It’s hard to imagine how brother Kim is fighting for his life,
and the assailant has been released on $10,000 bail.
- Bhairavi Desai, New York Taxi Workers Alliance
Actually, it’s pretty easy to imagine. In America, life is cheap, guns are cherished, violence is a way of life, and in a nation of immigrants, the white man’s burden does not extend to people of pigment, recently arrived from foreign shores. Likewise, taxi cab drivers are widely viewed by nativist New Yorkers of all races, religions and creeds as Chinks, Towel-Heads, Sand Niggers, low-life rip-off artists…
Nor do such ugly attitudes fail to impact the lives of those beige souls, born upon these shores, who endeavor to scratch out a living, serve the public, and get home to see their families.
Back in the mid-1980s, working on my second extended stint as a yellow cabbie, sharing the weekly lease with a day man who lived in the Village, I had the misfortune to endure a savage beat-down because of legal strictures, born of insurance regulations, the observance of which continues to threaten the sanity and safety of cab drivers who find themselves confronted by hostile passengers who presume we are simply being dickish.
Late one night down on Church Ave (that is to say, Sixth Avenue below Canal), I had come to a stop at a red light, with my doors unlocked, as we are mandated to do by TLC regulators (who have never gazed face to face at the business end of a gun). Well, a sextet of male and female Jersey Guernseys, bridge and tunnel types of mixed Irish and Italian heritage—including one rather large African-American brother with a neck which suggested something akin to a Doric Column, let alone the prodigious dimensions of a Mike Tyson—came whooping into my cab, giddy with drink, two in the front seat and four in the back.
At which point—stop me if you’ve heard this one before—I was compelled to inform them that I could only legally accommodate four passengers. Here we go. “Oh, you can take us if you want to.”
“And why wouldn’t I want to? The problem is you see that rate card? Well, God forbid, if we were to get into an accident, and you were somehow injured, because there were more than four passengers in the cab, you would have no liability coverage.”
Further cajoling, with promises of massive tips and thinly veiled suggestions as to my sexual orientation followed, and when I finally—CONCLUSIVELY—explained for the umpteenth time that it was illegal, with much gnashing of teeth and the ceremonial rejoinder of “Fuck you, you fat cocksucker” they exited my cab—pointedly leaving all of the passenger doors open as a final expression of disdain for my arbitrary douche-baggery.
[Sigh.] And so, out I went wearily into the night to shutter my doors, first on the driver’s side, then on the passenger’s side. Turning on my heels after having closed the right rear side door, hovering head and shoulders above me, sucking menacingly on his teeth, stands Mike Tyson Junior—clearly seeking to intimidate me. I looked balefully at him, said nothing, and moved to walk around him, but clearly he wanted to precipitate some sort of psychic smack-down, and he blocked my path. At this point, an older black driver in a cab pulled up next to us and in deadly earnest told me, “Young man, walk away, get back into your cab, and drive off.”
Solid advice, but by now it was too late. Mike Tyson Junior was right in my grille, to the point where I could feel his breath on my cheek. My options were limited.
If the NRA was advising me, they would invoke the STAND YOUR GROUND LAW and consul me to pull my piece and plug this street meat; while implicit in TLC regulations, is the notion that as a law abiding cabbie I should simply accept my beat-down in the spirit in which it was offered. While I was contemplating my options, Tyson Junior laid his hands on me in a manner clearly intended to punk me. Again, I did not respond in kind, but told him not to put his hands on me, at which point he shoved me, hard; I shoved him back, and he proceeded to pop me with a hellacious haymaker to the nose.
I saw birdies and found myself grappling pathetically with this shtarker. The most telling blow I landed was when this bully-boy broke his hand on my head. By now I was down on the ground and in walking away, as he grasped his hand in anguish, he kicked me viciously in the shoulder, as one of his Guido Homies snarled derisively: “He got what he deserved.”
I have always been grateful to Tyson Junior for choosing to merely kick me in the shoulder. It hurt for six months thereafter, but I counted myself lucky; if he had gone so far as to kick me in the face, I suspect that spitting blood and teeth, I might’ve dragged my ass up off of the pavement, gotten back in my cab in a primal rage, done a 180o, and run him over with my car, a moronic response worthy of my senseless beat-down, in which case, my life would’ve for all intents and purposes been over—save for becoming some other bully’s Maytag serving hard time for manslaughter.
Likewise, I was always grateful—despite what some drivers have suggested, without a hint of irony—that I was not packing a piece. Or as Harry Carey’s Marshall, Wistful McClintock, intoned at the conclusion of THE ANGEL AND THE BADMAN (watching John Wayne’s reformed Quirt Evans character ride off to take up the peaceful life of a farmer with his anti-violence Quaker wife-to-be): “Only a man who carries a gun ever needs one.”
