On 4th Avenue, between 5th and 6th Streets, there is a big yellow taxi garage. Yellow, presumably, because that is the color of the cars. However, the yellow could just as easily be for the caution which, as a driver, you wouldn't use. Or for the urine which by the end of the day will be ready to burst from you. The pain of holding it in so familiar it's like a friend riding along during your shift.
Two years ago I drove a yellow cab out of the garage at 374 4th Avenue. Yellow cabs are way different than gypsy cabs. For the remainder of this post I'll only be referring to yellow NYC cabs. I drove out of the depot on 4th Avenue for 6 months. Most cab drivers call it "Susan." I don't know why it's Susan. I never met a Susan there. I met one boss after a car accident and he wasn't a Susan. Keyser Susie? Every yellow cab driver in New York City knows this garage. It's one of the few places that new drivers get a chance.
To be a cab driver you have to go to taxi school, pass your two written tests and a drug test. That doesn't prove you can drive though. So it's not easy to find a place that'll put you in car. That's what Park Slope is for. They'll let anybody with a heartbeat drive. That by the way is one of the tests. You go to some quack doctor in Long Island City and he makes sure your heart is beating for the TLC. I think it cost $20. I swear I'm not making that up. Got to make sure the living dead aren't getting behind the wheel right? They are more walkers than drivers. That's some zombie humor ya'll.
You lease the cars for 12 hour shifts and keep all the money you make during that time. At Susan the shifts start and end at 5. I worked day shifts. So I'd get there at 4:30 AM. I don't advise waking up at that time but from my apartment in South Slope, off 7th Avenue, it was always an interesting walk. It was so quiet. It was peaceful. Almost every business is closed. Nobody is out. There are rats everywhere. I'd imagine some of the stroller crowd would shit if they knew how many rats there are in the morning in Park Slope.
The shift itself was always an adventure. Every day is different. Except for one thing. The urination situation. If you think parking in Park Slope is difficult, try parking in Manhattan in the middle of a weekday. You have to be parked legally too. The NYPD is always looking to ticket yellow cabs. Once you're parked, you have to find a place "to go." That's not easy. Starbucks is the best choice. You try stopping near one of those if you can. There is a McDonald's on W 34th Street that works if the lot is open. If you can't do either of those then you just pray for an airport trip.
When you finish dropping off at the airport you circle around to a holding line. There are hundreds of taxis parked there. Everybody waits, usually about an hour, for their turn to pick up a passenger and leave. Some guys plays dominoes but they never let me in. That's really your chance to eat and urinate. If I didn't get an airport run I probably didn't get a chance to go to the bathroom that day. That's about 14 hours between bathroom trips. Some drivers urinate in their car. I guess in Snapple bottles. I think that's crazy and I never did it but the way some of these guys pound coffee in the morning I can't blame them.
Stay tuned next week for more...