A short while ago I returned from a trip on a flight into Newark airport. I live in Brooklyn, and as it was late at night and I wanted to get home, I decided to take a cab.
No sooner than I got into the cab did I realize I had taken my life into my own hands — the driver was an old man, visibly in pretty poor control of his own car. I’m pretty sure he was suffering from something like Parkinson’s (his hands were shaky and unsteady), and from his erratic merging it seemed he was having severe difficulty seeing other vehicles, lane lines, etc. in the dark.
I also got the sense (from an extremely ill-advised cell phone conversation I overheard during the ride) that he was fairly poor, that this job was his only means of income.
On the one hand, I’m inclined to report a driver who poses such a hazard to himself, to me and to anyone else on the road who might cross his path. But I worry that this could lead to his effective ruin: How employable could an unhealthy old man, who happens to have limited command of English, be? So I’m really torn: Do I call the cab company to complain?
SHAKEN AND STIRRED
Catie Lazarus replies:
Your question reminds me of Alvy Singer’s parents arguing in “Annie Hall” about whether or not it’s kosher that their housekeeper is stealing from them. Alvy’s dad is outraged after his wife fires the woman upon catching her going through her pocketbook. “She’s a colored woman, from Harlem! She has no money!” explains Alvy’s dad. “She’s got a right to steal from us!”
The Singers though weren’t debating about someone who could physically endanger himself and others.
New York needs another bad driver like the world needs Bush in office for another term. If you think his driving represents an immediate danger to the public, you should report him to his cab company or to the proper authorities.
And if you find yourself in that situation again, share your concerns with the cabbie, even if you interrupt his call. Also, if he is looking for another phone buddy, I am happy to farm out my mother, great aunt and sister-in-law.
Catie Lazarus is a New York-based writer and comedian. She hosts the popular variety show, “Fresh Meat with Catie Lazarus,” and has written for Time Out New York, Gawker, the New York Post and the Forward.