The infinite city, cont’d: Riding the taxi

From a New York Times editorial in praise of the yellow cab:

Sometimes it occurs to you that if you raised an arm at the curb on most of the streets in America, nothing would happen. […]

[I]t’s almost impossible to resist the seduction of the passenger window, the chance to gaze privately at the city sliding past. There is a certain inertia in taxi-gawking. At first, you merely glance out the window and then turn back to your own concerns. But after a block or two, the window demands all your attention. It is like snorkeling through a crowded coral reef. So many colorful creatures getting on with their living, making their way, such elaborate structures, such curious relationships to observe.

That is the nature of New York City — to realize, now and then, that there is something extraordinary in the very things you take for granted.

The rest of it isn’t much longer, but it’s a lovely read.

We’re more often straphangers than cab-hailers, my family and I, but on the rare occasions when we do use a taxi it seldom fails to be a quintessential New York experience. When we arrived in JFK after our vacation in Idaho, we piled our luggage and ourselves into a cab — and I soon realized that the vehicles clogging our stretch of highway probably carried more people than we ever saw in our entire two weeks away. (We’d visited, for instance, the town of Cottonwood in Idaho County, which according to Wikipedia is roughly the size of New Jersey and yet is home to barely 15,000 people — a population that a few blocks in our Brooklyn neighborhood would swallow whole without noticing.) Our driver announced that he was from Pakistan — that’s the infinite city at work, I thought, casually bringing people from far-flung places together. But in the next breath he called out a greeting to the driver of a passing cab, then turned to us and explained that the fellow was from his home town, living only a few streets away; shaking his head with incredulity, he told us they’d never met until they both wound up driving cabs in New York.

The metropolis, then, is also a village, as cozy and intimate as any Idaho town. Just another one of this city’s commonplace paradoxes.

(Photo via Flickr)


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