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Into the Driver’s Seat?

For those of you who read this blog on a regular basis, please forgive me. I know I’ve been inconsistent about posting recently – and I know this is a huge no-no among those who dictate the rules of the blogosphere. But I’ve got an excuse that just might make up for the lack of taxi adventures over the past couple of weeks.

After being seriously wowed by lady cab drivers like Iris Javed and Constance Barnes, and after 100-plus taxi adventures as a curious passenger, I’ve decided it’s time to check out the view from the driver’s seat.

As of yesterday’s marathon at the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles – and tomorrow’s six-hour defensive driving course at Team Systems Taxi Fleet – I’m officially in the process of getting a license to drive a yellow cab in the Naked City.

Though economic necessity is part of the reason (the day job can’t cover the cost of the Big Apple cab rides), my decision is much more about the fact that I’ve fallen deeply in love with New York. Like anyone in a state of infatuation, I want to understand as much as I can about the object of my affection.

I want to know – to really know – the city’s streets and its geography. I want to meet more of the people who live here and who visit this place (and maybe share some food discoveries of my own). And I want to have a deeper sense of what it takes to survive as a cab driver – a job I’ve been objectifying in one way or another since I started the this blog.

Even though I’ve transplanted the taxi adventures from Buenos Aires to New York, I still look at them through the lens of the tango. Like the best of tangos, the food quests here move through intense (if fleeting) encounters, a sense of connection, and an occasional taste of transcendence.

As a passenger, I’ve been dancing a metaphorical tango from the back seat of a taxi for quite a while now. I like to think that I’ve become a skilled follower, a fluid receptor, an expert in what most would call the “female” aspects of the dance.

But the greatest tango dancers in the world – the professionals who live from and for the dance – are experts in both leading and following. As they mature in their dancing, they master both roles. If they’re anything like my teachers, they become integrated on and off the dance floor, empathetic to the strengths and struggles in the other half of the embrace, attuned to its subtleties.

I’m chasing a similar sort of integration. I want to be fluent in this city – its facades, its cracks, its poetry, its potholes – and to see how it feels to connect with its characters from the front seat.

I’ve still got 24 hours of geography lessons, a medical exam and a few other Taxi & Limousine Commission hoops to jump through before my yellow cabbie status is official. My goal is to land behind the wheel sometime in November. In the meantime, I’m going to continue the taxi adventures from the back seat – but they may take on a different flavor after I get my hack license.

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