Let's face it, NYC cab rides are not what they used be. And it's not about credit card processing and the built-in monitors - those were inevitable. And it's not about the signature-yellow black-checkered SUV's and vans either (though, only God knows how many pairs of pantyhose I've ruined getting into them). The main difference are the drivers.
Back in the day your taxi driver talked to you; whether you wanted him to or not. They were the ones who invited the conversation. I mean, hairdressers and cabbies were people's confidants. A cabby is even better than the hairdresser - most likely you will never see him again. Nowadays, however... Let me put it this way - Taxicab Confessions (1995) would not happen today.
Of course, just 15 years ago, when the medallions were around $250K, cab-driving was still a viable self-employment option for enterprising individual drivers. And a taxi owner-operator cared for the success of his business-on-wheels. Moreover, he felt at home there, ready to chat with his paying customer about this and that. But as soon as the medallions' prices went over $500K (hitting $1 mil landmark in 2011), the ownership shifted to investment groups, who lease the cabs to drivers known as "hacks." This resulted in a fundamental attitude transformation. To draw a parallel, it's like the difference between the treatment you get from some outsourced customer service representative and the care displayed by a business owner whose livelihood depends on the customer's satisfaction.
Generally speaking, we now get into a cab with an indifferent and dissatisfied employee at the wheel. And most of the time we actually want him to stop talking, because he is blabbering non-stop and not with you - he's got his earpiece in and he is doing his share of "connecting" to his friends and families at full volume in the language you most likely don't understand. Sometimes you are not even sure that he heard your destination; and you have to be really insistent if you want him to pay attention to your route instructions.
And me personally? At this point I am simply weary of cab drivers wanting to talk to me and actually prefer when they are preoccupied with their own telecommunications or whatever. I don't know whether this is because weirdos feel comfortable with me or there are just more weirdos everywhere now, but recently I've been having some uncanny cab experiences: Scientology propaganda session; sex proposals (this actually happens regularly, which is unbelievable for many reasons I will not discuss on this blog); self-righteous preaching (also pretty common); pushy sales pitching of the driver's childishly executed art; a reverse taxicab confession of a middle-aged driver stunning me with graphic details of his affair with a 78-year-old woman (sorry, people, but it's the honest truth), etc., etc. So, trust me, a quiet ride is fine by me.
But I guess there is indeed a reward through suffering, because sometimes you get lucky!
I was in a cab a few days ago. The driver had an old-Brooklyn accent and was middle-aged. The cab wasn't new either, but most remarkably it was already lacking the bulletproof divider (TLC announced in April that it can be removed). This is actually very important, because, even though he had the radio on at a low volume, without the glass barrier I could hear it very well (I have no idea what channel it was).
The topic of some political broadcast was the GOP's opposition to their own likely nominee, Donald J. Trump. One of the guests was commenting on how silly it was and questioning the possibility of some last-moment aspirant's attempting to steal the nomination in Cleveland from a candidate who won the most Republican primary votes in history - 13.4 million. And both the driver and I laughed out loud at the same time.
For the next 15 minutes I enjoyed the most amicable and satisfying political exchange with a person outside of my very close and very immediate circle, a complete stranger for that matter. And I would like my readers to share some of that experience. So, here you go, ladies and gentlemen, from my cab driver's mouth to your ears (or rather eyes) - a few bits of pure common sense:
"...He [The Donald] may not say it right, but he says the right things."
"...Professional politicians didn't work as the country's leaders. We've got to try something new. If he fails, we will not vote for him [The Donald] again."
"...Trump is the only one who has full intention to do what he says and actually take care of things."
"...I may not like Trump as a person and don't what to be his friend, but he is the only one right now I trust to be my President."
"...I used to be a big Clinton supporter, but she is a typical political weasel: talks how it's dangerous to trust Trump with the 'nuclear button,' while 20,000 of her emails with government secrets are about to be publicly released by the Russians."
"...How can she [Hillary Clinton] talk about War on Terrorism, when she is chummy with the Saudis? And how can she claim that she will protect women's interest when she takes millions from the kings of Oman and such."
Look, of course I don't know about all of the 13.4 million of Trump supporters - I'm sure, like in any other group of people, there are plenty of bastards and idiots among them. Yet, every one of those who I met personally, heard talking or read their opinions in various media strikes me as exceptionally reasonable, very informed, logical person, free of fanaticism. Without any bias, in a true objective spirit I so vehemently cultivate on this blog, I cannot say the same about the followers of either of the still-running Democratic candidates. And it makes me wonder: maybe, just maybe, it has something to do with the compelling rationality of Donald Trump's presidential platform.