So if you’ve been subjected to me regaling my East Coast stories, you have to had heard about How Billiam and I Almost Died Three Times. I don’t exaggerate when I say three times, in fact, I’ve played down the frequency of our individual series of heart attacks with that number. I also don’t exaggerate when I say we had the worst cab ride in the world. I’m not saying that as a person who’s never traveled before. I’m not saying that as a whiny girl who’s only used to champagne limo service. I say it with all certainty: We had the worst cab ride in the world.
I’m filing a formal complaint against the driver and, although it’s not particularly good writing, I’m going to post it here because writing about the situation twice gives me an ulcer. My first attempt at putting this into a colorfully languaged blog entry is posted after the cut. And now, can you tell me how to get, how to get to Second-y Street?
Warning: This is long because this guy was such an incredible fuck-up.
My name is Mayka Mei. I live in Berkeley, California, and thus cannot appear physically for a hearing. I am applying to give testimony by phone and am writing this affidavit as another source of information for my complaint. I am female and, at the time of the incident, was traveling with my boyfriend, “Billiam.”
At about 8 a.m. on Saturday, August 8, 2009, Billiam and I got in the taxi line at JFK. The weather was nice and sunny. The taxi valet pointed us to the third yellow taxi in line and we walked right over.
As we passed the driver I said hello and he acknowledged us. The driver, Suman Das, is an Indian immigrant with the Medallion license 5P46. The license displayed behind the driver’s seat was 5323035. I thought it was odd that Das did not get out of the car to put our two roll-ons in the car, but I didn’t think this was a big deal and didn’t say anything. Billiam and I put our luggage in the trunk and got into the back seat of the taxi.
Billiam verbally gave Das the address and cross streets of the Lower East Side apartment we were staying at. Das asked if the address was in “Manhat-TAN,” and we confirmed, explaining that it was in the Lower East Side. I have grown up surrounded by accents and devoted my entire academic undergraduate career to ethnic minorities in America, so I didn’t think anything of his mispronunciation. Das never removed his white earbuds, but I figured maybe he was on an iPhone. I also didn’t think his seeming lack of knowledge of the existence of the Lower East Side would be any indication of further miscommunication for the remainder of the trip, particularly because he had a GPS console. Das started the meter at $45, appeared to be typing something into his GPS, and we were on our way.
As we were leaving the airport, Billiam and I were discussing with each other how the taxi fare worked. We assumed that $45 might be a flat rate from JFK into Manhattan, but to be sure I asked Das “Is $45 a flat rate into Manhattan?” Das did not answer me. I repeated myself with no answer. Finally, I raised my voice again and asked, “Sir? Excuse me?” Das made a motion to look at the back seat but said nothing. I gave up on asking about the fare.
While we were on the freeway, Das started to brake and abruptly pulled over into the median of an entrance. Incoming traffic was flowing on our right and generally there weren’t a lot of cars on the freeway. We saw no cause for Das to pull the cab over. He turned his head to look at me, I looked back at him saying nothing because I was shocked, and instead of addressing me, Das turned to Billiam and said, “Did she say something?”
Billiam answered him “Yeah, is that $45 a flat rate into Manhattan?” Das affirmed “Yes, flat rate,” and then turned back to his GPS. We thought he had already typed the address into his GPS so we didn’t know what he was trying to figure out now. It was blatantly apparent that he didn’t know what he was doing. He was punching at random buttons and didn’t seem to be coming up with any worthwhile results.
Eventually Das started the car again and merged back into traffic. As we drove along, Das braked randomly while on the freeway and started driving on the painted line separating two lanes. I turned to Billiam and asked, “Is it just me or is he driving in the middle of two lanes?” Billiam shrugged and we continued to grow skeptical of Das’ abilities.
Das continued to brake randomly and was honked at numerous times by other drivers when he suddenly exited the freeway (all of his decisions to turn or merge were last minute) and entered what seemed to be a commercial or industrial street. He drove us around the back edge of a concrete parking structure, winding around its dumpsters. I am truly embarrassed to say it, but I honestly started to wonder if he was going to rob us.
