Possibly the most frightening thing about driving is the sight of blue and red flashing lights. Luckily, I had never experienced the startling sound of police sirens (except the time I mistakenly began to pull off the highway after I heard the intro to ‘Shake Ya Tail Feather’ by Nelly on the radio) until the return trip of a New Year’s Eve celebration in New York City.
It was New Year’s Day when my friends and I began our journey home. Hungry and hung over, we flagged down the first taxi we saw to take us to Grand Central Station. I stuffed my bags in the trunk of the cab and hoped one of the girls had taken the front seat so I wouldn’t have to make awkward conversation with the driver.
However, I was slow and clumsy as usual and practically slid into the middle of the road because of the previous snow, which was now a mixture of ice and slush. Unfortunately, my “ice-capades” landed me in the front seat.
I sat on an open bag of Doritos and an old pair of tennis shoes while getting into the car, but considering I am one of the messiest people I know, this didn’t bother me much.
After five minutes of driving, the silence was broken by the driver’s not so censored language as he pulled over and put the car in park. I was confused until I looked into my rearview mirror and not only saw the infamous lights but two armed men coming toward us.
My instincts took over as I double-checked my seatbelt and placed my hands where the cops could see them.
Not only did the middle-aged, unshaven men completely avoid the routine protocol, they disrespected the driver and didn’t even acknowledge that there were four innocent girls in the car. As the man pleaded his innocence, my confusion turned to annoyance when I realized we were going to miss our 1 p.m. train.
Note to self: never backtalk a police officer, especially in New York City, because they will nail you with a ticket without hesitating.
After 20 minutes of waiting, a crowd began to form on the corner wondering what was going on. The clean and showered version of me might not have minded the audience, but at this point, I wasn’t trying to see anyone while wearing my pajamas and last night’s makeup.
The whole ordeal was one big mess and even after the police handed the driver a citation, everyone in the car still wasn’t sure what the ticket was for, where it came from, or what just happened.
The driver, who was so angered by the situation, screamed, “Arrest me!” as the police walked away. For a moment, I thought that I was about to witness a “Cops” episode in the making, which would actually have been worth missing my train for, but the police just laughed and walked away.
To top it off, both men told the driver to reset the car meter, but he refused out of spite. What should have been a free ride was now costing me my lunch money. For the next couple blocks, I feared for my life as the driver began weaving in and out of traffic as he attempted to read the ticket.
Forget texting and driving. This guy was trying to read a legal, handwritten document while maneuvering through traffic on one of the busiest streets in New York.
Although I’ve always said I want to live in New York after I graduate, this taxi ride made me a little less certain of that plan. The whole experience reminded me of a line in “Sunscreen Song” by Baz Luhrmann: “Live in New York City once, but leave before it makes you hard.”
I certainly won’t judge the city based on one incident, but I am going to start being more selective when picking a taxi.
Despite missing my train home and being seriously annoyed with my taxi driver, I got to spend a little extra time with friends and realized that when you love to travel, there’s nothing more important than being flexible when things don’t go quite your way.