A night in the life of my work commute

nyc map

Google Map.

I jiggled the door handle. Nothing happened.

The cab driver unlocked all the doors of his car by the automatic button to his left. I heard the back passenger door struggle to follow through with the command, the sounds of electronics on their last moments of life on a dying battery. Another jiggle, and nothing.

The window was all the way down. I reached inside to try opening the door that way. Still nothing.

We shared a laugh — his likely more genuine than mine — and I walked around the car and entered the back through the driver’s side.

It was a few minutes shy of 1:40 a.m. and my daily commute to work was about to get underway.

The driver was almost happy to see me. I guess it’s nice to have human contact to make you aware you’re not alone so early in the morning. This was unlike the previous night, when I walked up to the car to find the driver’s head wedged between his seat and the door. Chin up, mouth open, eyes closed. Sound asleep. I gently tapped on the window to warn him that I was about to interrupt his dreams. I casually sat down like nothing had happened.

I get a text every morning saying which car will pick me up. Today, it was car 69. I used to keep a record of every number so I would know what to expect. For example, cars 484 and 83 are my favorite — fast and efficient drivers. Car 276 takes the long route, so expect to be five minutes late. Car 255 is erratic, and I constantly fear I will be involved in a devastating crash. The driver of car 312 is a heavy breather. The driver of car 153 is a talker, so no nap in the backseat.

If I had a record for car 69, it would warn me to wear a gas mask.

I climbed into the car from the driver’s side, but moved along to the passenger-side seat. Force of nature. All four windows were down all the way when I got in the car. It was a bit chilly for a mid-May evening — temperatures in the 50s — but I prefer a cooler ride than dealing with heat.

Plus, despite having all the windows open, the car was overcome with the odor of cheap cologne. Had I asked to close all the windows, I would have suffocated.

I still have a headache.

I put my window all the way up, but the other three were still enough to send a chill throughout the car. The next thing I notice…

Ding ding. Ding ding. Ding ding. Ding ding. Ding ding.

My driver refused to put his seat belt on. “Refused” may be a strong word. Why would I jump to such a conclusion?

Because every two minutes, the same repeated.

Ding ding. Ding ding. Ding ding. Ding ding. Ding ding.

Passive aggressively sitting in the back seat, I let out a heavy sigh each time I heard it. How is it possible for someone not to be irritated by that incessant dinging? Couldn’t you at least buckle the seat belt and then sit on top of it? My mind was racing with solutions.

But then, halfway through my ride to work, it stopped. No more dinging. And it was not spurred by responsible action on the part of my driver.

I guess even carmakers are aware that if someone is too stupid enough to ignore the dinging and not put a seat belt on, attempts to protect them are useless.

I admittedly napped for the rest of the ride, only slightly aware of the progress along the route. The ride to work should take 20 minutes (despite what Google Maps says). But some of these drivers like to make up their own routes. Instead of taking the direct way, they add five to 10 minutes by going the way they think makes sense.

It rarely does.

My eyes opened as we approached the broadcast center. 2:05. This ride took a full 30 minutes. That’s only happened twice — once when my car got stuck behind a drawbridge (those exist in New York), and once when my driver legitimately got lost. Neither of those happened on this go-round.

(Admittedly, other times I show up late is my own doing. You try getting out of bed at 1 a.m. and being work-ready in 30 minutes. Tell me how that works out. I don’t have the routine down like this guy.)

Along the way, I dreamed about how this could make an entertaining blog post, perhaps only in my own mind. But it needed something more, a dramatic ending to cap off the cologne-induced chill that still lingers with me as I type.

Nothing happened. No car accident. No breakdown. No further dings.

I got out, wished my driver a good night, and proceeded into work. Thinking along the way the argument with myself to bike to work is getting increasingly stronger.

Think of the blog posts then — likely from a hospital bed.

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