Das eventually re-entered a freeway. He was mumbling something. It didn’t appear that he was talking to anyone on any phone, either. His earbuds must have been attached to an MP3 player, even though this entire time there was a television playing in the back seat plus hip-hop playing on the radio. At this point, Billiam pulled up driving directions on his iPhone and we started comparing the car’s position to the suggested Google Maps route. Billiam and I saw that the car’s position was not connected in any way to what the iPhone directions returned. Billiam asked Das, “Do you know where you’re going?” Das turned his head toward us but did not answer. He continued to drive.
In a freeway with two lanes traveling in the same direction, Das again started to drive on the painted lines. I raised my voice to say, “You know, you’re driving in the middle of two lanes.” Das eventually moved over, braking as he did so, and was honked at because he came close to cutting off another car.
Das continued to brake randomly, drive on the painted lines, drive a route entirely opposite of what was on the iPhone, and ignore our shouts that he was doing so. Finally at one point we yelled at him to exit the freeway and told him to pull over to the right. He tried to go to the left. We shouted louder “Right, right, other way,” and eventually we left the freeway.
As Das drove us over an overpass, I tried to calm down and tell him, “Look, do you want us to give you directions? Because we have them right here.” He ignored me. Billiam asked him, “Do you know where you’re going? We’re not at all following my directions.”
Finally I told Das, “Can you just pull over and we’ll give you the directions? We can start fresh.” Das said nothing but pulled over so that we were driving in a single lane that paralleled the freeway below. Instead of completely pulling over to an area where we could stop, he stopped the taxi at the tip of a corner, thus blocking any cars behind us from making any right turns. “You can’t park here, you need to pull ahead in the street. You don’t have to rush. Just find a spot where we can stop and we’ll come up with new directions for you.”
Das ignored me again, but after a couple of minutes he drove straight into a residential street. “I was waiting for people to cross,” he said. There was not a soul walking on the sidewalk of the corner we were just at.
Billiam and I were both irate and worried at this point, so we calmed down and slowly enunciated directions for Das on how to get back onto the freeway. As we made it back to the freeway, it became apparent that Das simply did not know how to drive or take directions. Aside from the random braking, he would go left when we told him to go right, and vice versa.
When we saw a sign for our exit, we said, “There, there’s the sign,” he started to maneuver the car, weaving it right and left, as if to look for the sign instead of turning his eyes upward. I honestly think he does not know how to read. He ignored our efforts to get him to exit the freeway early and wound up braking and exiting, causing a lot of honking.
We navigated Das the entire way into the Lower East Side, and as he drove on surface streets where there was more congestion, he made turns and abrupt lane switches that made me cover my eyes. The only time I felt safe and comfortable in his car was when we were crossing a bridge, boxed in by slow-moving cars. Billiam told him we needed to get to East Second Street, to which he replied, “Second-y Street?”
We finally got to one of the cross streets of our destination, and Das made a bold right turn in front of three lanes of traffic. When we arrived at our destination at East 2nd Street and Avenue B, Das parked, got out of the car, and stretched. Again, Billiam and I retrieved our own luggage from the trunk. Only now did Das remove his earbuds. The iPhone projected that the trip would take us 25 minutes. Instead it took two hours, with us arriving at the apartment complex around 10 a.m.
I told Das very bluntly that I did not want to pay for the ride. We exchanged words. Billiam and I told him that he didn’t get us to our destination, our iPhone did. I told him he gave me nearly three heart attacks with his awful driving. He told us his GPS got us to the destination, when I highly doubt it was even on and functioning. Billiam told him that maybe we could pay him $20 to cover for gas, but he started telling us how he has to send money back to his family in India. He had the nerve to say he’s been driving a taxi for two years, which is complete rubbish based on the experience we had.
