Home / Blog / From the Driver’s Seat: Bella’s Trip to Chinatown
It was far and away the most hellish drive of the shift. It began in the post-circus crowd that was pouring out of Madison Square Garden and culminated in an impossible bottleneck at the Holland Tunnel entrance. I'll never know if my passengers made it to the dim sum I wanted them to try...

From the Driver’s Seat: Bella’s Trip to Chinatown

Image courtesy baldpunk.com
When 3-year-old Bella, her older brother and grandparents climbed into my cab at Madison Square Garden, we were all in a good mood.

Grandma and grandpa had just taken their visiting from California grandkids to the circus. Now it was time for lunch in Chinatown. They wanted to go to the corner of Canal and Mott – and did I know of any good Chinese restaurants around there?

Photo by Harris Graber

We inched along 34th St. as I racked my brain, “Actually, there’s wonderful dim-sum at Ping’s on Mott St. I just went there with some friends a couple of weeks ago. I could take you there.”

Grandma thought that sounded great. Except we weren’t moving.

I started to sweat and stopped trying to meet their eyes in the rear view mirror. Was there a faster way than the West Side Highway to get downtown? If there was, I didn’t know about it.

Grandpa started grumbling in a Johnny Cash baritone. Bella’s brother kept telling her to look out the window (“Bella, it’s the river! Bella a taxi!”).

Meanwhile, Bella squealed with delight and sang “We’re here!” every time I hit the brakes. I thought this was a little unusual. Why wasn’t she whining (like I would’ve been)? Wouldn’t most hungry 3-year olds keep asking “Are we there yet?”

Not Bella. Not even when we sat still for ten minutes at the intersection of Canal and Greenwich St. (Why oh why didn’t I pull off Canal when I had the chance? I felt terrible. Grandpa was ready to walk, and I could understand why.)

Image courtesy streetsblog.org
By the time we squeezed through the Holland Tunnel gridlock and got stuck in the middle of NYPD ‘traffic control,’ Grandpa was still voting for walking the rest of the way.

Even grandma was wondering why the signals weren’t synchronized. And Bella? “We’re here!”

Her brother, who was probably around 6, laughed and said, “At least we’re moving.” Who were these kids?

Grandpa and Grandma were too desperate to get out of the taxi to have me drive them down Mott St. to Ping’s, so I just dropped them off at the corner, wondering whether I could have somehow turned that 46-minute saga into the 15-minute ride it should have been.

As Bella crawled out, she turned to me and said, “I love you.” And that’s when I noticed she had Down’s Syndrome.

She blew me a kiss and I blew her one back, fighting back tears. She didn’t care about the traffic or her hunger or her grumbling grandpa. She just wanted me to know that everything was OK, that she knew my intentions were good and that I was doing the best I could. I hope they took her to Ping’s.

22 Mott Street – Chinatown
Te. (212) 602-9988‎
Open: 7 days, 10:30am-midnight
Credit cards accepted
Note: Ping’s is known for its seafood, although it can be a little pricey. Dim sum here is both delicious and a great deal (Try chive dumplings with shrimp and baby bok choy with fried garlic).

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  1. Layne, I am sitting in the Staten Island Ferry, hungry, waiting to get back to Manhattan. I just read your post from my phone and I’m actually crying. This is a beautiful story, I wish all of us could just be like Bella – life would be incredibly better. Take care!

  2. Lilian, I wasn’t sure whether I translated my amazement with Bella in a way that would come through. Thanks for letting me know that it did. I’m so glad she touched you, too.

  3. This is a really cool blog. Very different. Some nice photos, too! I especially like the first in this post.

    Good luck!
    Bald Punk
    NYC Stories and Photos — Historical – Paranormal

  4. I am not sure why it is so hard for people to be patient or for that matter kids. Growing up my brother and sisters were always well behaved and so many people always commented on our good behavior. Maybe it was the threat of being sent to the salt mines to work, who knows? :)

    A very interesting post.

    • I hope you’re joking about the salt mines.
      Among many other things, this job is teaching me about being grateful for people’s patience in a way that no job ever has. A good lesson for me – since I’m horribly impatient in my civilian life.

      • Nah the salt mines are a figment of my imagination…and of course for those extreme periods of ennui…it is used to entertain my therapist. ;)

        It is good that you are not only experiencing new things but learning…anyone can try new avenues in life but few ever learn anything from it. Or they simply forget.

  5. I posted this review on my site:
    “TaxiGourmet – Cabbie’s steer way to good eats”