Sunday, July 30, 2006


No, this is not about the local pizzeria here in Metro Manila; rather, about New York City's yellow cab taxis. Since I had posted an entry about our local jeepneys the other day, felt compelled to feature its infamous New York counterpart. Originally posted on October 17th last year, thought I’d re-post it for this purpose

Here goes:

Some of the more perplexing yet, intriguing characters you can meet in New York are its cab drivers; not those who work the daytime shift, but the ones at night (they seem to have more of an edge about them).

One I came across was an Israeli. Since a teenager in Tel Aviv he aspired to join the Mossad. With military service a prime requirement for applicants, he signed up for a stint with the Israeli Air Force’s pilot training program. It was so intensely gruelling — intellectually and psychologically — that afterwards his frailed nerves suggested kibbutz management after his discharge might be a more suitable career choice.

At one solo flight exercise — he related as if pained by the memory — he was to fly sideways underneath a bridge; its clearance allowed just enough space for the aircraft to go through without clipping a wing.

I could only imagine that a couple of years of excessive adrenaline rush from his training turned him into a reluctant addict that upon immigrating to New York, he was immediately drawn into the perilous excitement that city cab driving offers – dodging holdups, outsmarting theft of service scams and coping with incorrigible New York pedestrians and passengers; all that while negotiating hair-raising overtakes and evading the unmerciful men in blue.

The next day, over lunch, I mentioned to one of my best friends who is Jewish how badly I felt for this man who was so rattled by his air force training that he failed to realize a teenage dream. He retorted that the driver was not so much tormented by the grim prospect of crashing a million-dollar jet into a bridge and die in the process as to be overwhelmed by guilt for having wasted millions of dollars for destroying both the jet and the bridge. Guilt, he exclaimed, is a major issue to the Jewish psyche. I guess he meant to be funny.

The other memorable cab driver I chanced upon was a struggling artist from Madison, Wisconsin. He was so new in the city that I had to navigate our entire journey from midtown Manhattan to Brooklyn’s Williamsburg section. He was so dazed and confused – not with the city streets but in his entire demeanor. I figured he was either an innately brilliant artist or just took fine arts because he didn’t like math. A couple of months later, a friend dragged me to a gallery exhibit opening at the Lower East Side. While working the room, so to speak, I was surprised to run into this artist/cab driver. He didn’t quite remember me but told me anyway that he had just started working for Mark Kostabi. I didn’t know whether to be happy for him or not.


A cousin's wife was insisting on hiring a personal driver for when she and a couple of their kids visit New York for a month. She must have asked every one she could think of who might know someone from over there who knew anyone willing to do the job. She finally trashed the idea when I told her the average per hour rate for a personal driver in New York is $30.00 for an 8-hour period; beyond that she will have to shell out the usual time-and-a-half per hour overtime rate. That is, of course, if the driver would be willing to work overtime. She pays no more than P10,000.00 a month for her live-in family driver here in Manila with only a single day off every week.

One of my friends in New York does that but for only one client -- a rich couple from Madrid who would fly to New York twice a year. They would rent a sedan while my friend would drive it for them for the two week duration the couple was in town. He gets $30.00 per hour plus a generous tip when they depart, which supplements his regular income as a freelance personal trainer.


posted by Señor Enrique at 6:42 AM


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've always wanted to ride in one of those signature yellow taxis of New York. Someday I will. hehe

July 30, 2006 7:35 AM  

Blogger Senorito<- Ako said...

taxi driver... are you talking to me ? hahaha... swable talaga si cybill sheperd ano ?

July 30, 2006 5:50 PM  

Blogger Señor Enrique said...

Someday you most definitely will, Jhay! :)

I'm yet to meet a NYC cab driver of that fatalistic nature, Senorito Ako! But in Detroit, however, ... :)

July 31, 2006 5:36 AM  

Blogger Senorito<- Ako said...

Is the driving in NYC much worst than our Jeepneys

July 31, 2006 6:45 AM  

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I went to college in Manhattan. One time the cab driver almost crashed into a pole. Another time, I accidentally took the wrong subway and ended up in East Harlem late at night. The taxis didn't want to stop when I flagged them. I had to call my husband, who took a cab from the west side to pick me up. It was scary.

July 31, 2006 12:25 PM  

Blogger Señor Enrique said...

There are some reckless yellow cab drivers in NYC, too, Senorito Ako. I also know of some people who detest driving in Manhattan because of such drivers.

But if you're a savvy Metro Manila driver, Manhattan driving should be a piece of cake for you :)

No. Aurea, yellow cabs wouldn't dare pick up random fares over at East Harlem -- too risky. However, you can catch one of those cab service sedans indigenous to that particular area, but I would think twice about it first -- not so safe, either.

You were very lucky that you had the means to call your husband to come pick you up. East Harlem can get quite dangerous at night, especially for a lone female.

Just in case ... next time you got off the wrong station, go to the token booth clerk and ask him/her to call a transit cop to assist you.

July 31, 2006 8:35 PM  

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Life in Manila as observed by a former New Yorker who with a laptop and camera has reinvented himself as a storyteller. Winner of the PHILIPPINE BLOG AWARDS: Best Photo Blog in 2007 and three Best Single Post awards in 2008.


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