"Insane people are always sure that they are fine. It is only the sane people who are willing to admit that they are crazy."
After a few weeks of pretending to be a freelance artist, I had to admit to myself that I wasn't actually making any money. I really shouldn't have quit my day job as art director at that newspaper. So I needed to find a new job. Not that easy.
Donna's brother's father-in-law Lou owned a limousine service. Well, that's what he called it, but it was really just a bunch of guys driving their own shitty cars. There were no actual limos. It was a typical New York ghetto cab service.
There are two different types of taxis in New York City. The yellow cabs that everyone knows don't have radios, but the drivers are allowed to pick up people on the street. Limousines are not yellow, and the drivers have two way radios to communicate with a dispatcher, but they are not allowed to pick up people on the street.
Lou was always looking for drivers, so if I had a car, I could start working for him right away. But I didn't have a car. Donna's uncle Rick had an old junk car rotting in his backyard. He said I could have it for free. He was probably happy to finally get rid of that wreck. The transmission was slipping, the seats were ripped, the ceiling in the car looked like it had cancer, and the body was so eaten up by rust, that there were holes in the floor in front of the backseat.
People sitting on the backseat could look down and see the asphalt through the holes between their feet. It was an old red Dodge. Rick jokingly called it the Red Baron. I called it the Flintstone mobile, because I felt if I kick down hard enough, my feet would be on the street, and then I could use my feet to move the car, just like Fred Flintstone.
As an added bonus, the muffler was broken. So the exhaust fumes were coming through the holes in the floor. The car was basically a rolling gas chamber. I inhaled so much carbon monoxide, I'm sure I lost quite a few brain cells, while driving around in that death trap.
If I remember correctly, I was a New York cab driver for about two years. Maybe a little less. I drew cartoons during the day and drove at night, from 6 pm until 2 am. A lot of crazy stuff happened during those two years.
There used to be a show on HBO, called Taxi Cab Confessions. The cab was equipped with hidden cameras, and the driver worked for the show. The people who got into the car had no idea that they were being filmed. They said and did such crazy stuff, I was sure that show was just as fake as wrestling. I figured these crazy people couldn't possibly be real. It had to be staged. Well, once I drove a cab myself, I realized that that show really had been real. You really do meet a lot of crazy people when you drive a cab.
Some of the craziest guys I met were actually the other drivers. One of them was a homeless crack addict. He drove an old black 2-door Chevy Camaro that he had bought a long time ago, during his better days. Now he slept in that car. And he drove it as a cab. When he picked people up, they had to move the front seat back to climb into the backseat, which was covered with his dirty laundry.
One of the other drivers was a retired cop. Later I found out he didn't really retire. He was fired for stealing cocaine from the evidence storage. He told me that one of his regular taxi customers was an old man, who paid the retired cop to have sex with the old man's hot young wife in the cab, while the old man watched.
Another driver, Will, was mentally ill. When he took his medications, he seemed to be high functioning. Or at least functioning well enough to drive people from point A to point B. But when he didn't take his meds, you could tell that there was something seriously wrong with him. He would stand in the middle of the room at the taxi home base, and bop back and forth, shifting his weight from his toes to his heels. And he was convinced his wife and daughter were being raped by aliens, and that the aliens had implanted tracking devices in their brains through their noses.
One of the other drivers was friends with Will and went over to his house every now and then. One time, when he got there, Will opened the door and whispered: "Shhhh, they're here!"
"Who's here?" the other driver asked him.
"The aliens!" Will replied with a whisper.
The other guy followed Will into the house. He looked around, but the living room was empty.
"I don't see anyone."
"Shhhh! They're invisible!"
A few weeks later Will boarded up the windows and doors on the first floor and then jumped out of a second story window. That's when his wife decided enough was enough, and she called 911 to have him committed to the mental health ward at Bellvue Hospital.
Will jumped out of the driving ambulance and ran away to Florida.
About a month or so later, he suddenly showed up for work again, like nothing happened. Since Lou was always short on drivers, he didn't ask any questions and just told Will to go pick up some people and drive them to wherever they had to go.
So these people were being driven around by an escaped mental patient. Literally. Food for thought for the next time you take a cab.
