The Case Against Cars (Especially Taxis)

Filed under living in new york sucks so hard, my uber-confrontational personality, stuff i hate

I hate taxis.

I don’t think cars belong in New York City in general.

I think people who think they need to drive or taxi everywhere when there’s a perfectly awesome subway and train system are dumb.

I think if people didn’t take cabs everywhere after 11 p.m., the MTA would be forced to provide better after-hours service.

I’ll admit that I’ve enjoyed a ride home in my friend Beth’s car from time to time. I’ll admit that after a 5-hour dinner with Kamran, it feels good to be dropped off at his doorstep and rolled inside. And I’ll admit that our trip to the Hamptons last weekend might not have even been possible if my group of friends didn’t have four cars. But for the most part, I’d love to see cars banned in the city, and I’d happily give up my quick trips home from late-night karaoke if it meant there weren’t any taxis on the road.

More than cabs themselves, I hate the people who drive them. I really do. They’re generally smelly, generally unfriendly, and generally the worst drivers you’ve ever seen.

They cut each other off.

They nearly run over pedestrians at every turn.

They drive infinitely faster than the streets allow, leaving their passengers bumped and bruised.

It costs $2.50 to $3 just to sit down in one, which is already more than it costs to go as far as you want in the subway, and then you have getting charged for standing in traffic to look forward to. They expect to be tipped for their awful service and will grunt at you no matter how much extra you give. Hilariously, the default tip on the touchscreen payment system in the back of every cab is 20%, and it only goes up from there.

And my absolute biggest cab peeve is the way some of the drivers will cut across four lanes of traffic to pick you up. I understand that this sort of service should please me, but they inevitably have to drive an extra half-block to make it all the way over, and no, I’m not taking a walk down the street just for the pleasure of watching you almost cause three accidents, thanks.

Yet on my way home from the Hamptons on Sunday, I broke down and took a cab. My friends Ash and Michael had dropped me off near the 7 train in Queens with even more stuff than I’d left with: my purse, a bag of clothes, a bag of leftover food, a bag of my Rollerblading gear, and my Rollerblades themselves. That coupled with the fact that it was approximately 4000 degrees had left me more in the mood to eat the cold tails off a glass of disgusting cocktail shrimp than walk to Kamran’s apartment.

Oh, also? I had fallen down and hit my head on the asphalt on Friday while trying to learn to Rollerblade with the help of my friend Christine, so there was a searing headache to help me along. Oh, and also, I was stupid and got ridiculously sunburnt on my back and shoulders, so carrying anything on them was out of the question.

So I stood on the street outside of Grand Central, and I let a cab driver make a U-turn on 42nd Street to pick me up, and I paid him $5 to drive me a mere 2 avenue blocks and 1 street block, and I felt like it was worth every penny, even when he grunted at me.

Not only because I couldn’t hold on to those skates for another minute, but because while I’d been waiting outside of Grand Central, I’d tried to flag down a previous cab, but he’d been cruising at approximately 90 MPH and had whipped past me before slamming on his brakes. I knew he was waiting for me just a little way down the street, but my bags were on the ground, and there was no way I was going to pick them back up and walk with them. He eventually started honking at me, and you can bet I didn’t so much as look his way until he sped off again.

I win!

Comments Closed

17 Comments

  1. bybee says:

    This sounds so much like my experience with taxi service in Korea. They’re crazy! I thought I was going to die the first time I got in one. Also, in Seoul they’re like sharks, looking for people who are FOP (Fresh off the plane) and they inflate their prices like crazy…for example a regular cab ride to the American Embassy from Seoul Station costs about 2.00 (USD) The pirate cabs will charge 20.00.

    • Oooooooooh, those gypsy cabs make me want to spit. I took one home from the airport one time against my better judgement and got charged $72, because of course I didn’t ask how much it was going to cost first. And I even attempted polite conversation along the way with the guy and everything!

      I love that FOP exists. It makes me feel better about FOB and JAP and Twinkie and all of the other adorable phrases white people use.

  2. bluzdude says:

    You remind me of Kramer getting even with the Cable Guy.

    • Really one of the finest things I’ve ever seen on television. Watching that is the only thing that makes me feel okay about the time the electric company told me they’d be by between 2 and 6 to hook me up and then left me sitting in the dark until 8.

      At which time I called them to complain, and they asked me to try a lightswitch, because they were pretty sure my landlord had let them in earlier in the day. Lights came right on, of course.

  3. Jessica R. says:

    And now I’m even more happy about owning my own car. But then again, the only public transportation in our area are city buses with questionable clientele.

    • I never minded driving much, but parallel-parking controlled my life. If I could live in a land of parking garages, life would be so good.

      I do like that it’s not just poor/crazy people riding the buses here, though.

