Magazine article The New Yorker

All Hail!

Magazine article The New Yorker

All Hail!

Article excerpt

A few minutes after Russell Hall and Gary Jackson, London taxi-drivers, arrived at a gas station in Hell's Kitchen one recent afternoon, looking for taxi-drivers with whom to discuss Hailo--a taxi-hailing smartphone app that they had helped develop in the U.K.--a yellow cab reversed across West Forty-fourth Street and crashed into a wall of plastic traffic barriers. The driver, who on some level seemed to be parallel parking, pulled forward, then reversed again, and struck a taxi parked on the other side of the street.

Hall and Jackson--who, decades ago, began their black-cab careers with a training period of several years that is known as the Knowledge--were visiting New York to excite local drivers about Hailo's launch here. So, diplomatically, they ignored these maneuvers, and continued to talk, in broad East London accents, about the inflexible timing of New York's taxi-shift changeovers. But, one collision later, they had to look. "I can't believe he can't use his mirrors," Hall said. "He's going to do it again. Look."

"Oh, it's painful," Jackson said.

"He's going to try to go in straight."

"This is going to be bad."

The cab again reversed into the parked taxi. "At this point, you'd drive away, wouldn't you?" Hall said. "Out of embarrassment."

"Shall we tell him?" Jackson walked into the street. "No, mate. You've got to come out more." Another swerving reverse ended with a crunch of bumpers.

"He's turning his wheels the wrong way again," Hall said.

"If you videoed this, it would get a billion hits," Jackson said, his phone in his hand. "I can't do it. Shall we do it?"

There was another bump. At this point, a man came out from a taxi garage and parked the cab. The Londoners beckoned to the driver. He was wearing a turquoise polo shirt. His name was Md Sozan; he was Bangladeshi, and in his early thirties. He had sweat on his forehead--but, to the surprise of the visitors, he looked radiant.

Jackson explained that they were taxi-drivers from London, and gently asked, "What happened with the parking?"

"Today's my first day," Sozan said, with a giddy, inhaled laugh.

"Congratulations!" Hall said.

Sozan said that he had come to New York three years ago, after success in the green-card lottery. He had passed his driving test last summer, on the third attempt. His only experience as a driver had been in his driving school's cars, and during that day's shift.

"Don't worry," Jackson said. …

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