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

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

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey/ South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey / South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Ashdown Group: Recruitment Consultant / Account Manager - Surrey / SW London

£40000 per annum + realistic targets: Ashdown Group: A thriving recruitment co...

Ashdown Group: Part-time Payroll Officer - Yorkshire - Professional Services

£25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful professional services firm is lo...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Nicola Sturgeon could have considerable influence over David Cameron in a hung parliament  

General Election 2015: What if Cameron were to end up in hock to the SNP?

Steve Richards
Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before