Am I preaching against self-defense? Of course not, but what good would a gun do: If cabbies were packing, would not the temptation to answer stupidity with violence (or violence with stupidity) simply prove overwhelming?
Actually, I am not suggesting a damn thing; I am simply reacting pitifully to YELLOW CAB NYC: With Beaten Cabbie Still In Coma, Advocates Call For Laws to Protect Cabbies. Key Chun Kim, an émigré from Korea, with fifteen years experience as a cab driver, had the gumption to confront a fare-beater, and was beaten half-to-death for his trouble. What’s a driver to do? Well, as forum poster Common Sence suggested, quite rationally: “This is not to take blame away from the assailant, but, I learned a long time ago to never confront a fare beater. It’s best to just let it go. That’s the best way to stay out of trouble and stay safe.”
Because the notion that those sensitive souls at the Taxi & Limousine Commission or the politicians in the City Council or State Legislature are going to advance any sort of meaningful regulations to protect cab drivers, is wishful thinking at best, considering the anti-immigrant/anti-cabbie dog whistles emanating from editorial boards and the office of his highness the Emperor Bloomberg, hollow be his game…all men.
The bottom line is that cab drivers need to remain wary and vigilant, while at the same time not tossing out the baby with the bathwater.
Heads they win, tails you lose. There is such a fine line we are forced to walk every time we go out, between self-preservation, and the onerous burden which the TLC places on drivers, which militates against self-preservation, and mandates that in any and all confrontations, the cab driver is presumed guilty until proven innocent. And fat chance of that at a TL C Hearing before some Star Chamber political hacker, looking on the whole to chastise drivers, and take in revenues for this sea lamprey city agency.
The bottom line is that in lieu of experience—and this Korean brother had 15 years experience—in lieu of learning to read the streets and exercising due diligence, drivers simply have to do whatever they have to in order to protect themselves—TLC regulations be damned.
Carrying a gun? Ridiculous. Carrying a hammer as another poster suggested? I don’t know; I suppose if that makes him feel more secure on the night side, whatever, but do you think the TLC would sympathize if you were called before the tribunal and invoked self-defense?
Use some discretion, and some uncommon sense. Someone beats you for a fare, are you going to risk your life for a lousy twenty bucks? Better to feel like home-made shit, than to be laid out unconscious tethered to this mortal coil on a respirator.
There are no hard and fast rules, and while I am very down on those cabbies who drive around with their doors locked and their off-duty signs illuminated as a pretext to pick and choose from fares, still, if you are feeling unsafe or unsure, well, go-ahead, lock your damn doors. If you get an authentically creepy vibe from someone, if you ain’t sure, if your gut says THIS IS A WRONG DUDE, better to step on the gas and drive away. Better to hire a lawyer to represent you and roll the dice on a TLC Hearing, than to have Bloomberg consoling your widow at a graveside ceremony.
Likewise, if a drunken, congenitally white plutocrat gets in your cab, high on his own bad Morgan Stanley-self, and pronounces his desire to, oh-BOY-oh-BOY, is this ever my lucky day, take a cab ride to Connecticut…after you’ve agreed on a flat rate, do make sure to preclude any subsequent misunderstandings by Getting Paid UP FRONT; if he bristles at your impudence, invite him to try another cab and wish him a pleasant evening. Far better to toss this fish back, then to have him wake up in his driveway and decide that I ain’t going to pay you no $204, here’s $50, like it or lump it, you Muslim jackal, and—hiccup—I’m a gonna slash your palm with a pen knife for good measure. Help…police!
Really, the sad reality is that, in lieu of any legislation, or video cameras—let alone those crappy, useless partitions—we are ON OUR OWN. Arrested on felony and misdemeanor charges, 28-year-old Andrew McElroy lays a near fatal beat-down on poor Mister Kim, who remains close to death in a coma weeks later, and yet the judge lets him walk on a $10,000 bond? Are you kidding me? Does that give y’all some idea as to the no regard-low regard with which hard working émigrés to these shores are adjudged by the NYC Judicial System, let alone our dilettante Mayor and his TLC flunkies? Go back where you came from.
Have mercy. Pray for Brother Key Chun Kim, but arm yourself not with guns and hammers…rather with mother wit, cool discretion and common sense. Better to get beat for a fare than to get savagely beaten. As hard as it is to make a buck in this funky-butt occupation of ours, and as demeaning, as galling, as pathetic as it makes one feel—SOMETHING LESS THAN A MAN–to have well-heeled punks and low-class deadbeats take off without paying, nevertheless, try to remember that it’s only money—IT’S ONLY MONEY.
Move on, my brothers. There will be a new dawn tomorrow.