  4. Cristy says:

    Ah, to live in a town without cars! I love the idea. I lived in Boulder for a few years and fell in love with mass transit in general. They have a SUPERB bus system that will take you all the way from the Denver Airport to the front steps of the University of Colorado at Boulder or a friend’s house for little to no investment (while I was a student AND as a benny for working downtown, I was given an EcoPass, which let me use any of the systems all over the region for no out of pocket cost). Love, love, love it. Our town’s starting a bus shuttle system, but it’s got a long way to go and is probably too small to ever be totally car-free, but I can dream!

    • I just hate that cities aren’t willing to invest in truly working mass transit systems like that. When you leave half of the city out or don’t run buses more than every half-hour, there’s no way someone’s going to give up his car to help the environment a little.

      It also sucks, though, that NYC is run by people who live in Albany and not actually in the city, because when they tried to pass a law tolling cars that passed below a certain point in Manhattan, Albany voted against it, because of course those are the people driving into the city. I can’t think about it, because it makes me too mad/sad.

  5. Alfagirl says:

    On a recent trip to Italy I was able to see so many cities and Venice was my favorite out of all of them. One of the big reasons? No cars! No cars and not even bicycles on any of the streets. It was great because Venice is such a great walking city. And, the only taxi service they have is a giant boat called the Vaporetto that travels up and down the grand canal and other major waterways in and around the islands. Of course, if you need to you can also get anywhere in a gondola, but they are very pricy.

    The only sad part was watching the ups/fedex/dhl/etc people try to cart around large boxes on their makeshift wheelbarrows that they push around on their shoulders.

    Also, I was there when the weather was gorgeous, but on a rainy day, it may be nice to have the option of hopping into the back of a dry car.

    I loved having my car in nyc for the most part- for those times when I wanted to leave the city, buy more than 1 bag of groceries at a time, trips to ikea and redhook in general, and for other reasons (basically you can park anywhere in manhattan after 7pm on weekdays). It sucks knowing that it would take me 45 mins to get to work in the morning via subway and walking, and that taking a cab takes less than 30 mins.

    But, then there were the times where I literally moved 3 blocks in 1 hour because traffic was so bad, and all I wanted to do was ditch the car and go underground.

  6. Tracey says:

    Good for you for not hobbling up to the cab with all of your stuff. If they want your business, they need to actually stop in front of you like they do in the movies.

    Also, carrying a bunch of stuff with a terrible sunburn sounds like how I’ve left you every time I’ve come to visit you. Which mean that even though I’ve spent a few days adoring the subway system, I suddenly can’t WAIT to get home to my car and my city of infinite parking lots.

  7. Julie says:

    I loved the cabs in NYC when we were there because it eliminated the need to think about how to get where we were going. Someone had it all figured out for us.

  8. Kim says:

    I love that you totally laid down all the evidence for a case against cabs only to tell the tale of taking a cab like 6/10 of a mile.

    I am totally guilty of taking cabs unnecessarily in various cities out of pure laziness or ill-advised footwear, or after shopping at Trader Joe’s (omg) but I agree: Get rid of the cars in Manhattan. They really are so needless and awful 99% of the time.

    Of course, then thousands of people would be put out of work, and your story brings to question (if it doesn’t quite provide a shining example of) the 1 or so percent of exenuating circumstances – like, we probably shouldn’t be insisting that a recently concussed person about to give birth or something schlep down to the Grand Central platform in August and wait it out.

    But solve those pesky, teensy details and I’m sold. Eff cars.

  9. Alfagirl says:

    One could possibly make the argument that eliminating personal cars in manhattan, but allowing taxis, gypsy cabs (which are pretty much the only cabs north of 125th st), buses, shuttle vans for elderly and sick people, etc. to stay could work. There was talk of eliminating cars in and out of yosemite valley awhile back, but it never came to fruition. People love their cars, and I’m definitely one of those people. I like to be able to know that at any time, any place, no matter what, I can get somewhere if I need to get somewhere. The only way to have that is basically to own your own car. If I lose that ability I feel like I’m losing part of my freedom because I’m always going to have to rely on someone or something else to get me where I need to go.

  10. Laura says:

    I live in Ohio where you have to pick up the phone and call a taxi service in order to get one, so really what’s the point. I’m kind of surprised you don’t use them more often, other than your love of the subway system. It just seems so New York. But I guess if you live in New York, the appeal of things being “so New York” gets old.

  11. I used to love taxis, but since you put it that way…

    THANKS, KATIE ETT, FOR RUINING ONE OF MY FAVORITE THINGS IN THE WHOLE ENTIRE WORLD.

    ;)

  12. Alfagirl says:

    Taxis have their place, believe me. I will never take the subway or a bus to the airport in NY. It’s so worth it to me to spend the money to take a cab, where they pull up right in front, put your suitcase on the curb, and even bring the handle up for you. No lugging, lifting, dragging, waiting, leaving 2 hours early because you inevitably have to transfer to a another train or a bus, etc. It’s really the only way to go– worth it every time.