Another driver was this young latino kid who was a gang member. He had robbed a mall with a machine gun. He was arrested and went to prison, but hid the money. When he finally got out of prison, he invested the money into opening up a flower store. But business wasn't going so well for him, so he ended up driving a cab to make ends meet.
He was playing Tomb Raider at the time. I was playing it too, and I was farther along in the game than he was. There was this one spot he couldn't get past, so one day he said: "You're coming to my house tonight and you're gonna get me past that spot."
I really didn't want to. I figured if I don't get him past that spot, he's gonna get pissed and stab me or something. And if I don't go, that's gonna piss him off, too, and then he's gonna stab me for that. So I went home with him after work at 2 am. He turned on his Playstation. I was sweating bullets, but I got him past that difficult spot in Tomb Raider without too much trouble. Then he said, "Thanks, you can go now."
This other driver was a member of the mob. Or maybe he just pretended he was. He was this little old Italian guy who looked and sounded a lot like Joe Pesci. He had been in prison for check fraud for a couple of years. All the other old time drivers knew him, but I was the new kid. When he got out of prison and started working at the cab service again, he kept staring at me, while we were sitting in the base, waiting for calls. I kept looking back at him, wondering why he was staring at me. It was getting uncomfortable.
Then he said: "Why are you looking at me?"
"Uhmm, I'm not."
"Why not? What? I'm not good enough for you or something? You think you're better than me?" He really did sound a lot like Joe Pesci.
"Uhmm, no. Look, I don't want any trouble. I'm just trying to make some money."
But he didn't let it go. He just kept making these confrontational comments. He really was trying to start shit with me for no damn reason. It was getting kinda scary. He was about a foot shorter than me. I'm sure I could have taken him in a fight if I had to. But who knows if this nutjob has a gun or something?
Finally Jim, the dispatcher, told Joe Pesci to back off: "Leave Oliver alone. He's a good kid."
Joe Pesci backed off immediately: "Aww, come on, I was only kidding." He gave me a big grin and slapped me on the back. Fucking douchebag. We ended up getting along pretty well though.We drivers were one big crazy family of misfits.
Jim the dispatcher liked me a lot, because he thought it was cool that I was a cartoonist, and because I ran personal errands for him inbetween my calls. Jim weighed about 350 pounds and had no teeth. Well, no, that's not true. Actually he had one front tooth left that was holding on for dear life. Most of the errands involved returning a couple of pornos each night, that he had rented from the video store the previous night. He rented a LOT of porn.
In return, he always tried to help me out by giving me the best calls of the night, even when it was really someone else's turn to get the next call. Airport calls were usually the best kind, because people who go to the airport tend to give big tips.
Short one-way trips within our neighborhood were only $3.50 back then. Short round-trips were $7. Sometimes people had to make short round-trips to go buy drugs. Jim knew all the local crack houses, so if someone called for a round-trip to one of the known drug hotspots, he charged them $20 instead of $7, because of the risk involved.
I didn't want to get arrested with drugs in my car for lousy $20, so I asked Jim to never send me on any of these drug runs. He promised he wouldn't.
Then, during a particularly slow night, with hardly any calls at all, Jim sent me on a round-trip with this girl. She kept sniffling a lot while she was sitting in the car next to me. We drove to some really shitty part of town. She ran into some wretched house, came back out two minutes later, and handed me $20 when I dropped her off at her home. She was obviously a coke addict and we had just been on a drug run.
When I got back to the base, I was mad at Jim and asked him why he sent me on that call, when I had specifically told him to never send me on a drug run. He said he felt bad that I wasn't making any money because it was such a slow night, so he figured he'd throw me a bone. He said he was just looking out for me. I told him I appreciated that he had the best intentions, but that I really really did not want to do these kinds of runs. After all, I was driving my own car, without a taxi license. So if the cops pulled me over with drugs in the car, I wouldn't be treated as a cab driver who had nothing to do with it, but as an accomplice in a crime.
A few weeks later it was another very slow night. Jim sent me to pick up some guy who lived near the base. We drove to some shitty part of town, and he ran in, ran out, and handed me $20 when we got back. It was another drug run! Motherfucking Jim!
