“Taxi? Taxi?” asked the Nigerian man in the late-model white Camry, his dashboard and mirror bedecked with flags, kente, figurines. I’m carrying my BBQ research results (i.e., takeout) back to my car, and am dressed, I then realized, like the most out-of-place yuppie asshole ever. Yep– corporate logoed-hat, chinos, Jack Purcells and a striped tunic. Hello, soccer mom. I might as well wear a sandwich board that says “I must be lost.”
“Taxi, lady?” asks the teal-green Accord, Jamaican flag in the front license plate bracket, reggaeton from the stereo thumping in the clean spring air. “No, thanks, all set.” I walk on. The same, “hey, lady, need a cab?” again– another Islander in a blue Tercel that’s spotless, but has seen better days, though the dashboard is bedazzled with Catholic icons, sparkling beads, and the seats are red velour.
“Ma’am, would you like a cab?” asks the last in line, a meticulously-kept navy Ford LTD, most likely a former detectives’ car. By this time, I’ve realized these are gypsy cab drivers, and that the airport fleet of faceless white vehicles is out the window. Sure, they queue here, too, but it’s also a beauty pageant and popularity contest. The wrong soccer team just beat yours, and you won’t choose any cab driver hailing from the victor’s country. There’s not a licensed hack to be seen here or at the other end of the bus platform, in this “dangerous” part of town where half the licensed drivers come from, anyway. But they don’t own the cab, and they don’t pick the route. Which explains why there’s nary a peep from the police station with the peeling paint across the street– they’re not going to enforce the hackney requirement when the badge-bearing cabs won’t come here, I guess, I hope, I wonder.
“No thanks, I’m right there,” I say, and wave, realizing that I’ve parked at the very end of the unofficial cab stand. No wonder there was more pulling in, backing out, moving forward, and jockeying for space than usual, even at a busy T station like this. These horsepowers from many countries get restless, know the schedule, know it’ll be another seven minutes ’til the next bus, make a circle of the Square to find more passengers in the meantime, before they get back in line, waiting in their steeds, these knights errant rescuing apparently lost damsels, tired merchants, pilgrims struggling under their loads.