Wednesday, October 29, 2008


I'm in a bit of a pickle. Last night, I got a cab home. I already was bristling at the driver's assumption that no one really wants to live in NYC "except for the money." Apparently we all want to live in the suburbs. I said I could understand that (highly magnanimous of me, you'll doubtlessly agree) but I liked culture - theatres, independent movies, concerts - things not so easy to get in the 'burbs. But yes, parts are beautiful.

Then, when I got home, the exchange of money took place, I took the receipt, and then our verbal exchange went thus:

Him: This is a dangeous neighbourhood.
Me (not really listening): What do you mean?
Him: All those people loitering about. It's dangerous.
Me (looking around): Which people, where? What do you mean?
Him: Those.
He nodded at a group of about 6 teenagers at the side of my building's entrance.
Me: What them? They're kids from my building. They're nice. They're always friendly and holding the door open for me and everything.
He didn't respond.
I got out of the taxi.

Honestly, the more I think about this, the more fuming I am. He didn't say anything overt, as you can see, but I'm fairly sure his comments were racially motivated, and he wouldn't have said anything of the sort were the kids white - although maybe if they were wearing hoodies etc (the evil hoodie being the equivalent of 666 branded onto your forehead these days), he might have come out with the same.

What bothers me further is the underlying assumption that kids on the street are trouble, full stop. My neighbourhood is not rich and, like most places in NYC, kids don't have any real space of their own; they certainly don't have gardens to play in, or any coffee shops or places where they can just hang out with their mates, except for the street. What astounds me every time is that all ages hang out together - I've honestly never seen so many 18 year olds and 6 year olds playing peacefully together. There's no way I'd have done that when I was 18.

The kids are nice. They don't menace you with the ball, unlike horrible brats I've known in other places (or, indeed, the Columbia brats that menaced the homeless person, as viewed by WUB a few months ago). They stop playing to let you go past, open the door for you if your hands are full of shopping, and the kids that know me say hi. Yet someone like my cab driver sees kids on the street in the city at 9pm and that means a dangerous neighbourhood. In the 'burbs that's a "community," no doubt. I just can't bear them not being given a chance.

So the dilemma is: Do I report him for making what I think is an inappropriate comment on my neighbourhood - inappropriate for infringing on my personal choices (over which he has no right to comment - although that's a bit master-servant, no?) and for making a dubious assumption about the kids. The problem is, it won't fix anything. Still, the Taxi & Limousine Commission has an option to complain because the driver was "discourteous." I suppose that is the closest option I have... other than "fundamentally wrong and bigoted assumptions about passenger's neighbourhood."

No comments: