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First Fare

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Samarov
1421 Rider
 Posted 1 year, 7 months ago

This is an excerpt from Where To?

My first fare was a businessman in Copley Square who wanted to go to Logan Airport. I froze and had no idea how to get there. He had to give me directions and was none too happy about it. I don't remember if he left any tip aside from the advice to figure out what the hell I was doing. A couple months later I let a prostitute sit up front when she claimed she was cold. She found my wallet under the armrest with a whole night's earnings, some $200, and disappeared without even paying the fare on the meter. These and other lessons were tough but eventually I got the hang of it. I liked discovering the city, seeing all of it in ways I never could have in the eleven years of adolescence in the Boston area. I'd held jobs at the Coolidge Corner Theatre, Edibles restaurant, and Kupel's Bagels. All were within a mile-long stretch of Harvard Street in Brookline; not exactly a representative sample, much less a microcosm, of the world I saw from behind the wheel of a taxi.

I met other drivers. A smooth-talker named Kenny, who always had some new get-rich scheme going, like the one I remember about a book teaching women how to get men to love them; an older Welshman named John, for whom driving a cab was but the most recent in a lifetime of odd and varied modes of employment; a middle-aged family man named Gene, who worked days as a fireman and would often have me drop him at the firehouse to sleep after a shift behind the wheel. There was the amped-up New Yorker who'd horrify his fares by happily saying, “We'll go through the windshield together, baby” when they voiced their misgivings about his driving. He'd also refer to black peo...

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This is an excerpt from Where To?

My first fare was a businessman in Copley Square who wanted to go to Logan Airport. I froze and had no idea how to get there. He had to give me directions and was none too happy about it. I don't remember if he left any tip aside from the advice to figure out what the hell I was doing. A couple months later I let a prostitute sit up front when she claimed she was cold. She found my wallet under the armrest with a whole night's earnings, some $200, and disappeared without even paying the fare on the meter. These and other lessons were tough but eventually I got the hang of it. I liked discovering the city, seeing all of it in ways I never could have in the eleven years of adolescence in the Boston area. I'd held jobs at the Coolidge Corner Theatre, Edibles restaurant, and Kupel's Bagels. All were within a mile-long stretch of Harvard Street in Brookline; not exactly a representative sample, much less a microcosm, of the world I saw from behind the wheel of a taxi.

I met other drivers. A smooth-talker named Kenny, who always had some new get-rich scheme going, like the one I remember about a book teaching women how to get men to love them; an older Welshman named John, for whom driving a cab was but the most recent in a lifetime of odd and varied modes of employment; a middle-aged family man named Gene, who worked days as a fireman and would often have me drop him at the firehouse to sleep after a shift behind the wheel. There was the amped-up New Yorker who'd horrify his fares by happily saying, “We'll go through the windshield together, baby” when they voiced their misgivings about his driving. He'd also refer to black people, obscurely, as “The Demographic.” There was a female driver who most of the guys wouldn't dare cross. She was one of the old-timers, the remaining few still working for the company on commission. This meant she split her earnings 40%-60% with Checker and received benefits; the rest of us had to pay our daily or weekly leases at the end of the shift, whether we'd made a dime or not. The whole thing felt like an adventure to a guy in his twenties. I even developed a sort of persona, wearing a black Stetson and a leather jacket. Customers would try to guess where I was from, coming up with anything from Texas to the Midwest, none coming up with Moscow, USSR. I drew self-portraits in the rearview mirror while waiting at cabstands, none recognizably the same person. I'd usually work on my paintings—mostly views out the window or inside my small studio apartment on Commonwealth Ave in Brighton—before picking up the cab at the garage for the 4 pm-4 am shift I drove six or seven days a week through most of my Boston cab career.

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