Home / Blog / From the Driver’s Seat: April Fool (with Tamales)
My taxi under what I thought was a taxi stand sign. Squad cars behind me.
My taxi under what I thought was a taxi stand sign. Squad cars behind me.

From the Driver’s Seat: April Fool (with Tamales)

Maybe you can’t fight city hall, but I’m going to try anyway.

Yesterday, when I was taking my 8am bathroom and coffee break at Grand Central station, I parked at the taxi stand on Lex and 43rd. Just as I was pulling out, an NYPD officer marched over and started writing me a ticket.

“This is a taxi stand!” I told her, “What’s the problem?”

My cab under what I thought was a taxi stand sign. Squad cars behind me.

“Not from 7 to 1 it’s not,” she said, “Read the sign. Read the whole sign. From 7 to 1 there’s no standing [parking] anytime. Other times, it’s a taxi stand.”

“Oh, come on! You’re kidding me!”

She kept punching the numbers on her handheld computer.

“What am I supposed to do? Your colleagues took up all the spots under the taxi stand sign back there!”

Please, pretty please, could you guys park somewhere else?

I pointed to the area down the block where two NYPD squad cars were parked under a taxi stand sign with no other provisions.

“Do you think I’m going to give a ticket to myself? You’ll have to talk to them about that.”

She stuck a $115 ticket under my windshield wiper. She wouldn’t even hand it to me.

I suppressed a strong urge to slide tackle her. Then I got out of the cab and started snapping pictures to support my appeal of the ticket. I doubt they’ll make a difference. A few weeks ago, I got another parking ticket in the same situation, and the judge wouldn’t accept my reasoning about the unfairness of the NYPD taking up all the taxi stand spots.

I never intended to have a chip on my shoulder about the NYPD, but as a taxi driver it’s hard not to.

What happened to me at Grand Central felt like a trap, a set-up to stick it to cabbies who have to go to the bathroom. It’s cruel, it’s unjust and it’s just plain dirty to park in one of the few spots where we’re allowed to park and then give us tickets when we make so little money in the first place.

I slapped the steering wheel and let the profanity fly. Then Johnny Cash came into my head:

Drive on, don’t mean nothin’, drive on…” (a song about a much more serious injustice, but the words were comforting anyway. Watch him perform it.)

I drove on, buoyed by Mr. Cash, found my next fare outside Grand Central, and landed on the Upper East Side.

The sun was out as I cruised down 2nd Avenue, and that’s when I spotted two round-faced ladies pulling chicken tamales from a steamer on the corner of E. 97th St.

A handmade tamale, Guerrero (Mexico) style.

I bought two – one mild and one spicy, $2 apiece – and parked next to a Park Avenue fire hydrant (legal for cabbies as long as we stay in our cars and are ready to move if need be) to eat them.

Their steam warmed my face as I unfolded the banana leaves. I wanted them to be amazing. I wanted them to make up for the parking ticket.

With a silky, lard-laden more flour than corn masa, they almost did.

The masa was good, but I wanted more meat and less dough. I liked the subtle seasoning in the mild one, but the hot one had the aftertaste of old spices.

Are these tamales worth a special trip? No, and they definitely can’t top the $2 tamal oaxaqueño at El Aguila in Harlem (137 E. 116th St). But if I’m anywhere near the corner of E. 97th and 2nd Ave and suffering from hunger pangs, I’ll stop – and I might still have Johnny Cash in my head.

The Tamale Ladies from Guerrero
E. 97th St. & 2nd Ave.
7 days a week from 8-3pm (give or take an hour)

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  1. NOOOOOOOO!!! not another ticket!!! Something needs to be done about that! Glad you were able to get a picture!!!

  2. In this economy, seems like the ticket police are out in force all of the country. And, unfortunately, I find most tamales, except a few rare, fall short on flavor and filling. Thanks for reminding me to look for some tamales oaxaquenos with mole sauce. Delish!

    • You’re right – there are a lot of sub-par tamales in this world, which is what makes a good one such a thrill to find! Thanks for reading, Andrea.

  3. I have a saying: what garlic can’t fix, butter will. And what neither can, tamales always do. Tickets can screw up any day, but what a nice ending with your tamales in the car.

    • I like your saying, Marta. Very wise. And your organization sounds amazing. I love the idea of a tamale-driven fundraiser!

  4. Johnny Cash was one of the greatest performers of all time, and the world is a little darker without him. His music touched to a lot of people all around the world. Rest in peace Johnny Cash!

    • I love his version of Hurt, brings me to tears if I’m in the right mood. You can hear the pain in his voice.