When I got back to the base, I told Jim again that I didn't want these types of calls. He grinned his toothless grin and said: "Stop complaining. You just made some easy money, and nothing happened."
I went on another call and when I was about to head back to the base, Jim called me on the radio and told me not to come back just yet. I asked him why not. He said because my previous passenger, the guy who had gone on a drug run, had lost his drugs in my car, and was freaking out.
He was at the base, screaming that I had stolen his drugs. Jim tried to calm him down and told him that I didn't do any drugs and I didn't have his stuff, but the crazy guy kept screaming and freaking out.
Finally he left and I went back to the base. I was sitting in the back room, where we drivers sat and waited for the next call. People who walked up to the dispatcher's booth window could not see into the back room.
Suddenly the crazy drug guy came back into the base and started screaming at Jim through the window of his booth. He yelled that he knew I was there, because he saw my car parked out front. Jim told him that I had gone home for the night, and that I left my car parked in front of the base because I lived right around the corner. The guy wouldn't stop. He was going nuts. He was really fiending for his fix.
After screaming at Jim for about 10 minutes, he walked outside, to my car. He unzipped his pants, pulled out his dick, and peed all over the hood of my car. What the fuck?! I guess that was his revenge for me "stealing" his drugs.
That night I had a few more calls after that little incident. Then I went home and parked the car. The next morning I was going to go to the grocery store. I got into my car, looked in the back, and there were the drugs, lying right there on my backseat, in plain sight! I couldn't believe that the passengers I picked up after the crazy drug guy didn't say anything or take it.
So now I had a handful of white stuff wrapped in cellophane. I tried to figure out what to do with it. It looked like a lot. He had probably spent his whole paycheck on that stuff. I was so clueless about drugs, I didn't even know if that was cocaine, crack or heroin.
What to do, what to dooo? I was thinking about trying some of it. Just to see what it's like. But I was scared, so I didn't. Then I thought about selling it. I sure could have used the money. You don't make a lot of money driving a cab. After you pay for the gas and the base fee to rent the two-way radio, and pay the base their share of the night's earnings, you basically walk away with nothing, if it wasn't for the tips.
I had seen a news segment about racism. The news crew wanted to show that New York cab drivers were racist, because they would rather pick up a white person than a black one. The news crew had hired a black professor, and a white convict. The black professor tried to hail a cab, but virtually all of the yellow cabs passed him to pick up the white convict a few feet up the road.
But now that I was a cab driver myself, I knew the truth: It had nothing to do with them being black or white. They could have been yellow and purple. The simple truth was that white people usually tipped the driver, and black people usually didn't. And if you depend on tips for your survival, of course you're going to try to pick up as many tippers as possible.
Most of the other drivers drove twelve hours shifts, from 6 at night until 6 in the morning. And then they slept all day. But since I drew cartoons in the day time, and I had to get some sleep at some point, I only worked until 2 am. Those missing four hours made a big difference, because I still had to pay the same expensive rental fee for the two-way radio as everyone else. Some nights I came home with $20 or less. Things were so bad that I actually had to resort to eating dog food one day. That was probably the lowest point of my life.
Donna's dad owned the house we lived in, and he gave us a break on the rent, because he knew we didn't have any money. But even the little bit of rent that we did have to pay was hard to come by. And then there were the bills. After everything was paid, there usually was almost no money left for food. And when I applied for my green card, Donna and I had to waive our rights to getting any kind of public assistance for the next few years. So we couldn't even apply for food stamps.
I couldn't ask my parents for help, because they thought I was the black sheep of the family and I was nuts for moving to New York. I didn't even talk to my parents at all for the first two or three years after moving to the States. Donna was worried that if I talked to them, they would try to talk me out of being with her and convince me to move back to Germany, so she didn't want me to talk to them at all. And we didn't want to ask Donna's parents for any more help, because they were already helping us out by charging very little rent, and they thought I was some sort of nutjob for trying to make a living drawing silly little pictures.
