My mother was the oldest of 12 children in a family of five sisters and seven brothers. Uncle Stanton is my mother’s youngest brother, number 11 of the 12 siblings.
One of the many things I like about Uncle Stanton is the how he deals with other people when they haven’t exactly performed their job up to par. I thought of Uncle Stanton on the cab ride home from JFK last night.
It was 4:30 a.m. “my” time by the time I weaved my way through a long line of JFK arrivals and got a cab. I’m of the generation who actually likes to say a few words to the cab driver, especially when I arrive “home” after being outside of the country for awhile.
“How are you doin’?” I asked.
“Excuse me?” he replied finally.
The tarmac was wet when the 767 Dreamliner touched down last night after the nine hour flight from Warsaw, and it was still drizzling as the taxi pulled out onto the Van Wyck Expressway. It was dark and there was construction traffic. As we limped along toward Laguardia Airport, despite my extreme fatigue, I began to notice that something was not quite right with the cabbie. He was not using the windshield wipers. The vehicle was crawling along at 30 mph when others were whizzing by us at 50 mph.
What would Uncle Stanton do? I asked myself.
Uncle Stanton speaks up and gets things corrected. I tend to be more laid back and complacent. I could have closed my eyes and dosed in the cab, but instead I confronted the driver. As I sat watching the meter and calculating the driver’s tip, I could hear Uncle Stanton saying, “Why would I tip him fifteen percent if he is doing a bad job?”
“Is there something wrong with your windshield wipers?” I asked.
His reply was something to the effect that he could see. He did, however, turn them up a notch. The driver’s left turn signal was on throughout the journey along the Grand Central Parkway as he seemingly struggled to stay within the lanes. He wasn’t drunk; perhaps he was just tired.
After what seemed like an eternity, he navigated the exit ramp of the Triborough Bridge. I finally had enough courage to ask more questions.
“Is there something wrong with your vehicle?” I asked as every other car in the borough passed us.
“Are you a new driver?” I continued, in a respectful manner.
“No, the roads are wet, and I’m driving slowly.”
No kidding, but there is such a thing as driving too slowly on a highway and thus creating a hazard.
As we headed down the East Side Drive at a painful pace, he started volunteering more concerns about the wet pavement. I thought: Maybe he just had terrible eyesight. Maybe he is desperately poor and strongly in need of this job that I am questioning his ability to perform.
At East 97th Street, he failed to take the turn that would allow him to cross through Central Park. I kept my mouth shut. As he inched his way across East 96th Street toward Fifth Avenue, he’d just stop in the middle of the block when the taillights in front of him were 3/4 of the way further along the block. I muttered under my breath.
He really did not seem to notice how badly he was driving. “Why are you stopped?” I asked, my voice rising in annoyance. ”You need to pull up to the cars in front of you.” He pointed the nose of the engine and gunned the accelerator.
“I’m going to report you,” I warned.
“For what?” he countered.
“For reckless driving.”
He became angry and started to shout back at me as he crossed the empty crosspark drive at Eighty Sixth Street, I thought: I hope I make it to my sister’s in one piece.
Not only was I not going to tip this guy, I was going to ask for the receipt and report him to the taxi and limosine commission.
“I don’t care,” the driver shouted at me.
“That’s obvious,” I replied.
Eventually we arrived at Riverside Drive and West 78th Street. I told him which door to stop in front of. He continued past it. Finally, at the corner, he stopped.
“I need a receipt,” I said, pulling out three twenties.
I wondered whether he would pull away with my three pieces of luggage. I got out and walked to the rear of the vehicle. My heart was pounding.
“Here is your change,” he said, passing me three singles.
He pulled the three cases out of the trunk. I dragged two up on to the curb, leaving the largest in the street. I retrieved it and a group of guys in t-shirts and shorts passed me as I tried to wheel all three bags to the door of the apartment building.
“Do you need some help?” one asked.
“Yes, thanks,” I replied.
I was home.
I don’t know what Uncle Stanton would have done in my situation. He probably would have discussed the dangers of the driver’s method with him. I didn’t have the patience.
I wasn’t sure I did the right thing in confronting him. I don’t know if I’ll take the time to report him.
What would you have done?