Home / Blog / From the Driver’s Seat: Fare Beater, Flat Tire, Cool Passenger, Obscene Cookie
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From the Driver’s Seat: Fare Beater, Flat Tire, Cool Passenger, Obscene Cookie

We were rocketing across the Queensboro Bridge at 6:30am when he started screaming into his cell phone: “I want to f&%$ kill her! There she was dancing like nothing happened! I just want to take all the phlegm in my throat and spit it in her face.”

When we finally made it to his apartment in Queens, my passenger handed me $15 for the $32 fare and told me he had to run upstairs to get the rest: “I’ll be right back.”

I knew he was lying. I waited seven minutes and knew my cause was lost. Every cabbie in New York has fallen victim to a fare beater, and I’d just met my first. I got back on the road and let it go, as my teachers at taxi school counseled me to do.

An hour later, I picked up a Russian couple headed to Rockefeller Center and noticed that my cab was making a strange rumbling sound. The Russians giggled in the back seat. All I could understand were the words da, nyet harasho and taxi.

I made a mental note to tell the garage that something was wrong with my car when I turned it in at the end of the shift.

Several fares later, a man in the Lower East Side wanted a ride to the Financial District. I asked him if he had a preferred route (i.e. “Please help me as I have no idea how to get where you’re going.”). He told me to get on the FDR highway and take the Brooklyn Bridge exit. But instead of veering left toward downtown, I found myself on the bridge to Brooklyn with no way off.

“Uh, oh,” my passenger said.

“I’m so sorry,” I said, feeling the heat rise to my face. The cab was still making that weird rumbling sound. The faster I went, the more the Ford protested, “I’m not going to charge you for the ride.”

“It’s OK,” he said.

The way he said it, I knew it really was OK. There were no exasperated sighs. There was no impatient fidgeting. Together we brainstormed the best way to get back on the bridge and found the way.

When we made it back to Manhattan, he told me he’d never been on the Brooklyn Bridge before.

“You should try crossing it on foot sometime,” I said, “And stop at Jaques Torres for wicked frozen chocolate with chili peppers when you get to the other side.”

He started digging in his pockets when I finally delivered him to his destination. I told him there was no way he was going to pay me.

“Really? Thanks a lot!”

If roles were reversed, would I have been so kind? He was generations behind them, but my passenger reminded me of the old men who taught me to tango in Buenos Aires, who responded to my mistakes with compassion, who refused to accept my apologies for losing their lead.

I was still somewhere between gratitude and incredulity on Park Avenue when a cabbie pulled up next to me at a red light and started gesturing wildly: “Your tire. No air!”

So this was what the Russians were giggling about. Two hours and one Brooklyn Bridge had passed since I’d dropped them off. All that time I’d been driving with a flat tire.

I drove straight to the garage, where a mechanic changed the tire in less than five minutes. I felt like a race car driver at a pit stop.

Back in Manhattan, I should have been focusing on finding my next fare and making up for flat tire time, but all I could think about was a chocolate chip cookie.

There are foods that soothe from the moment they make it into your mouth, and chocolate chip cookies are among them. Especially when they come from Petrossian Café, which happens to be two blocks from the Wellington Hotel taxi stand on 7th Ave.

Months ago, a painter friend of mine turned me on to these cookies, not only because they’re one of the only things that either of us can afford at Petrossian (which doubles as a high-end Armenian-Parisian caviar outpost), but also because they’re semi-sweet chocolate-laden, pecan-studded pucks of bliss that leave a buttery gloss on your lips and a toffee aftertaste on your tongue.

This is a cookie that’s worth the $3 they charge, especially considering that it tames your hunger for 2-3 hours. On Sunday afternoon toward the end of my shift, I also discovered that this is a cookie with the power to erase the trauma of fare beaters, flat tires, and rookie mistakes – and remind you of passengers who show you what’s right with the world.

Petrossian Boutique & Café
911 7th Ave, New York 10019 – (Btwn 57th & 58th St)
(212) 245-2217
Open: M-Fri 7:30-8pm; Sat 8:30-8pm; Sun 9-6pm
Nearest taxi stand: 56th & 7th Ave (in front of the Wellington Hotel)
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  1. Another great tale! I love the way you gave the Brooklyn Bridge passenger a foodie tip too. Very appropriate. I like to think I’d be the same way as this kind gentleman was as I don’t take cabs often and do have a real sense of empathy for the drivers. My husband on the other hand, catches cabs a lot and in all other aspects of his life he is the nicest, most relaxed person, but put him in a cab with a driver who doesn’t know where to go and he can become the most impatient and rude of people. It’s bizarre. If we ride in a cab together, I’m contstantly elbowing him and muttering for him to be more polite.
    Enjoy the drive!

    • Good for you, Suzi, for sticking up for cabbies. Sometimes I fantasize about having all New Yorkers take a turn behind the wheel of a cab for a day. I think it would change the whole city (if it didn’t cause too many accidents).
      Thanks for reading! You rock.

  2. Great post! I’m certain it would be easier to find one’s way walking and catching the subway then driving. So, I feel for you as you navigate. I’m sure the chocolate soothed the day’s toll.

    • Hi Andrea – Yeah, walking is definitely easier! But the cool thing about driving is seeing parts of the city I usually travel through underground. And, yes, the chocolate helps as I work out the kinks…Chocolate helps no matter what.

  3. I luved this tale! And the next time my BFF comes down from Boston..she and I are soo going to get those cookies. Sweet, Sweet…poverty. ;)

  4. Haha, I won’t lie, I’ve lost my tempter a few times at a cabbie (but never showed it or yelled at them, more like the fidgeting or sighing you mentioned, or just stop the cab, get out and then get there someway else). However, most of the time I don’t care what happens or what route they take as long as they don’t take me for a rube (some have tried and gone the “long way” for no reason, no traffic or other reason why and I’ve called them out on it).

    • …And I’ve huffed and puffed in my share of Buenos Aires cabs – every time someone gets antsy in my cab, I consider it payback for my impatience in those days. And believe me, when I was intentionally driven around in circles, I let them have it…but I can count those times on one hand.

  5. Have you ever considered adding more videos to your blog posts to keep the readers more entertained? I mean I just read through the entire article of yours and it was quite good but since I’m more of a visual learner,I found that to be more helpful well let me know how it turns out!