Last night, thanks to the L train's sudden decision to stop running without a back-up plan (like the Williamsburg residents it carries home each night, the L train has an exaggerated sense of drama), I had to take a taxi to a show in Brooklyn.
[If I may take this brief aside, here's something interesting about the "alternative" comedy scene in NYC. People often ask me if I can support myself doing comedy. It's almost not worth it for me to even laugh at that question. Last night, for instance, was an unpaid set. That's not unusual at all; it's a reality all performers have grown accustomed to, and you can make what you will of that. Often, performers are granted drink tickets – doled out like Skee Ball winnings – entitling us to a couple of cocktails in lieu of compensation. However, I wasn't initially aware last night's show came with a free drink, so I purchased a sincerely-needed Stoli and soda on my own. Adding that cost to the unanticipated cost of the cab ride, I actually paid $22 to do a ten-minute set. If comedy is a profit game, I am losing, sorely. But if laughter were money, I'd still need to take a night job.]
By the time I found an available, on-duty taxi, I was wild-eyed and sweaty. I threw myself into the back seat, like a pile of unclaimed luggage, and hoarse-whispered my destination. The cab driver, seeing my predicament, reached behind his head, into the back seat, and slapped on the air conditioner. (A few years ago some legislation was passed in NYC, requiring all cabs install customer-controlled AC units in the back seat.) I had forgotten all about the AC, so I was extremely grateful. "Oh, man. Thank you so much, thank you thank you," I croaked, as if I'd just crawled across the desert and this gentleman had dabbed my tongue with some juice from the center of a piece of Freshen-Up gum.
Then, once my wits were about me again, I reached up and turned the AC from "lo" to "hi." As soon as I did this, without a word, the cab driver reached back again and smacked the air conditioner off. It was pretty stunning, actually.
I asked, "why did you do that?"
"You took advantage of me," he replied.
What made this guy so mean, I wondered. Then I looked at his driver's license and saw his name: FAROUK HITLER.