American Hacker

photo (3)He brushed me on the leg in a half-hearted slap in order to give emphasis to his point. This was the second time he had touched my leg. “Why didn’t you tell me [the major landmark]!” He turned facing me, “Up and down up and down, what’s wrong with you?” he implored and chastised me for my poor directions in a thick Long Island accent. What are you, some kind of egg head, right? am I right…? Oh… Shit… Ha! Got by that one! Now from anger to happy as a child makes happy, he had won this round, nowhere was there any flashing lights, no siren, no having to pull over, he turned around more in his seat as if it were a swiveling Lazy-boy chair, fully facing me now, which would not be a problem, since I am not shy, I can face those I am in discussion with, look directly in your eyes when you are talking to me, don’t mind the casual back or knee slap, but this guy, this one, he was driving the car I was in. And he just blew yet through another stop sign.
I have been traveling about of late, and in doing so in areas of this great nation I would never typically place on my itinerary, as it were. We charged down the suburban lane, went around a school bus that has slowed down but wasn’t yet discharging students, and came to a screeching halt at an old lady wearing a headscarf considering as to if to cross the street in the crosswalk. The car ahead had already stopped. The driver blew the horn. Come on, move it, shit or get off the pot! Fucking headrag! What the fuck are you wearing? You know, he continued a previous story, my friend came by a photography of Yankee Stadium and we were thinking, it’s the 1960s but no, it’s the 1940s. Ah, I thought to myself, or said out loud or both. He then answered the phone and had a long discussion with dispatch about the photo and the Yankees, from the 1940s! Fucking 1940s just these two cute kids in front of the stadium and you can see how happy they are, no my landlord found it, yeah, I’m going to make an 8×10 out of it, yeah. My father started this cab company, he went on to tell me after his phone call, but I fucked up, I was too busy chasing women, now I’m 61 and just a driver, but I did that. Loved women, really fucked up – here he made a lewd approximate representation of the genitals of a woman with his hands to illustrate his story – I was just after this spot between their legs, so I fucked up but I’m doing all right, I’m single, don’t got no one, but I still got girlfriends, in their 20s, and I’m 61!
His hands in gesture maintained the “pussyesque” shape and considering it took both hands to describe this certain feature of females in this digital form, that left exactly zero hands on the steering wheel.
We sped down suburbia, past houses that looked exactly similar, a wilderness of material comfort unknown to former ages and the majority of the world.
Taxis in most major cities are about the same. A driver from Asia, Southeast Asia, the Subcontinent, or some vague land of the caucuses we choose to believe doesn’t exist drives about often talking in a language The Googles cannot yet translate on a phone that seems permanently embedded in his ear (except for one time it was a women from China who yelled at me). Taxis in the second cities, in the smaller urban areas, in the hubs of travel less visited are a surprising and diverse affair to this monolithic body of immigrants.
Failed college students, elderly men, former military, island refugees, dudes who claim to have grown up in “the hood” dudes who perhaps led rebellions in their former lands or belonged to strange cults all drive and inevitably chat extemporaneously. Each one of these characters drives the same car however. It makes strange noises. A clunking sound from the tyre region a ticking sound from under the hood. Doors that have tricks to open or shut, oh my god, they never fill the fluids after their shift, she said as I got in side a car about to fall into pieces that I was taking further into the woods in order to rescue my Jeep from the impound lot after a snowstorm in Northampton.
photo (4)The village hack is also always doing something else and just happens to be driving a cab at the moment I meet him or in rare instances… her (Portland, 2013, Northampton, 2010, New York City, 1999). “I’m working in construction, but came out here and took this job driving till I catch up on bills,” Ottumwa taxi driver said. Portland told me he was working in a bookstore as his real job. Getting to know the island, driving a taxi was the best way to do this for a year or so, Key West told me. Virginia Beach was working on a start up of some kind. Going to school, said Hudson. I had to leave New York and this just turned out to be the best job down here Orlando claimed. Jacksonville just got divorced but was an electrical engineer. Fort Myers was a musician and owned quite a few houses he was fixing up, he liked to flip property. Omaha grew up in Omaha and knew it all and challenged me to ask him trivia. While life is what we do while busy making plans, it seems that driving in this capacity is something that has to be accounted for, explained in some way as if to reassure the passenger that they are indeed normal people. Even if the elderly man in a cab I took in Huntington grilled me on what I thought of black people and told me his life story since the 1964 riots, he never assumed this was not normal. Of course we fled after the riots, I read The Post, I see the police blotter and it’s my old neighborhood just murder, murder, murder and so we came out here for the good life. He yelled at a car the cut him off, motherfuckerillkillyou!
