Monday, June 2, 2014

Doorman vs Taxi Driver - Round IV

Every once in a blue, there comes a day where this fine city - a vibrant, breathing, moody son of a bitch - will implode and turn on itself. As if something were put in the drinking water, and all hell breaks loose. Like a toxic ooze bubbling up from beneath the surface, causing people to go out rip each other's heads off. With all of the pent-up aggression one learns to carry while trying to make it in New York, it needs to be released sooner or later, almost always projected onto an innocent bystander. Standing out on the sidewalk, night after night, wearing a uniform and a silly hat, I have the displeasure of being collateral damage to a many of these projections.

Yesterday was one of those days.

From the moment I started my shift, I was a prime target for people's frustrations. Pedestrians were giving me vague descriptions of where they wanted directions to, then scoffed and cursed me when I couldn't decipher their bumbling inquiries. Traffic was bumper to bumper in front of the hotel due to street closures for a parade. This caused nearly every shuttle bus, car service, and valeted vehicle to arrive 20-30 minutes late to pick up guests. So, every driver pulled up irate from being stuck in traffic all day, while every guest was pissed off that their transportation ran late. And guess who everyone takes it out on?

No one was tipping, no one was happy, and everyone was looking for a fight - a place to vent their frustrations.

Which brings me to this story:

At about 5pm, after a sold two hours of dancing on the border of deep breaths and full-blown psychotic rage, an attractive American woman comes out with a carry-on suitcase, in need of a taxi to Grand Central Station. The traffic from the parade was dying down, and normalcy was slowly returning to the streets.

I've explained this in every Taxi Driver post, but I'll briefly go over it for new readers: It's illegal for a cabbie to pull up and ask where the passenger is going before they get in the vehicle. Plain and simple. They aren't allowed to drive around, picking and choosing their fares. Ever. Under any circumstances. Especially with their on-duty light on. It's also illegal to drive around off-duty, fishing for airport fares.

A cabbie pulls up, empty with their on-duty light on. Usually, when they're going to be a fuckhead about it, they won't pull up close to me. They'll ask where the guest is going, I'll tell them to go fuck themselves, and they'll drive off.

This guy slowly pulls over to the curb, indicating he's ready to work.

Without thinking twice, I run to the curb, pick up the suitcase, and grab the handle of the door to open it.


Cabbie - "Where they going?"

Still with a firm grip on the door handle, I calmly say:

Doorman - "Grand Central."

He takes off, taking my arm with it.

Still with suitcase in hand, I get pulled back a few feet, then whipped around in a circle. I'm able to keep my balance, then, in a miracle of clear-headedness, turn to get his medallion number as he took off down the street.

I'm grateful for him not getting stuck at the traffic light, because if he did, that would have been the end of my tenure here. I would have chased him down, opened the door, and beat him within an inch of his life.

The motherfucker nearly ripped my arm out of the socket, could have run my foot over had it been a couple of inches to the left, all because he didn't want to take a local fare.

Knowing full-well I had an audience, and ever a flare for the dramatic, I slowly walk back to the curb, where the American woman stood, horrified. I place the suitcase next to her, and in my coolest, Jason Statham voice:

Doorman - "Sorry about that."

I go back into the street and eventually hail her a taxi. She gives me five bucks.

American Woman - "Sorry about the guy who almost took your arm off."

Doorman - (sniffs) "All in a days work."

She leaves and likely forgets about me immediately.

Despite my playing it cool for the chicks, I completely lost my fucking mind.

I wanted this fucker to pay. Not only the worst punishment possible with the Taxi Limousine Commission, but to pay, legally. My shoulder felt okay, but what happens if I wake up tomorrow and can't move? How do I get compensation if I have to miss work because this cock sucker didn't like where I wanted to get my guest? Why should this son of a bitch - who clearly has little regard for the safety of others - be allowed to drive around like he owns the city?

I was out for blood. For the next 45 minutes, I filed a report with 311, explaining in detail what had happened. The lady on the phone asks if I'd be willing to appear for a court hearing. I agree, because seeing the look on his face when he's slapped with a massive fine or suspension for refusing a fare and endangering others is worth the day trip to Queens. Maybe I could go to Flushing and get dim sum after! Yeah!!!