Donna and I usually didn't eat anything during the day, and when I got off work at 2 am, I stopped by a 24-hour grocery store on my way home. I picked up two cans of Dinty Moore beef stew and that was all we ate. Occasionally Donna's mom gave her $20 to babysit her senile grandmother for a few hours. Those days were like Christmas, because we used that money to buy a family bucket of fried chicken and french fries. On those days we feasted like kings!
Whenever I came home with almost no money after work, we tried to find quarters between the couch cushions or in the change jar her parents had in their apartment above ours. If we were lucky, we could find enough quarters to buy two cans of stew. We didn't want her parents to know how bad things really were, because we were ashamed and embarrassed. And we didn't want to hear them lecture us.
One night there were no quarters left between the couch cushions or in the kitchen drawer. And Donna had already taken the last few quarters her parents had lying around upstairs a few days earlier. So we literally had no money. Zero. But we were starving. This situation would be unthinkable in Germany, because they have a much better social safety net over there. Nobody ever goes hungry.
I looked through the kitchen cabinets to find anything edible. I didn't care if it was stale Doritos, or dried up old bread. I just needed something to eat. Anything. There was nothing. And then I found a few cans of dog food in the bottom cabinet. I grabbed one of the cans and stared at the picture on the label. I was so hungry, the picture of dog slop started to look a lot like beef stew. And the dog in the picture looked pretty happy with it. I figured, hey, meat is meat, so how much worse than Dinty Moore beef stew could this can of dog food possibly be? Turns out it can be a lot worse. A lot.
When I told Donna I was going to eat the can of dog food, she started to laugh, because she thought I was kidding. Then, when I pulled a can opener out of the drawer, she laughed even harder because she knew I was serious. She just kept staring at me, from across the kitchen, hysterically laughing, while I opened the can and let the gooey slop slowly slide out of the can onto a plate. The chunks of meat really did look like stew. Kind of.
I held each chunk under the faucet to wash off the gelatinous goo. Then I put a bunch of those chunks onto a cookie tray and put them in the oven, as if they were chicken nuggets. After I heated them up, I pulled out the tray and looked at my meal. It really didn't look all that bad. I put one of them in my mouth. The first thought that went through my head was: I made a terrible mistake.
Apparently dog food meat is really just some ground up dead animal, bones and intestines and all. When you chew one of those chunks of pressed, processed meat, the ground up bones in it feel like sand between your teeth. It's disgusting. I couldn't even swallow that one chunk in my mouth and spit it out. We went to bed hungry that night. The next day, Donna went upstairs into her parents' apartment and ate a can of Ravioli while they weren't home. I was too proud to go upstairs and beg for food or steal cans out of their cabinets. She brought down a can of Ravioli for me. I was so hungry at that point, I didn't care about my pride or my principles anymore and ate the Ravioli.
Anyway, let's get back to the bag of drugs I found on my backseat. I was thinking about selling it, because we could have really really used that money. But I was too scared, and I just ended up flushing it down the toilet. The thought of returning it to the guy who pissed all over my car never even occurred to me.
One of the regular customers who called the taxi service I worked for had Tourette syndrome. I picked him up a few times. He was a nice, quiet guy. He was into martial arts and said he wanted to move to Hollywood and become a martial arts trainer for actors or a fight scene choreographer for action movies. I honestly didn't see that happening, because of his condition. He would quietly talk about something and suddenly FUCK! SHIT! FUCK! FUUUCK! he would blurt out all kinds of obscenities out of nowhere. And his arm would begin to twitch FUCK! COCKSUCKING FAGGOT! FUCK! and he'd hit the inside of the car door as hard as he could while shouting things that would even make a hooker blush.
And then there was this guy who lived right around the corner from the base. I don't remember his name, but let's call him Tony. Tony suspected that his wife (or girlfriend?) was cheating on him. He stormed into the base and demanded to get a ride so he could look for her. It was a slow night, and Jim the dispatcher wanted to help me out, so he gave me the call even though it wasn't my turn.
Tony told me to slowly drive up this block and down that block. We must have been driving around for about an hour. He didn't see his girl anywhere. So finally he told me to take him back home. When we got there, he was just going to get out of the car, without paying me or even tipping me. Yes, he was black.