Perhaps there is something to this reassurance. Based on some of the more eccentric rides, my vote is that there is nothing normal about the people who drive a cab. In Tzarist Russia the majority of the hacks were Skoptsi, ritualistically castrated devotees of a strange branch of the Christian religion. In the smaller oblasts and parishes of America it is indeed perhaps because several of these people look like me and you that we can see just how outside of the social norms they are, but I also propose that underneath the occult spices and exotic-seeming cultures of the drivers in major cities, were we to speak Urdu or know something about Kazakhi cultural norms, these people are also fucking batshit cray cray insane in the membrane and drive a taxi because of it.
Because there is some strange people driving taxis out there…
It was only a few blocks to the party. We had been at a bar, but decided to regroup at one of the member’s apartments, which was convenient for everyone but me since I was the only one who was not ridding a bike. The apartment was but a few blocks away, several actually, and we were out in Brooklyn, not too far, but far enough that one relies on radio cabs for transport since the issue about Brooklyn is that you can always get to The City, that is Manhattan, with all manner of public transportation but you can’t get to Brooklyn from Brooklyn. So I said I needed the air and I would walk, and so I did. Walk along, slightly buzzed perhaps. As I walked to my destination, I happened to hear a horn. The tell-tale sign of a radio cab attempting to solicit a street hail, which while not legal was one way to get a ride, but one that since there was no meter you had to haggle or fenegal or kibbitz or yagshaggal or yadayadaya or some other negotiation that cannot be named outside of the Sephardic tongue. Honk! Honk! I ignored it. Honk! You need a ride? I’m not going far, I checked my pocket and I had about $20 and needed to save that money for booze. Hey, you need a ride? I’m not going far and I don’t have any money. OK, where you go, goddamn he was persistent. The Lincoln Town Car with the TLC plate, the sticker saying no smoking, the number that was all 6’s all 7’s or 8’s as taxis seem to always obtain, the smell of too much car air freshener I could smell from the sidewalk, it was annoying but when I told him where I was going and he said, $5! I thought well, my friends would get there, have a drink and leave and then I’d show up. So I took him up on the offer. About $20 minus $5 leaves about $15 which is about three or four drinks. Which is a sad way to count funds, but at that time of my life, and by that I mean Saturday, this was important.
So I went to the car and he opened the front door and I jumped in and buckled myself my legs actually thanked me since it was a far longer walk than what those riding bikes had made it out to be and while I had been hoofing it hard, I had still a long, long way to go.
I told him the street I needed to go. OK. We pulled out into the busy avenue. Weedeebeviousesat? He asked. Ah, yes, it is warm this spring, but we deserve it. Weeeeeduboiezat? He repeated with slightly different emphasis on different syllable of his incomprehensible statement. Yes, I’m walking a long way why yes sir this was a good idea. I turned his statement over in my mind. Weeeee Deee Bouuies Zat…. Weee Day at? He asked. A question. No, I have this one. …wee…. deee…. at. Weee… where. Deee…. they. At. Where they at? Ah, I was making progress in my cultural exchange vis-a-vis the “other” the “outsider” and the “native.” I had been such a good fucking graduate student, I read all my Cult Stud books. I don’t know, I told him. At this point, he seemed rather excited and talked more, little of which I could understand, but he kept persevering on Dee Boise, De Boiz, De Boys! The Boys? I asked. Yes!!!! De Boys, Where dey at? Ah…. OK… Strange conversation, I said, I didn’t know…. I don’t keep track of De Boys, but then at that moment he laughed, he knew I knew he knew I knew or something like that, or else he didn’t care I or he or we did not know, since he just placed his free hand, the one he apparently didn’t need to drive right on my thigh.
At this, I was able to get out of a [slowly] moving car in about one jump.
Oh comeonweedeeboysat!! he implored, his advances thwarted but his desperate yearning seemed to make sense to him and I must admit, in retrospect, he didn’t waste time beating around the bush but got right to the point. I walked quickly, I was close to where I need to go, and he followed me…. I switched directions. He managed to turn his car about on a busy street, one of those talents of a true hack, and continue to entreat me to join him in some sexcapades. Oh myyy….. I turned again and darted down my destination street. I had a good story to tell my friends who, indeed were finishing their one drink and taking off, just as I had gotten there.
The night ended and my friends turned in or rode their little bikes home.
I did not take a taxi home.
The next day, upon telling this story, I was told by a friend that a similar thing had happened to him, with a taxi driver fitting that same description, except that this fellow, drunken far greater than myself, jumped out of the taxi and then over a little fence and bushes, that hid a 15 foot drop…. he had awoken covered in blood and needing traction.
