Sunday, 20 April, 2014.
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Taxi Tales

by Julia Ireland


New York Cabbies have some great stories!
New York is comprised of people of every race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, profession, etc., and every New Yorker has ridden in a taxicab. By default of the business, New York City drivers are accustomed to the flavor and spice of the people in the city. New Yorkers are a different breed but a New York cabbie, that’s a whole different story.

Oleg Roitman is an exception to the typical mute taxi driver. An immigrant from Ukraine, Roitman is a New York City taxi driver for NYC Taxi & Limousine Commission. He leaves work every night with his pockets overflowing with cash because of his ability to entertain. His talent is taking any date and within seconds translating it into the day of the week.

Getting into his cab, he asks for your birthday and the birthdays of your first, second, and third spouse. If you are a woman he asks, “What is your status, single or slave owner?” and if you are a man he changes it to, “Single or prisoner of war?” His quick wit earns him the nickname “The Human-Computer.”

“Many people say I’m the best cab driver in all the world,” Roitman boasts. Not all drivers are as dynamic as “The Human-Computer,” but once you get them talking, they have plenty to tell.

Rudy Gonzalez, a driver at Pheonix Limo Corp, recalls a time when he picked up a young woman wanting a ride to Hoboken, New Jersey. She invited Gonzalez to dinner, bought drinks, and ended the night with a hot make-out session. “I just got lucky. She got touchy,” Gonzalez said. “She was a regular girl who flew in for business, not a prostitute or hooker… one thing led to another.” Gonzalez asked for her phone number and they spoke for a few months, but the one-night stand romance ended after the woman revealed she was living with her boyfriend.

But of course, within every city there are people involved with drugs and crime. Gonzalez remembers once picking up a routine, weekly customer from his hotel to bring into the city. The passenger said he’d pay upon arrival, but crossing over the bridge, he asked to borrow $20 for drugs. “He was a weekly customer who seemed to have money, but that bugged me out! It was enough!” Gonzalez raged. “I pulled over and kicked him out.”

Nedal Sarargeh, a fifteen-year employee at Allstate Car and Limo, describes his most bizarre driving experience of comforting a passenger coping with the loss of $2 million in the stock market. The man received the distressing phone call while in the back of Sarageh’s town car. Sarageh pulled over, afraid he would have to call the ambulance, as the customer laid in his back seat in hysterics.

Whether walking the streets or sitting on a taxi’s vinyl back seat, or front seat in the case of Roitman, New York City is filled with personality. Although each has unique stories of their own, all New York City taxi drivers agree on one thing. In the words of Gonzalez, “Night people are just freaky, you know what I mean?”

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