These days New York is quieter, but its cabbies are louder

They all speak excellent English – in fact they can't stop speaking it

Share

I first went to New York in the late 1980s. I was the singer in an indie band and we were doing a small East Coast tour. We played the legendary CBGB's and several colleges. Back then New York was dangerous and exciting. It's still great but things have changed. CBGB's is now a boutique store and the only way I'd get mugged is by the stupid prices in nearby, trendy SoHo.

The most noticeable change is the New York cab. Back in the day, should you be lucky enough to get one to stop, you would find yourself sealed into an almost airtight container on the bench seat in the back. There would be a bullet-proof barrier between you and the driver that would render communication impossible. This didn't really matter because the driver was normally a gentleman who had arrived in the United States three days earlier, spoke no English and had learned to drive while bullet-dodging in Kabul. Despite New York's grid system making it perhaps the easiest city in the world in which to find an address, the late 1980s cabbie would get increasingly lost and eventually deposit you somewhere north of Harlem having charged you for indeterminate toll fees.

Today's New York cabbie is different. First, the fear of armed assault seems to have eased and you are even allowed to sit in the passenger seat. Second, they all speak excellent English – in fact they can't stop speaking it.

I had at least three cabbies constantly correct every statement that I made to my kids in the back until I just gave up and sat in a sulky silence. This was a big mistake as they took my silence for an inquiry into every aspect of their lives. Most popular would be "Are you from the UK? All my family is in the UK. They are doctors and lawyers. I have two houses in Luton." One was a big fan of Imran Khan, produced a large mobile phone and started trying to tune into Pakistani television to show me the live demo in Islamabad. This wouldn't have been too bad if he hadn't been hurtling up 6th Avenue at 70 miles an hour at the same time.

My favourite, however, was the driver who asked me if I liked Indian music? I nodded non-committedly and he slammed in a CD of a woman wailing vaguely melodically. "THIS IS MY DAUGHTER. SHE IS BIG BOLLYWOOD STAR!!" He screamed over the eardrum-shattering noise. "SHE IS VERY RICH WOMAN!!" When he eventually turned it down I asked him why he was still a New York cabbie? Didn't he want to live in India and be looked after by his rich daughter?

"No, the food there is bloody awful, makes me very sick. I am now too used to Western crap, rubbish food." I nodded sympathetically and pointed out my hotel, an Upper East Side boutique establishment. "Why you stay here?" He asked. "This is rubbish hotel." I tried to exit but he wasn't having it. "I take you to proper hotel, they know my daughter, give you great rates." He finally let me go, after trying to charge me for an "Uptown toll." Thankfully, some things never change.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Austen Lloyd: Private Client Solicitor - Oxford

Excellent Salary : Austen Lloyd: OXFORD - REGIONAL FIRM - An excellent opportu...

Austen Lloyd: Clinical Negligence Associate / Partner - Bristol

Super Package: Austen Lloyd: BRISTOL - SENIOR CLINICAL NEGLIGENCE - An outstan...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Consultant - Solar Energy - OTE £50,000

£15000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Fantastic opportunities are ava...

Recruitment Genius: Compute Engineer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Compute Engineer is required to join a globa...

Day In a Page

Read Next
SEEN graffiti Wonder Woman  

Warner Bros’ bold stance on Wonder Woman opens the door for Hollywood evolution

Matthew James
 

Errors & Omissions: moderate, iconic royals are a shoe-in for a pedantic kicking

Guy Keleny
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project
Diana Krall: The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai

Diana Krall interview

The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai
Pinstriped for action: A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter

Pinstriped for action

A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter
Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: 'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'

Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: How we met

'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef serves up his favourite Japanese dishes

Bill Granger's Japanese recipes

Stock up on mirin, soy and miso and you have the makings of everyday Japanese cuisine
Michael Calvin: How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us

Michael Calvin's Last Word

How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us