Sunday, January 25, 2009

Breaking In

I'm still driving... almost 12 hours on the road and, oddly, I'm kind of enjoying it. I know I'll be wiped by the end of the shift, but when the meter is clicking away it's kind of addictive, like getting a streak in poker. You have a hard time pulling away from the table. It's my first week, and the hardest thing is not finding my way around. No, the hardest thing for me is understanding what the dispatchers are yelling at me.

These guys, who work in a dingy partition over a dark, grimy garage, are angry from the moment they sit down. This means that if you don't catch an address on the first pass they start yelling at you like you're an idiot. But between the radios in the cars--old, scratchy things that would make Sir Ben Kingsley sound like he's got a mouthful of mud--and the dispatchers' thick Arab or Boston accents, I can't tell what language they're speaking much less what address their giving me. And as they raise their voices, they just get increasingly unintelligible. Take the following exchange yesterday:

"Cab #77. "

"Cab 77, go ahead."

"Cab 77, go to 55 Behemoth Street."

Behemoth Street? I've never heard of Behemoth Street. So I ask, "Cab 77, say again."

"Cab 77, that's Five-Five Bee Myth Street" he yells.

"Bee Myth Street?" I answer back.

"NO!" he screams. "FIVE-FIVE BEE MYTH! ...B AS IN BALL."

Now I'm really flustered. I have no idea what he's saying. I apologize and ask for him to spell out the street name.

At the top of his lungs, the radio cracking in distortion. "SEVENTY-SEVEN, WUZ DA MATTA WISS YOU! I SAID BEE-MYTH. LIKE DA BILL GRIMS AND DA ROCK. B-L-Y-M-O-U-T-H... BEE MYTH."

Now I get it. "Oh, you mean Plymouth Street?"

"YES," he answers in total exasperation. "BEE MYTH. Geezuz, 77, clean out your ears or you will never make it in this business."

So far, I haven't been robbed, though I have been stiffed twice. One poor woman simply confessed shedidn't have the $6.50 fare. She knew I would have to cover it myself and felt bad about it. I knew she would have paid if she had the money on her, so I let it go. As it was, I was the one who felt bad for her.The other time the guy told me to wait outside while he ran upstairs to get some money. I never saw him again. Stupid me. I should have asked him to leave something behind.

1 comment:

  1. there's no radio dispatch in NYC yellow cabs but your account does remind me of back when i was a bicycle messenger in Manhattan. those radio dispatches were just as preposterous as yours.