After midnight on Sunday, I landed at JFK, breezed by baggage claim with my unchecked luggage, and ventured disappointedly to the end of a very long taxicab line. The longest I have ever seen at the 2/3 terminal at JFK. I stood at the end of the line and tried to decide if it would be faster to wait for intermittent, local E trains in the wee hours of morning or inch my way along a cab line of nearly 100 people. Maybe more. No exaggeration.
I was on the brink of hopping on the airport shuttle to try a cab line at an adjacent terminal when I noticed novice JFK commuters turning down the black car service drivers without negotiation. A driver with a heavy accent pointed at a couple in front of me, "Manhattan?"
The couple waved him off and faced forward in the line. The driver turned to me and I asked, "How much to [cross street removed] and Eighth?"
"To Manhattan ... $55," he replied, "Plus tip."
Only in New York City do service providers routinely remind you up front that tipping is appreciated. I raised my eyebrow.
"That is how much you'll pay a cab to Manhattan," he said to my dubious eyebrow, to which I triumphantly responded, "It's $45 flat-rate to Manhattan."
He nodded, "Ok. I take you. $45 flat."
Seeing an opportunity to avoid the long line and further negotiate, I said, "Me and two other people to Manhattan. $30 each. Flat."
As soon as he nodded, a girl, who I later learned lived in the East Village, and a man, going to a hotel in Midtown, each jumped out of line and raised an arm.
"Where you go?" he said to both of them as we tossed our bags in the trunk.
Riding across the Williamsburg Bridge behind an unlicensed driver of New York's black car industry ... with a random businessman - and trying not to eavesdrop on the East Village girl's cell phone conversation in the front seat - I leaned against the window and suddenly wondered, "Wow. Am I finally a New Yorker?"
A Year Ago Today: No post
Two Years Ago Today: Wake Up Call