I didn't stop there. My adrenaline was like a furious locomotive. I wanted a police report, in case I was really injured and needed a paper trail down the road. Called the precinct, who told me I needed to have an EMT come and check out my arm. I told them it was excessive, that I was fine, but they assured me it was protocol. So they sent over an ambulance and squad car to come check me out.

I wish the story ended there.

As I waited for the calvary to arrive, I went back to work. Guest comes out, with luggage. Penn Station.

A different cabbie pulls up, this one with his on-duty light off. Again, this is completely illegal. He sees the luggage, and assumes it's an airport fare.

I go to open the door, it's locked. I loosen my grip this time.

Cabbie - "Where they going?"

With a slightly-less firm grip on the handle, I calmly say:

Doorman - "Penn Station."

He takes off. Having learned my lesson from before, I let go before he could take my arm with him.

I did, however, manage to kick his taxi with everything I had.

That's two barbarians, within an hour of each other, who nearly ripped my arm off.

I turn back to the street. I hear his tires screech short and his door open.

Cabbie - "Motherfucker. You kick my car, motherfucker?"

I turn back to him.

Doorman - "Yes, I did."

I turn back to the street and hear sirens.

Oh, fuck.

The calvary is on the way, and now I have a new cabbie, fresh with a dent in his car, ready to fight me.

No time to fight. I turn to him and extend my hand.

Doorman - "I'm sorry."

He slaps it away.

Cabbie - "Fuck you, motherfucker!!! You kick my car, I kick your ass!"

Doorman - "I don't want to fight with you. Just go."

He runs to his car and observes a sizable dent in the side. I wear heavy boots and have strong legs, but it's questionable I did that kind of damage while off-balance.

Cabbie - "Look what you did, motherfucker!"

Doorman - "I didn't do that. Stop being a baby."

Cabbie - "You call me a baby, motherfucker? I kick your ass!"

(Funny how sensitive he gets after I call him a "baby", considering the fact that he's been repeatedly insinuating that I engage in coitus with the woman who gave birth to me.)

The sirens blare more loudly. They're closer. I have to get this fucking guy out of here.

Doorman - "Dude, I didn't make that dent. Next time, don't turn down a fare and I won't kick your car."

Cabbie - "I am off-duty!"

Doorman - "Then why did you ask where they were going?!? You're wrong, too! Truce?"

I extend my hand again, he doesn't shake it.

Cabbie - "You fix this dent, or I kick your ass!"

Well, there's just no reasoning with this man.

Doorman - "Ok, I tried. Fuck you and fuck your mother."

I turn back to the street.

Cabbie - "I'm calling the police!"

Jesus Christ.

I'd like to take a pause for you, dearest reader, to fully soak in the mess I've made:

I have an ambulance and squad car on the way due to an incident I'd had with a cabbie a mere sixty minutes prior to this one. They're coming because I wanted to nail a cabbie to the fucking wall, and if they see a brand-new cabbie standing there, claiming I kicked his car, my credibility is instantly ruined.

Cabbie - "Hello! 911! I have a man here, a doorman, he kicked my car!"

The ambulance pulls up. No cop car yet. I run to the cabbie.

Doorman - "You have to move, I need to get this ambulance in."

Still on the phone with 911 and looking at me like he wants to see my face covered in wasps, he gets in his car and moves up a few feet so the ambulance can pull over.

I run to the paramedics.

Doorman - "Haya doing, guys?"

EMT 1 - "What room are we going to?"

Doorman - "Oh, no. It's for me."

They look at each other and shrug, then get out of the trunk.

I look to the Cabbie, who's still screaming on the phone and favoring the dent.

(It just occurred to me, as I write this, that I left the guest hanging without getting them a taxi. Oops. Hope they made their train. I wonder if they were going to tip me? The way things were going that day, I'd say all signs point to no.)

I explain the story to the paramedics. They ask me to get into the truck. I tell them it's not necessary, that all I want to do is file a police report. They tell me if I want to have documentation on the incident, they need to do a proper check-up on me. I comply.

First thing they do in the ambulance is check my blood pressure.

