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America, March 21, 2008

A New York Taxi Story

I caught the wrong cab

nyc taxi
Taxi! Taxi!
nyc taxi map
In need of a taxi map!
3:15 pm - Leaving a Battery Park office Its time to go. I have to give a speech on One Laptop Per Child in 45 minutes in Brooklyn. I'll be part of The World in Your Library at the LACUNY Institute Series, talking to librarians about one of my favorite topics and its impacts on the dissemination of knowledge in the developing world.

Brooklyn College has invited me to NYC, one of the rare speaking engagements where I'm going to be a paid speaker. Before you think that amounts to much, this trip is netting me train, hotel, and $100 for meals and such. In New York, a $100 lasts about a minute.

3:19 pm - Getting in a taxi I hail a cab, and climbing in, tell the driver to take me to the Brooklyn College Library in Brooklyn. I'm running a few minutes late, but I figure I can still make it in time. That's until, as we're crossing the Brooklyn Bridge I hear:

"Brooklyn, I've never been here before."
3:27 pm - Somewhere in Brooklyn We've now confirmed that this driver does not know where Brooklyn College Library is with the brilliant statement: "There are many colleges in Brooklyn." I start franticly calling Google 411 trying to track down their phone number to get directions while manically scanning the streets for a taxi stand or some other transport option.

The taxi driver is in his own manic moment, scribbling furiously on a clipboard. At first I thought it was his manifest, but then I realized he was nuts and this was his scribble pad. This will not be a Portland Taxi Perfection experience.

3:47 pm - Avenue, Brooklyn I have 13 minutes to make my presentation but at least we now know where we are going. The college gave me directions but laughed when I asked how long it would take. So did the taxi driver, but he's nuts. And slow.

Can he be any slower? I think he's stopping on yellow lights! I know for sure that other cars are passing him. And yet he still scribbles.

4:12 pm - A side street near Brooklyn College I've bailed out of the cab. I figure I can run there faster than he can drive. I know it felt great to cuss him out and slam his door so hard kids on the street spun around thinking it gunfire.

I am still cussing his name as dash across streets, asking people here and there where the college is.

4:19 pm "Where is the library?" I yell at the college guard as I jump the turnstile entrance. I am late, sweating, and thinking my chance to speak is passing. "That way," he says with an outstretched hand.

I run "that way" on a curved sidewalk, cool Brooklynites wiz past in a blur of building scanning. Gym, classrooms, ah, the library!

4:21 pm - Brooklyn College Library "Sir, you must exit the building." What? That does not compute. Exit? Why? Bomb scare? What bomb scare? I need to give a speech! Out of my way, please. No, out of their way I am cast. Onto the lawn, in a daze. Panic replaced by confusion. There will be no speech today. No need for the rush, for the push, for the dash.

5:18 pm Speech ungiven, thoughts not expressed, day wasted, I'm on my way back to Penn Station. On the subway.

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Remember the slow taxi to the wrong train station in Wuhan, China in July 2000? Deju Vu?

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