Well, miracle might be a strong term. But as a born and raised New Yorker, I often have conflicted feelings when I go home. Both missing the city I knew and being bewildered and feeling distant from the city I encounter now. But over the past few days I've had some great reminders of why I love the city. However, my experience on Xmas morning really sealed the deal and made my year.
Due to cost concerns, my girlfriend Allyson and I had elected to take an 8:30 flight from JFK to Fort Lauderdale to hang out with her folks for a few days. Those in New York, understand that flying out of JFK is only second to Newark when it comes to convenience. Van Wyck, is Dutch, for traffic. Little known fact. So, we had to get a cab at 6:30 on Christmas Morning. Not as easy as it sounds.
We finally get a cab and immediately the driver asked where we were going and whether we had coffee yet and bagels to take to Florida. We sadly said we didn't have time. Then he replied "I got a place, it won't take any more time. Best bagels in the city." What a NY response. So we go to H&H Midtown and he waits in the taxi. Lest you think we're being gouged, it's a flat $45 to JFK from anywhere in Manhattan. I loved when he said, sometimes they fill the coffee up all the way, so take a few sips to make sure you don't spill. And then he asked if we needed more napkins. The grin on my butter covered chin was monstrous.
So he explains he's been driving a cab for 42 years and just retired down to Puerto Rico, but he had "anxiety" and couldn't take it so he came back 3 weeks ago. We were his first fare of the day. I mentioned I used to be a cop, and he said his brother was on the job in the 34 and got 3/4 disability. We talked about the crooks at Port Authority and we talked about how he bought a taxi medallion at 22 for $9,000 that is now worth over $700,000.
It was the best cab ride I've ever had. We just talked and he knew everything. When the cab ride ended, I gave him a 30% tip, because it was Christmas and he deserved it. Wally gave me a hug and cried as he wished me a Merry Christmas. I really hope I can get into his cab again.
Wally, don't retire again. Or retire here. New York needs you so that it can stay the New York that I know and love.
Merry Christmas Everybody.