Like most New Yorkers (New Yaukers?), I have a love-hate relationship with cab drivers. I love them because all I have to do is stick out my hand, and they pick me up and take me where I want to go. I hate them, because, well, they're cab drivers.
Sometimes, it's as though they hand out hack licenses at JFK airport as they leave the plane; but only to Pakistanis, Egyptians, and Bengalis. ("Welcome to America, here's your hack license.") Moreover, despite rules that bar cabbies from talking on their cell phones, this is precisely what they do; I have a friend who has no problem leaning forward and telling them "my parents died in the Twin Towers, would you mind stopping your terrorist chatter?"
Then, there's Hana the Cabbie. Mr. Hana picked me up on MacDougal Street the other night. I told him through the windown that my destination was Brooklyn; I usually do this because some cabbies won't leave Manhattan, even though it's against the rules for them to refuse a fare no matter the destination. Mr. Hana said "no problem" and I jumped right in.
It became obvious it was a big problem for Mr. Hana, as he turned north and west when the Brooklyn Bridge was actually south and east. Now, usually, it's a this point that you get out, pay the $2.00 fare and get another cab. Because usually this means the cabbie is trying to run up the fare by taking a longer route. But then Mr. Hana asked me how to get to the bridge, and the problem became clear.
"This is my first night," Mr. Hana said. A
s I guided him, step-by-step to my door in Bay Ridge, he told me his story. He'd just started driving a hack that day. He was a student from Egypt, studying finance, and cab driving was the most lucrative job he could find. He'd been here for three years already, and had been trying to save up to start school. He liked America, even though he was all alone in the big city. You could tell he was nervous on the BQE (that's Brooklyn-Queens Expressway to you out-of-towners; see how much about NYC you learn from reading my notes?), where the traffic is still fast and furious, even at 2 am.
And after dropping my off at my door, Mr. Hana assured me that he could find his way back home. Now a lesser cabbie would have balked at driving all the way to Brooklyn, especially on his first night. Mr. Hana could have simply refused the fare. But he didn't. With pluck and determination, he got me home. And he got himself a $15 tip on a $25 fare. So I salute Mr. Hana. I hope he does well.