EMT 1 - "Jesus! Is your blood pressure always this high?!?"

Doorman - "Umm... no?"

EMT 2 - "What's he at?"

EMT 1 - "190/120."

Doorman - "Is that bad?"

EMT 2 - "Holy shit! Give him some oxygen till he calms down."

EMT 1 gets the oxygen mask.

Doorman - "I don't think that's necessary."

EMT 1 - "Sorry, bro. We have to get your blood pressure down before I check anything. You're too fired up."

The police arrive. I tell them the story about the first cabbie, give them the medallion number, then cap it off with this:

Doorman - "And there's another savage parked in front of the ambulance who tried to pick a fight with me!"

The cop walks to the front of the ambulance, then comes back no more than a minute later:

Doorman - "What did he say?"

Cop - "He left."

I didn't dare follow up to see if the Cabbie left on his own or if the cop got rid of him.

After a few minutes of questions, another squad car pulls up, asking the officers about a second call to this location. I duck my head down and continue to suck in copious amounts of oxygen.

Eventually the hotel staff got wind that I'm in the ambulance, so they all begin to trickle out to laugh at me. One of my buddies snaps this pic:

My blood pressure eventually went down to a not-so-normal level. They check out my shoulder and neck, then gave me the option to go to the hospital. I respectfully decline. The police officer gives me a copy of the report, tells me that someone will call to follow up, then leaves. 

As the paramedics pack up their shit from what was likely the most entertaining (if useless) call of the day, the oldest of the two gives me his diagnosis: 

EMT 2 - "Papi, it looks like you need a vacation."

Doorman - "You're telling me."

We both laugh and pat each other on the shoulder. He quickly stops mid-chuckle:

EMT 2 - "No, but seriously, get your blood pressure checked out."

Doorman - "Yes, sir." 

They leave. 

I ended up working the rest of my shift, not making a single dollar in the process. 

This was yesterday. I feel fine today, a little sore in the neck and shoulder but nothing I can't work through. Three more days till my vacation, the first since last October. Maybe it was a little overdue. 

As far as the cabbie, I've calmed down a bit but still would like to see him reprimanded for his actions. He could have hurt me bad. Who knows how often he pulls shit like that? What if he does it to an elderly person? We'll see how I feel about the situation when it comes time for the court hearing. Expect a follow-up post in the future.

I'd hate to score this one because it's so fucking absurd, but having gotten one driver in some potentially deep shit and kicking damage into another's vehicle, I'm going to go ahead and give myself the victory here. Tally one for Doorman. 

Doorman - 3 

Taxi Driver - 1 

UPDATE 8/5/14: 

Today was the hearing for this case. The Taxi and Limousine Commission has a new protocol with cases regarding cabbies fucking off and doing shit like this, which is to call the person who wrote the report when it comes time for the hearing. It's great, because let's be honest, no one is going to travel all the way out to Queens to sit in a courtroom for four hours to indict a taxi driver for refusing to take their drunk asses back to Brooklyn at 4am.

What they do now, is invite the driver to a hearing to plead their case. The prosecutor calls the person who filed the complain the day before, and they ask you to keep a window open to talk on the phone with the judge and cabbie present. They did just that, and I got my phone call today.

The cabbie didn't show up to the hearing.  My concern the whole time was whether or not, in my frantic state, I got the guy's medallion right. The prosecutor assured me that they traced him to that spot at the time of my report, and that if he were innocent, he would have made damn sure to be there to defend himself.

So what's next? He still has a chance to come up with a legitimate excuse as to why he didn't show. Though as of now, he's guilty of all charges. The prosecutor wouldn't disclose his exact punishment, but mentioned a hefty fine and substantial points towards his medallion. If the cabbie has a record of this, it could lead to a suspension. Absolute worse case scenario for him, he loses his license.

When the prosecutor told me this, I actually started to feel guilty. Sure, I wanted him to pay for what he did, but him losing his license is a little extreme. I expressed this, almost hinting that I wanted to backtrack a little and drop everything. The prosecutor put me at ease by saying, "He would have had to do something really awful in the past to have this incident be the nail in the coffin."

