Sunday, August 22, 2010

Riding While Intoxicated

New York City undeniably reigns over upstate New York, most of the country, and many cities around the globe in one, singular, pivotal item--the yellow cab. Though not perfect, the availability and the cost of the New York City cab can't be beat. I am not a frivolous cab-taker--in fact, I rarely allow myself to take a cab before midnight--but cabs have rapidly brought me from Point A to Point B on many occasions. Sometimes the occasion is oversleeping, sometimes the occasion is safety, and sometimes the occasion is alcohol.

I am not an alcoholic, but I do enjoy a drink every now and then--sometimes more "now" than "then," based on the state of the union and my pocketbook--and although a lady never reveals her weight, I can tell you that I don't weigh enough to donate blood. Thus, just one alcoholic beverage can have a great affect on me, causing me to think twice before ever getting behind the wheel. In my mind, there are few things in life worse than driving drunk. So when I found myself in a delightful upstate martini bar, I only allowed myself to finish half of my delightful upstate martini because I wasn't sure how how much it would affect my deer-dodging drive home an hour later. On the other hand, when I went out in Manhattan last night, I felt completely secure knowing that there would be many a yellow cab battling for the pleasure of driving me to my doorstep. Oddly, this did not cause me to booze it up. I stopped drinking hours before I went home. But I just loved knowing that I didn't need to worry about having three drinks in five hours.

Now don't get me wrong--there are always things to worry about when riding in a cab. They include, but are not limited to, the following: the cabbie getting lost, the cabbie carrying on a phone conversation in a sinister-sounding language that may or may not include a detailed plot to harm you, the cabbie belonging to a culture that does not place importance on wearing deodorant, the cabbie purposely taking you for a ride (ho ho!) by "misunderstanding" your destination, the cabbie turning out to be an Islamic terrorist, and/or the cabbie refusing to drive as directed and instead hurling through Central Park at breakneck speed so you have to open the door and jump out while the cab is in motion.

Okay, the last one may be an urban myth.

However, I once saw a cabbie stop at an intersection, open the driver's side door, and gingerly dump a cup of pee into the street. True story.

But consider the alternative. I took an upstate taxi once, and only once. I believe it was called Sam's Taxi, and the one and only car in the fleet is a sedan with a velvet-covered backseat so wide that it seats five adults comfortably. It smells of stale cigarettes and Aquanet. Gone is the reassuring glass partition dividing you from the cabbie, and instead Sam makes awkward, headache-inducing smalltalk with her booming smoker's baritone.

I much prefer the mostly silent driver who brings me to my destination at an absurdly fast, yet confident, speed. How do people handle life otherwise? I can drink--or not drink--to my heart's content. I can spend the entire evening with my friends, or I can leave early by myself since I don't need to worry about traveling through the mean city streets alone. The NYC yellow cab is one of the many reasons that I love New York. As I lift my arm to hail a cab at 3am, I feel the same sense of relief that I imagine immigrants must have felt when seeing the Statue of Liberty (who, ironically, looks like she's hailing a cab herself). I open its golden door and tiredly slide into the backseat, watching the wretched refuse of the teaming shore blur by as my little tempest-tost soul breathes free.

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