"Hey, wait a minute," I said. "You have to at least pay me the $7 for a round-trip."
"For what? I didn't go anywhere. You dropped me off right where you picked me up. I never even got out of the car."
"Are you kidding me? I just drove you around for like an hour, dude!"
He didn't give a shit. He was just gonna get out of the car without paying and go inside his house. I was sooo pissed. How could this asshole do this to me?
I grabbed a crowbar and got out of the car, too. I shouted: "Look, you gotta pay me $7. And really you owe me a lot more for all that driving around, because that wasn't just a regular short round-trip. But at least pay me the $7."
He wouldn't. I walked up to him, and got in his face, until the tip of my nose was only about two or three inches away from the tip of his nose. We screamed at each other. Neither one of us was willing to back down or give in. I was about to bash this guy's head in with a crowbar for lousy $7. Crazy!
One of the reasons I usually don't get into these kinds of situations is because I always anticipate what is going to happen next. And what will happen after that and then after that, like a chess player plotting his next five moves.
When people get into a fight, whatever the reason is, it may seem important at that moment, but in the grand scheme of things, it is utterly meaningless. Nobody will remember or care about the reason for the fight in a week or a month or a year from now, because it's really not that important at all. Usually fights happen because two chest-thumping, knuckle-dragging idiots can't agree on who has the bigger dick. But if you go to jail for battery with a deadly weapon, or you suffer a permanent injury during that fight, those consequences will be with you for the rest of your life.
Was I really ready to go to jail for bashing this guy's head in over stupid $7? No, of course not. I'm smarter than that. But here I was, nose tip to nose tip with this guy, with no way out, without looking like a total pussy. Luckily that guy wasn't a complete retard either, and the same thoughts were going through his head, and we were both looking for a way to end the stand off without looking like wimps.
He screamed at me: "Look, I'm gonna go in the house now. I'll call you back later, for a round-trip to McDonald's. And then I'm gonna pay you for that round trip, and for this one. Deal?"
"Alright then!" I screamed back at him, like I got my way. But really I was just glad that this gave me an excuse to stand down and walk away without getting hurt or going to jail. I walked back in the base and figured I was never going to hear from that guy again.
But a few hours later Tony really did come back into the base and specifically asked for me to give him a ride to McDonald's on the other side of the neighborhood. I was pretty tense in the car on the way there, because I felt really stupid driving this guy around again, when he was probably just going to try to stiff me again.
We didn't talk at all at first, until he said in a conciliatory tone: "You remind me of me when I was younger."
"Uhh, thanks," I said. I didn't really know how to respond to that.
When we got to McDonald's, he got out of the car and went inside. I waited for him while clutching my crowbar. If that motherfucker was going to play games again, I was gonna bash his damn head in! No, I wasn't. Deep down I knew I would just leave and chalk it up as a learning experience.
But Tony did come back out after a few minutes. I drove him back to his house, and he really did pay me for both round-trips. Still no tip though. But I was glad I got paid and left it at that.
A few hours later it was the middle of the night and it was slow again. I was sitting in the room in the back of the base. Suddenly Tony came in and asked to speak to me. Since Tony was a regular customer and Jim had known him for a long time, Jim opened the door and let Tony into the back. Tony sat down on a chair next to me, and pulled out a piece of paper. It was a love poem he had written for me! WTF?! Seriously. What. The. Fuck?!?
A few hours earlier I was ready to bash this guy's head in. And now I had this 40-year-old black man reading me a love poem about how he was like me when he was younger and we met for a reason and so on and so forth. Bizarre. He was gonna hang out at the base with me, but I told him it was time for me to go home. After that I told Jim never to give me a call with that guy again.
Another weird guy I still remember was this huge white guy with a big booming voice and a thick Brooklyn accent, who never went anywhere without his large German shepherd. This guy was pretty intimidating. He was the size of a refrigerator. I had to pick him and his dog up from bars a few times. He was always drunk or high when he got in my car, and he was very talkative.
I hate being around drunk people, because of what happened with my dad, so I was really uncomfortable with this guy in my car, even though he was always very nice. But I always felt that drunk people are totally unpredictable, and at any moment this guy could turn on me and try to pick a fight with me for no reason. And considering his size and the size of his dog, that fight would not have ended well for me.
