Sure enough, I drove on Halloween night. I knew this was coming since I’ve been on a Saturday-Sunday-Monday-Wednesday schedule ever since the drivers on vacation came back around Labor Day. During the summer, I had off on Tuesday and the two weekend nights but thankfully, I still got my 4 overnights a week in once everything shifted in September.
Most people think that cabdrivers love working holidays. People are off, traffic is light, and that we get overtime if Federal offices and banks are closed.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
I wouldn’t say that I *hate* working holidays but none of that stuff I just mentioned comes into play. Yes, people are off but that just gives them an excuse to drink more and act stupid…as if that doesn’t happen already in New York. Now we have a justification for it, which only magnifies the absurdity by an exponential level.
Traffic? Sure, it’s light in midtown but take a look a some holidays and you can see where problems are:
July 4th: The waterfront. Miles of it.
Thanksgiving: Any major transit hub.
New Year’s: What was that place where the giant ball drops…
And so on.
That brings us to Halloween, and that wonderful tradition of the Parade in the West Village.
Every year, 6 Ave is closed from Canal Street up to 17 St. so anyone and everyone can “march” up the Avenue of the Americas and show off his or her costume. What many people don’t realize is that lots of barricades go up there and the surrounding streets so the crowd doesn’t spill over. Greenwich Street? Check. Varick Street? Check. 5 Ave? Check. The NYPD was out in full force the night before erecting blocks and blocks of interconnecting metal crowd-controllers, which is an indication of two things to come:
Lots of people and few ways to get them out of the mess.
Fashion Night Out was another example of this. There weren’t any of the dividers put up but in the Madison Ave. retail area, the Garment District, and the Meatpacking District, there were way too many people out in too tight a confined space. No matter how much I “pointed” myself away from them, it was only a matter of time before I got a fare that would suck me into the morass.
And that happened on Halloween too.
Maybe it’s the Euro Debt crisis, but I had lots of Italian tourists in my cab that day. Nice people, eager to be in New York, and they spoke the language beautifully. For those of you here in New Jersey, you probably know how butchered this Romance language can get from all the Snooki’s and Situation’s running around but I liked hearing what was spoken in my Cab enough to turn the radio down. That is, until I got my request:
“Take us to Washington Square Park.”
Of course, I never made it.
I ended up letting them out about 5-6 blocks north of it and even though no traffic was coming from my right, turning left to get back uptown was a disaster. Much of the parade ends up spilling over to the NYU/Cooper Union/St. Mark’s area and to get back uptown, the best way ends up being Park Ave. South. While it’s nice street, left turns are a beast off of it since the intersections don’t have green arrows and the median is about as narrow as any in the City. With that in mind, I ended up making three right turns in a row off of there in the 20’s to make up for one left turn; fully mindful that on my second day, I saw a taxi that did the same and ended up with a car about 6 inches shorter in the front, a victim of someone racing southward from Grand Central.
And so it went. 45 minutes to get from the edge of the Meatpacking District to the Lower East Side. Ditto for getting back uptown to Avenue. Of course, I came prepared for that fare since the worker I took up there was in costume:
“Nice outfit. What would you say if you were out in this growing up?”
“Um, trick or treat?”
“Exactly. Here’s your candy.” I always come prepared!
Amazingly, I only had 4 people total in costume out of 25 or so fares that night. One was an Army Cadet that looked like she was straight out of the South Bronx. She gave me a Kit-Kat bar that I ended up snacking on during my post-shift walk over the Pulaski Bridge.
Oh, and if you’re still wondering about the overtime, it doesn’t exist. A shift is a shift and all the extras on a holiday are in the form of extra stories that money just can’t buy.