Back in the mid 70’s, after I received my Masters Degree in Art from Pratt Institute in Brooklyn and before I worked in comics I was a taxi driver in New York City for a year and a half.
I learned pretty quickly that the “fares”, as we called them in those days, liked to get from point A to point B with as little money on the meter as possible.
After I’d been driving a few months, one of the older more experienced drivers told me about a way to get from LaGuardia Airport to Midtown Manhattan by taking a “shortcut” across Crescent Street in Queens.
This shortcut took you off The Grand Central Parkway and then onto Astoria Boulevard, through a quiet residential neighborhood and right to the “foot” of the Queensborough Bridge and then BOOM in a couple of minutes you were in Midtown and the meter only registered five bucks and change, most of the time because the fare depended on the distance traveled not just the time in the cab.
The first time I tried it, the guy in the backseat who had been chatting amiably with me suddenly said, “DRIVER–! What are you DOING??”
Looking out at the residential buildings on a quiet street he said angrily, “This CAN’T BE RIGHT”.
“I’ve been to New York many times and I can tell you this is NOT how you get to Manhattan.”
“Just wait,” I said, “you’ll see”.
Then we both had to live with the awkward and unpleasant tension for another ten minutes or so, until I dropped him off at his hotel.
The fare from the airport to his hotel in Midtown was only $5.50, but he was still pissed.
I thought maybe he’d give me a little extra in tip money since I saved him about twice that amount.
Just 75 cents– if I was lucky.
I did it again a few more times and everytime it was the same result.
The fares always thought I was cheating them and taking them “for a ride” and they told me so in no uncertain terms.
I took great offense at this because, if there was one thing I prided myself on, it was being honest and truthful.
After I had been yelled at and cursed at for the last time, I resolved to just take them on down The Grand Central Parkway and across the Robert F. Kennedy bridge (for which they had to pay a toll) and up into Manhattan and down along the FDR Drive and then finally onto an off-ramp to Midtown.
This suited them all just fine and they sat back and enjoyed the “Grand Entrance” into New York. Arriving at the same hotel.
The only difference was this way cost them around $13.00 and change.
But no one called me names or yelled at me.
(photo credit: Jaap Breedveld)