He loved talking about drugs. He told me that LSD is a miracle drug and that I have not lived until I have had a vision on LSD. He said it enlightens the mind and broadens your horizon. I just nodded politely and agreed with whatever he was saying.
He always joked about my shitty old red car and the intense smell of exhaust fumes in it. He knew that even during the winter, I had to drive around with the windows rolled down, if I didn't want to end up with carbon monoxide poisoning. And he was ok with it, even though he was freezing in my car. He was just happy that I didn't mind having his dog in my car.
One night, when he got out of the car, the leg of his pants got caught on the jagged edge of some rusted metal right by the door frame. It ripped his pants from his ankle all the way to above his knee. Luckily he wasn't bleeding. I thought he was definitely going to lose his temper about it and fight me. But he just laughed and said: "Buddy, you need a new car."
There was this famous actress in the 60s or 70s. Her name was Karen Black. She was in a bunch of horror and disaster movies. When I was a kid, I watched some of those old movies with her, and for some reason I couldn't stand her from the first time I saw her. I'm sure she was a lovely lady, but there was just something about her face that I couldn't stand.
And she looked annoying enough even when she wasn't doing anything. But when she cried in the movie (and she always did, hysterical bitch) I just wanted to punch her in her stupid face all day long. I couldn't even concentrate on the damn movie, because she was that annoying to look at.
I never felt this annoyed about a complete stranger again, until I moved to the States and started to drive a cab. Every once in a while I had to pick up this woman who was so unbelievably obnoxious, it made my skin crawl. Literally. She gave me goose bumps. She was a skinny white girl, and ugly as fuck, with warts all over her face, and a hook nose. She had these stupid ghetto cornrows in her hair. It just looked so retarded.
And she had these 3 mixed kids. They were from 3 different black guys. And she constantly, constantly screamed at these kids at the top of her lungs, threatening them with beatings and cursing them out: "What the fuck did I just tell you, you stupid motherfucker? If you fucking piece of shit don't shut the fuck up I WILL BEAT THE SHIT OUT OF YOU!"
That's the kind of stuff she screamed at her little kids nonstop. And they were so used to it, they weren't intimidated by it at all. Having her and her kids in the cab was so stressful, it just made my skin crawl. I think if that woman had lived a few hundred years ago, she would have been burned at the stake as a witch, because she just had this horrible, evil, negative vibe about her that made you want to run away from her.
This whole ghetto cab service I worked for was totally illegal and all the drivers were unlicensed. We always had to be careful not to get caught driving around as illegal taxis, because the New York Taxi and Limousine Commission had cops that were hunting people like us.
Whenever possible, we asked our passengers to sit on the front passenger seat instead of the backseat, because when people pick up a friend, the friend usually gets in the front. When someone gets in the back, that's usually a sign that the driver is a cabbie. And undercover TLC cops were staking out malls and supermarkets and looking for people getting into the back of cars that looked like they were illegal cabs.
One day I left the base to go pick up some lady at a nearby supermarket. She got in the back with a bunch of grocery bags. Suddenly an uncover cop car pulled up right in front of me, blocking my way. They had followed me from the base, but I didn't know that at the time.
Two TLC cops, wearing bulletproof vests under their plain clothes, jumped out of the car and pointed their guns at me and yelled: "GET OUT OF THE CAR! GET OUT OF THE CAR!!!"
The woman on the backseat and I were shocked. We got out of the car, and the cops asked the woman a couple of questions about me, wrote up my license, and then impounded my car on the spot.
Now the lady and I stood in front of the supermarket without a car, and I had to try to explain to her what just happened. It was so embarrassing. Then she called another cab and one of my buddies came to pick us up.
Without my Flintstone mobile I couldn't work for that car service anymore, so I applied at a different taxi company. They were a little bit more legit. They actually had a fleet of their own cars. They were old, crappy retired police cruisers. The first night I started working there, the dispatcher put me in the oldest, shittiest car that none of the other drivers wanted.