Finally Billiam paid him $45 in cash. I asked him if there was a phone number I could call to put in a complaint. He told me there was none. I asked him if he had the number to his taxi company. He gave me a number from a clipboard. (After I spoke with the customer service agent at Creative Mobile Technologies, I called 311.) I asked him what his license number was. He said he didn’t have one. I told him he had to have one. He told me he wasn’t allowed to give that information to me. I told him I already copied down whatever number was on the picture ID posted on his taxi window and he fell quiet.
As Billiam and I headed away from the taxi, I took down the license plate number.
Suman Das was nothing short of sexist and rude. He held complete disregard for other drivers and showed no understanding whatsoever of basic New York driving laws. I doubt he knows anything about how to operate his GPS, how to read street signs, or what places and districts even exist in New York. I feared for my and my boyfriend’s life in that ride, and strongly suggest Das be stripped of his license.
The confirmation number for the complaint I filed with 311 is, I hope, as follows (The email confirmation never reached my inbox.): C1-1-500-145397. My phone complaint was made at 11:39 a.m. on August 8, 2009.
Wherein Billiam and I almost die three times.
With director’s commentary
After my stinky, nauseating red eye, I didn’t feel like taking on the maze that is the NYC Subway. (I’m not from NYC. To me it’s a maze. BART may be limiting, but it is simple.) We had to get to our friend’s flat in the Lower East Side which required one or two transfers, and…No, I just didn’t want to do it. I was all about coughing up the cash and paying for a taxi. I was relieved when Billiam agreed.
So we walk to the taxi line, the taxi valet points us to the third taxi waiting by. We walk by the driver who is seated in the driver’s seat with his headphones in his ears. I say a cheery morning “Hello.” He doesn’t really say anything back. He doesn’t get up out of the car. He does not remove his headphones. I figure, “Whatever, I guess we’ll just load our own luggage into the trunk and not tip him any extra dollars.” IF I ONLY KNEW.
We crawl into the backseat, buckle our seatbelts, and Billiam tells the driver, Suman Das (Yeah, that’s right, I want EVERYONE to know the name of this incompetent being so that they may avoid him.), where we’re headed. Suman Das makes some motions on his dash which I assume to mean he’s typing in the address and flips on the meter. Bam. $45 cab fare comes up on the console. Confirming what Billiam has said, Suman Das says “Man-hat-TAN?” with an inflection I’ve never heard before. “Yeah, Manhattan,” Billiam says. And we’re off.
As we get settled in to being in the backseat in a taxi in a new city, we both start to question what the $45 fare entails. In the past, I had always taken the subway to get to my vacation lodgings, so I didn’t know where that arbitrary $45 came from. I shouted through the open window of the taxi divider, “Sir? What is that $45 fare for? Is it a flat rate into Manhattan?”
He doesn’t answer me. He kind of jerks his head, but hey, apparently you can’t really hear your passengers in the back seat when you’ve still got your earbuds plugged in. So I ask again, “Is that a flat rate into Manhattan? [Nothing.] SIR?”
He ignores me still, so Billiam and I shrug our shoulders and sit back. My attention drifts to the random TV programming playing on the console in front of me.
We had just left the airport and reached a lightly trafficked highway when Suman Das suddenly pulls over to the side of the road. And I mean suddenly. We were on the freeway and he was braking randomly, then he pulled off. One would think that something was wrong with the car, but no, Suman Das just found it necessary to pull off to the side of the freeway and onto the pointy divider separating us from the incoming traffic of another freeway entrance.
Suman Das turns around and looks straight at me. At this point I probably had a look on my face like WTF, so I couldn’t blame him when he turned to Billiam and asked, “Did…Did she ask a question?” Billiam, as perplexed as I was, responds, “Yeah, we were just wondering if that $45 is a flat rate into Manhattan.” Suman Das confirms for us that yes, it is, and then turns his attention back toward his dash. But we’re not ready to go yet. He appears to fumble with the GPS… Reliving all of this makes my blood boil. Guess you’ll just have to read the report for all the other re-fucking-diculous details.