Street Beat: The Wheels of The City

What is Street Beat? Street Beat is a series of interviews with the people who make up our  fast-paced, special city. Each article, (which is published in every newspaper issue), focuses on different people who add stories and moments to our lives. These people, however, are those who we don’t usually speak too, but take for granted. From people that take us to school, to a food vendor on our city street and a singer on the subway. All of these people are part of our daily routines, but we really know nothing about them. This series of articles is created to understand the perspectives of those who we encounter everyday, and who experience the world from a different pair of eyes and feet than our own.

Sylvie Goldner, ‘21

The city is known for its subway poetry, lack of parking spaces, endless Broadway musicals, creative and crazy art exhibits, and the endless hands that stick out at the corner of a block, waving for a yellow taxi cab. These vehicles are the heart of the city, moving up and down the boisterous, traffic-filled streets. The people who drive them experience the city through a windshield and the passengers who occupy the leather backseat.

Everyday, the back door swings open and closed, and in comes a different story, sometimes someone willing and generous enough to leave a tip, sometimes someone who “forgot” their wallet at home and runs away without paying. I heard this all from George, who was driving me one morning to school, when the bus didn’t arrive on time.

George is a father to two girls, who both have already graduated college, which George was not able to do. George was five when his mother brought him and his two older brothers to America from the Philippines. He doesn’t remember coming to America that well, but does recall when he hugged his grandma and told her he would be back to visit her. His grandma lived around the corner from his farm house, where they had multiple mango trees and a rice field. George has now driven a taxi for twelve years, and has met all different types of customers, giving him a sample of this diverse, hectic city (he was never able to go back home and visit his grandma, and found out three years ago that she actually passed away).

When I asked George about his customers, and questioned if he has had any frightening moments as a driver, he responded, “You never know what can happen. Driving can be scary sometimes. But there are always more good people that outweigh the bad ones.” I like this idea that there are more “good” and kind people in the world than bad, because at a time like now, it does not always seem this way. George then started speaking about the customers who think they always know the best route, and the riders who don’t know where they are going until 15 minutes into the ride. I was thinking, I have been both of these passengers, but so have most of us. We all have frantic, complex lives and depending what is going on at a certain moment, our self in a taxi that day may differ from our self a different day.

One of New York City's Many Yellow Taxi Drivers (Photo Credit_ Tanzim Ahmed, '18)
One of New York City’s Many Yellow Taxi Drivers (Photo Credit Tanzim Ahmed, ’18)

George then told me about more frightening moments in his cab, where his passengers have actually seemed emotionally unstable. He explained how he rarely gets involved in these crazy situations, but if he witnesses an abusive situation between two people, he will, and he has, called the police, “Even though they are not a part of my life, they are a part of my cab, and I can’t allow anything that seems illegal and cruel to take place in my taxi.”

When we pulled up to the corner of 525 East Houston Street, George took a glance at the huge red banner midway through the block, with the white letters spelling out BARD on it, and turned around, looked at me, and told me that he once went to BHSEC too, and in this exact building.

This taxi driver, who did not possibly seem like he could share any commonality with myself, actually attended the same high school as I do now.

I just thought that that was really cool.

 

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