We'll see what happens. I've been told to put it out of my mind. And I will. After reading the story again, I still think he's bound to seriously injure someone one day. I have no regrets.

UPDATE 9/4/14:

So yesterday I get a phone call from a different TLC prosecutor. Turns out, the cabbie did, in fact, want a hearing to defend himself. They ask if I'm available to testify on the phone today at 11am. I tell them I'm free. And here, dearest readers, is the state of our judicial system:

11:00am - I'm aboard the NJ Transit rail headed to Greg, my co-producer's house to edit the recently-shot Doorman episodes. No phone call.

12:31pm - I pull into the Red Bank station, where Greg is waiting for me in his black Dodge Charger. Right before I get in, the phone rings. A 212 number I don't recognize. Fantastic. I spent 90 minutes waiting on an empty train with all the time in the world to talk, and these fuckers have to call me the second I get picked up.

The prosecutor apologizes for not calling at the scheduled time, saying that a few of the morning cases "took longer than expected." She explains that the cabbie is present and ready to represent himself in the hearing. I ask what I have to do. She tells me that since it's so close to lunch, they're just going to break for fucking lunch and that they'll resume at 1:30pm. So, after keeping me waiting for an hour and a half, she calls to tell me that everyone's taking a break.

We arrive at Greg's and get right to work. The new episodes look fucking fantastic.

1:30pm - Our flow is interrupted by a phone call from the prosecutor.

She let's me know that everyone is back from lunch, and that she'll be calling me as soon as the hearing get's started.

2:37pm - The phone rings again. Here's what she tells me:

Prosecutor - "Hi… so an unprecedented thing happened. The judge apparently doesn't know the law and thought that you were going to be present in court. But the new law states you don't have to be, that we could do this over the phone. The rest of the prosecutors tried to tell him that you don't have to be here, but he insisted and called to push the hearing back. So, are you available October 15th at 9am?"

I shit you not.

Doorman - "So, you're saying I have to be there on the 15th of October?"

Prosecutor - "No no no no! It'll be cleared up by then. The judge just…"

And that's when I stopped listening. I just simply agreed to field another phone call on that day. Whatever. The cabbie just wasted an entire day at the court, only to be jerked around by the system while Greg and I sat here and insulted each other as we worked on what I'm sure is going to be the thing that gets me out of this place.

I'll play it by ear on October 15th. Honestly, I really don't care what happens anymore. Maybe the cabbie, fresh off working 16 straight hours on his 6th straight day, had a bad moment and I was the unfortunate collateral damage. Or maybe he's a reckless savage who needs to be stopped. Whatever the case, a lot of people got paid a lot of money to simply reschedule a bunch of shit. The cabbie rotted in the waiting room, and I got to hang out with my buddy and make movie magic. That's a victory for me.

To be concluded (hopefully)…

UPDATE 10/2/14

OKAY. Here's the latest: 

The cabbie has plead guilty. 

Our next hearing was scheduled for October 15th, though for whatever reason, he decided to come in and plead to avoid more extensive charges. 

I pressed the prosecutor for as many answers as she would answer. Here's the breakdown of his punishment:

- Had he fought it further, plead not-guilty and lost, he would have faced a fine of $1,000, in addition to points on his medallion/license. 

- Since he plead guilty and avoided another hearing, he settled for a $350 fine and no points on his medallion/license. 

So, after over three months of phone calls and hearings and bullshit, the cabbie settled for a $350 fine. 

I have a better idea than most of what cabbies make in a week. That's a significant blow. I've taken a many things into consideration, because I have a heart. I would never, ever want to take money out of someone's pocket, especially a person whose every dollar counts. 

And then I come to my senses.

He nearly took my arm off, could have spun me into the street, causing me to get blasted by another car. Or maybe I could have fell the wrong way and hit my head on the payment, causing serious damage. Maybe he could have ran over my foot, snapping my ankle as I fell back.

He had zero regard for my safety, so why not put him in a position where he sweats out how he's going to pay his rent this month?

So, that appears to be it. Unless, of course, he goes all Walter White on me while I'm in the street getting a taxi one day. 

If that's the case, I'll need to dedicate Doorman vs Taxi Driver: Round V to that story. 

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