clear what would be the correct phrase.
Anyways, on the spare occasion I drive a taxi in NYC, it is at this hour, 4 AM, when I start heading east over the Queensboro Bridge back to the garage to return the cab. There is a gas station nearby, and after filling up, I pull into the dark recess of the taxi lot. The first thing you see as you pull in, besides a blanket of sleeping taxi's, is a rather large, nameless man, who is as mysterious as he is strange. If he wasn't so huge and odd acting, I'd probably say something to him, but he just peers right through you as if he wants to kill you. His job at the garage, I THINK, is to make sure you filled the car up. When he isn't standing over the car looking through the person he's speaking to, he is lying down in the back seat of the nearest vacant cab that is parked closest to the entrance. He looks homeless really, but the garage, instead of giving him a booth, give him a car to sit in. His personality is the type that enjoys my idea of him, in that I dread him. I could be heading east on the bridge to return the cab whistling dixie from a good night's work, and then......I remember.....HIM. I have to show I filled the car up to HIM....the gatekeeper. The very first night I drove a taxi, and not knowing what to do when I was done (or starting), I pulled into the lot. I saw him climb out of the back seat of a battered Crown Victoria cab, it's doors all open and he, laying down in the back. The lot was dark, save for a few dim lighted bulbs scattered about and the cab's headlights, the latter serving as a warning call that it was time to do something. With the sound of traffic humming off in the distance somewhere, it is actually quite peaceful in the lot at night. Seeing all the busy taxi's tucked in and idle, their engines cold - their stillness as a result of this day and age of ridesharing like Uber. I digress.
So the large man walks over to me where I have stopped, and I greet him. He just stares down at me. I said hi again; he just looks at me. I ask him - "where do you want me to park?" - assuming that is what the point of his presence was, and he responds by asking if I filled it up. I told him I did, and gave him my receipt and the cab's rate card with starting mileage. He takes the papers, but doesn't look at it, he just looks at me. I didn't want to, really I didn't, but I gulped. I could sense that my adams apples' noisy bobble, was a poorly timed biological need, of which could signal a sign of meekness on my part. He liked that it seemed. I broke the awkward staring contest by stating the gas gauge in the cab was broken so it says empty, to which he snapped that he knew that. Actually, what he said, in an incredulous tone of disbelief, was "I know that......I know that." I thought it odd, in how could he know my gas gauge was broken, there are hundreds of cabs at the garage, but, that's what he said. He gave me the papers back, and said nothing. I then communicated a half question/half statement to him - "Park anywhere"? He said......nothing. I then idled away into the lot and parked the car in the first spot I could find. As I got out, I grabbed my hack license and bag, and closed the door only to find him standing at the trunk, watching me, and examining the car. I smiled and said have a good evening, to which he didn't respond.
Now - this guy is like this all the time. Through time, I was less intimidated by him, but still sort of kissed his ass by playing along with his whole "I'll kill you" persona. Recently, after a shift, I was in a really foul mood. I didn't make hardly any money, traffic was maddening and people in general were just a species of animal that I wanted to eat instead of nurture, including a deep fried gatekeeper. I got my gas, and pulled into the lot. The man of few words saunters over as usual, taking his sweet time, to which I hand him my gas receipt - saying nothing to him and looking straight ahead. He takes it, and with my peripheal vision could see that he confirmed my gas gauge was at full. Once I saw that, I thought it high time to stop playing his little power trip game. My immediate thought was that this jerk has been counting sheep in the back seat of a cab all night, and I've been all over creation trying to make minimum wage with a smile on my face. I simply drove off into the lot to park. With a guttural yell, he signals for me to wait, but I thought to myself....ya know what?.... no. You wait. I parked the car and noticed in the mirror he was following me so I sat in the car scrolling on my phone - I wanted him to work for this. He tapped the window, to which I annoyingly rolled down, and not yelling......but forcefully, I said "What?!" It was his 4AM moment. He was neither yesterday nor tomorrow. He was - quite simply, normal. Or maybe it was nice. Decent? Whatever word that is to be applied, it was a void. We both were in a void, because I flip flopped too. He politely asked me for my rate card, and then explained he just needed to make sure the mileage was appropriate for the gallons etc. I handed it to him, and while he was looking at it, I gathered my things and closed the door. I then apologized for not handing him it before, explaining my mind was elsewhere, you know.....hahaha, hee hee hee. And as fast as the void came.........POOF......like a black sucking hole - the void was gone. He was right back to....."normal". His normal.
C'est la vie.
I walked across the lot to the fortified office to pay the garage my MTA taxes, fees and tolls. While waiting for money for credit card fares, I glanced around the garage where all the cars are repaired. As usual, cars were on lifts, with night mechanics struggling with their own 4 AM void - heads tilted back as they rested in old lawn chairs. Collecting my pittance of money, I walked back through the lot to the street where my car was parked to go home. As I passed the Checkpoint Charlie of the taxi lot, I heard some music softly reverberating from the cab the gate keeper was in. He was seated on the back seat with his long legs firmly planted onto the ground watching me. I glanced over and nodded to the man whose code I can not crack. No nod in return, just a gentle leaning back into the back seat, like a redwood falling in the forest.
Oh well. See you next time.
This section of the site is not specific to my taxi travels. They are not really rants either. It is more of a space for me to simply raise awareness to topics that either inspire or frustrate me as an individual.