Motor City Casino and Hotel was out in the middle of fields with a few random broken buildings and a few still inhabited and some burned out monuments to Progress in what was once downtown Detroit. For a work assignment I had to travel from the apparent bastion of neo-civilization that was the flashy titty Casino out to the hinterlands, the Beyond the Pale and venture to meet a client out by 8 Mile Road, in what was once suburbia and now was a rotting burned out hell-scape of Capitalism Gone Wild or a post-informational world where urban farmers took over the now lead-filled and mercurial earth returning to a forest and field already overrun by rabbits and pheasant (perhaps the most pheasant I have ever seen in a [former(ly) major] city) depending on your perspective. I took a hack from the queue outside the hotel – very rock star coming out of a casino I guess. It was a weekday but the gambling floor was just heating up, the proximity of the weekend coming was insuring that tonight the place would be full of soon-to-be-Nuevo Rich. The cabbie asked the usual questions associated with travel. Why am I going to such-and-such a location, what do I do, and will I need a return cab. I indeed was unawares of the taxi offerings out in 8 Mile or if there would be such a service since, as I got closer to my destination, I saw that the majority of houses were vacant, boarded up, or burned to a char as is out modern American landscape and from what I have learned from years of studying my Eminem mix tape. Yes, that would be great, give me your card. I will need pick up about 3:30. The driver, Tom, said he would be getting off his shift at that time, but would come get me since he claimed there were few options out here for service and, to paraphrase Tom’s words, a long wait outside in a half-abandoned hell-scape was less than recommended. I believe the actual quote is closer to “Man you be torn apart waiting, they have wild fucking dogs out here!”
I discharged my responsibilities in keeping with my contractual obligations and was in no time out in the front of my location wondering how it could be that right next to a certain civic institution there could be so many burned out rape shacks.
Seconds turned in to minutes. Minutes turned into 20 of them, and before I just assumed I was fodder for the wild canine population, the taxi arrived to ground-lift me out. I got in the back of the car and thanked the man for getting there on time. He muttered something about being at the end of this day and now ready to just relax after my fare. I at once noticed two superbly disturbing things:
a) the meter was not on
b) the driver was high as a kite on some unknown but stinky substance that was not marijuana
He drove on, but rather than turning on to the highway, we was to take a “short cut,” let me show you some of Detroit, my tour guide said, laughing, but not a Imgoingkillyou laugh but that it’s funny laugh because I’m high laugh. We drove on. I don’t know where since, like in so many of the horror movies, my cell phone was dead. However, I also didn’t have cash. It doesn’t matter, we will find a cash machine… the man reassured me…. then he started to tell me a story, interjecting with updates as to my whereabouts and some unique featured of the landscape such as, “before this burned down it was an [XYZ]” and “you should have seen this city before it fell down.” Basically, for the most part, the story and tour guide commentary were lost on me since the words were a slur of incomprehensible phonetics or a word salad tossed for for an audience of one, me.
As we meandered through the city, I was certain we were traveling at two very different speeds. For my driver, we were racing through space at time, perhaps achieving warp speed. For me, we crawled through pothole infested roads that cut through lumpy fields, the lumps I imagined old architectural details or bodies or both under those lumpy mools and hillocks… We turned a corner and there were tables set up on the sidewalk under a tree. Some church was feeding the unfortunate, and since that was 90% of the population of this ….. *neighborhood* there was a large crowd, some milling about, one lady, looking very normally dressed and with a pocketbook was strange only since she was lying on the curb face up with her pocketbook neatly next to her. Seagulls swooped for the leftovers. It was a mixture of birds and humans in some conflagration as people eating off of polystyrene plates and chemically created cutlery shooed away their avialae foes the discarded plates and napkins blowing into the fields as modern tumbleweed. “Mishmashwingbimbimbim… huh huh… tagalogatummywub wub” my cabbie exclaimed.
I was relaxed into the adventure. There was little I could do since early on I realized there was few other cars for us to crash in to in these abandoned roads and Tom seemed an alright man, harmless really, seemed to be having a good time giving me the tour, before he plunged into another language of his own making he assured me there was no extra charge and really, I was getting the tour… albeit, of things I cannot unsee.
We finally reached the outpost, the Fort Apache that is Motor City Casino. Sad, when a place of gambling and debauchery is the safe zone…. We located a cash machine in the bank…. I paid my friend. And after a painfully slow drive the last few blocks, I was returned to my hotel.
At the train station my cabbie said he liked me and hoped once again to be my driver. I got the receipt, and closed the door whereupon he peeled off, jammed on the brakes, and blew the horn, and then tore out of sight. He was very excited about the picture of Yankee Stadium. It apparently was what he was really doing as he drove a taxi in his spare time.
photo (5)

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