Sunday, December 12, 2010

Pedicab vs. Cabdriver

Earlier this week my coworker and I manned a table at a Summer Opportunities Fair at a high school out in Long Island where we talked to junior high and high school kids about our programs. We didn’t get back to midtown Manhattan until 10:00pm and I decided to take a cab home. I hailed a taxi. It was a mid-size SUV with tinted windows in the back.

I got in and called my niece, Camri. It was her birthday and we started talking about what she had done that day (she had just turned 13). As we drove across town towards the West Side Highway we got stuck between two pedicabs (cycle rickshaw) were riding side by side. They blocked our lane and we, and the cars behind us, had to slow down as a stream of cars zoomed past us in the other lanes. My cab driver honked and gestured and yelled. The pedicabs didn’t break their side-by-side formation – they looked like they were casually chatting as they biked along pulling the empty seats behind them.

Camri was in the midst of telling me about her birthday dinner when there was finally there was a break in the traffic and my driver, all the while yelling, pulled around them and made eye contact with the one closest to us and swerved to almost hit him! I heard a yell and a thud and we drove on. I couldn’t believe it! About the time I thought I should get another cab (on principle) we stopped at a stoplight. We had just stopped when the two pedicabs rode around our cab, yelling, and they pulled in front of our cab. Every time the cabbie tried to drive around them they'd swerve in front of the car. Finally we shot around both of them and the cabbie drove half a block, fuming, then pulled to the side of the road and opened his door to get out of the cab.

I was in the midst of asking Camri, "Where did you decide to go for dinner?" When I, instead, said firmly, "NO. You can get back in the car, there is no need to get in a fight. I want to go home. Get back in the car. We’re going to keep driving." Camri giggled.

The cabbie grumbled but got back in the car and we kept driving. We hit another light and all of a sudden a pedicab pulled in front of the cab - lengthwise so the pedicab driver could look in my driver’s eyes. Another pedicab pulled up next to the driver's side window and leaned in towards the window, yelling. The pedicab driver that the cabby had swerved to hit pulled up next to the driver’s window.

Camri started telling me about shopping with her mom.

They started swearing and yelling and hitting the windows. They threatened and BAM! Hit the window. Swear and BAM! Hit the windows.

I sat in the backseat in kind of disbelief. I found myself wondering, “Did they call for backup? Is there some kind of pedicab backup hotline? Where did the third pedicab come from? Meanwhile, my niece, unaware of the situation on my end is telling me about shopping with her mom. I imagine I sounded somewhat detached but responded with, "That sounds like a lot of fun." As I watched the men's angry faces through the window and the cab driver yell back. The lead pedi-driver hit the window with the flat of both palms, as if pushing the cab itself in a fight, then he spat on the driver's window.

When the light changed they made a row of three pedicabs across the road so we couldn't get around. They tried to swerve in front of us anytime we tried to pull around. We finally zoomed around them a few blocks away. The cabbie stopped and opened his door to wipe off the dripping spit off with a tissue. Then we pulled on to the highway and we drove off.

I talked to my niece and then my sister for the next twenty minutes all the while thinking, WHAT just happened?

When he pulled up in front of my apartment building I asked, "Did you actually hit the bike or just swerve towards him? He said, "I didn't hit him. He hit the back of my cab! Did you see them in the middle of the street? They can't drive like that!" Then he smiled and wished me a good night.


  1. Wow! What the heck????? I can't believe that! Hilarious. I love how you wrote this story. It's awesome.

  2. ever heard of a book called The Pushcart Wars?