This was a bigger company, with more long distance trips. The dispatcher sent me to a neighborhood on the other end of Brooklyn that I had never been to. I had to take the highway to get there. As the highway was bending into a curve, my driver side door suddenly swung wide open. The lock was broken, and whenever the car was leaning into a curve, the door just opened up all the way. I felt like I was gonna fall out onto the highway. I had two or three more calls that night, until the car broke down, and I spent the rest of my shift waiting for a tow truck.
Canarsie, the Brooklyn neighborhood Donna and I lived in, had been all Italian and Jewish before I moved there. But right around the time that I moved there, the neighborhood began to change. More and more black people from Haiti and Jamaica moved in, and over the course of just a few years, the whole neighborhood had turned from almost all white to almost all black. We were the only white people left on our block.
I'm not racist. After World War 2, the German school system was set up to never allow another Holocaust to happen. German children are being taught to be tolerant of all people and to never judge a person by the color of their skin or their religion.
But of course there are some right-wing extremist racists in Germany, just like anywhere else. Like those skinheads that started using computers to spread their message of hate online for example. Even one of the members in my hacking crew had been a skinhead. At first I thought it was just a poor fashion choice, but later I found out he really was a hardcore racist. He ended up in prison for arson. He had set fire to an immigrant shelter full of Turkish families seeking asylum in Germany. Psycho.
Anyway, when you live in Europe and watch American movies or sitcoms, you get the impression that racial tensions in America are a thing of the past. So when I moved to Brooklyn, and all the white people seemed to hate blacks, and all the black people seemed to hate whites, it caught me by surprise. This was not the tolerant melting pot America I had seen in movies.
At first I thought the white people I met in Brooklyn were just a bunch of racist halfwits, when they talked about how much they hated niggers. But then I even heard some black people complain about niggers.
Have you ever seen Chris Rock's stand-up routine about the difference between black people and niggers? It's so true. Most black people are nice, decent folks, but the ones who act like trash make all the other black people in their neighborhood look bad.
But niggers really come in every color. The only thing I hate more than black kids acting like thugs and niggers, are white kids acting like thugs and niggers. Is there anything more pathetic and ridiculous than some white kid from the suburbs trying to act like he's a gangsta from the hood? Pull your pants up, dipshit. You're embarrassing yourself.
Although most of the black families from Haiti and Jamaica who moved to Canarsie were nice, hard-working people, there were also a bunch of thugs and niggers who turned the neighborhood to trash.
There was this little convenience store right down the block from where Donna and I lived. I went there all the time, to get a bottle of Pepsi or a loaf of Wonderbread. One day I was just about to walk into the store, when I heard a popping sound behind me.
I turned around and saw a minivan drive by. At first I could only see the right side of the van, but as it was slowly rolling further down the road, I could now see the back of the minivan, and a foot sticking out of the left side of the vehicle. Suddenly the whole body was being shoved out of the door and fell into the street. Then the minivan sped off. The popping sound I heard right behind me a few seconds earlier was a gun shot. This guy had been shot and killed in the minivan, just as it was passing me.
There was a phone booth right outside the store, so I called 911 and reported that I had just seen a person being shot and that his dead body had been thrown out into the street just a few feet away from me. The 911 operator told me a cruiser was on the way to my location and asked if I was willing to testify. I said no. I didn't want to end up getting shot just because I was at the wrong place at the wrong time.
But this was now the new reality of our neighborhood. The crime rate had gone up dramatically. Local stores and banks were getting robbed on a daily basis, and suddenly there was graffiti and broken glass on the sidewalk everywhere. Canarsie was turning from a quiet suburban neighborhood into the hood.
I picked up some guy who had to get a ride to the projects nearby. When we got there, we saw two guys running across the parking lot right in front of the car. The second guy had a gun and was shooting at the first guy, while chasing him. My passenger was afraid to get out of the car and asked me to take him back home.
It was getting scary to drive a cab in New York at night. You never knew what was gonna happen. Then a cabbie murderer made the headline news. This guy kept robbing cabbies for the few bucks that they had in their pockets and then shot them, to leave no witnesses. I was not going to get myself killed for minimum wage, so I decided to quit my little adventure as NY cab driver and look for a safer job.