Monday, April 13, 2009

The "New York"

This past weekend, a friend (R___) from Boston came to visit me here in NYC. After arriving an hour late (due to our notorious traffic), he commented upon his surprise at the bus’s having passed cabs on the way into the city. “That would never happen in Boston,” he declared and then proceeded to describe a popular taxi-driving maneuver he and his roommates had dubbed “The Boston”. “The Boston” is performed by pulling one’s vehicle out in front of a pedestrian and then laying on the horn so that everyone within a two-hundred-foot radius knows that the pedestrian is at fault for nearly having been killed, not the reckless driver.

After I assured him we have our fair share of NYC drivers who practice “The Boston,” R___ and I swapped “one time, this driver almost ran me over” stories and then headed out to the most dangerous of all pedestrian-ridden, vehicle-congested locations in America—Times Square—to see if we couldn’t add to our arsenal of near-death experiences stories. We were not to be disappointed.

This weekend, downtown seemed considerably more congested than usual. Not that I would know, since I avoid that tourist-infested area of Manhattan at all costs except, of course, I have a tourist staying with me. However, I overheard more than one NYC-resident-sounding passerby say, “WTF is this? People think it’s New Year’s or something?” I guess Easter is close enough. Or maybe there was a extra-big sale on corny T-shirts. Tourists seem to like those.

Anyway, it was extremely crowded, so R___ and I were stuck in masses of people at almost every intersection, jostling for a place near the curb in order to make it across the street once the traffic light turned red again. A few particularly courageous pedestrians would dart across between cars while the light was still green, but the rest of us held back, figuring that if we didn’t give the cars their right-of-way, they probably wouldn’t give us ours.

At one intersection, a black sedan was being held up by traffic in front of it (it had a green light but still couldn’t go anywhere), and an impatient taxi started pulling up to its left. Just as the taxi nosed its yellow front around the sedan’s rear bumper, a college-age guy stepped out onto the street, clearly intending to cross behind the sedan. Instead of stopping, the taxi sped up to get by this guy before he could actually cross. Unfortunately, it was stopped at the crosswalk, where other pedestrians were darting across in front of the trapped sedan. Irate at having been cut off, the guy stepped up and banged on the back window of the taxi.

As we all stood by, the taxi pulled up a few more inches, and the driver door opened. A thin Indian man swung halfway out of the taxi and started shouting. “F*ck you! Left f*cking turn lane, motherf*cker!” He looked about to leap the rest of the way out of the car, but the swung back in, closed the door, and drove off. I wanted to burst out laughing.

“That,” I said, turning to R___, “is what we call the ‘New York.’”

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