I’ve been always not sure about the idea of visiting United States, however, my adrenaline was boosted to 200% at my first night in New York. The hit single for this trip turns from Empire State Of Mind by Alicia Keys to Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5.
一落地就被騙？讓你不會餓肚子的街頭智慧 Don’t get in the wrong taxi
Departed from Berlin, transited in Norway and took a walk in Oslo, finally arrived in New York JFK airport after 22 hours. I was really tired, both physically and mentally, with all the imaginary bad impression towards New York subway and the fear caused by Hollywood movies, I walked directly to taxi stand. A man walked to me before I reached a taxi, “Do you want to take a taxi?" he has american accent.
Private taxi and uber cars usually are newer and more clean, so without thinkingly, I followed him after he said he drives uber. He explained that uber cars have to park further while we were walking pass all the yellow cabs. He was very energetic and talked a lot, a very energetic talkative guy, I categorized him.
“Where are you from? You look like an artist, I like your style! Wow, you speak really good English. You are cool, I like you." he talked all the way to his car. “Come sit in the front, come sit next to me." very passionate also, I added one more tag to him.
A weird feeling came to me but I couldn’t tell exactly what was wrong, not feeling dangerous but not sure if it was because he being over friendly, weird, minus points; but he noticed my arty outfit, delighted, plus points.
‘ Why I smell weeds in your car? ‘ a scent of Amsterdam ran to my face when I sat into the car.
‘Wow, you are so cool. You know weeds. Man, you are not a typical Asian girl, you different! " yes, I am unique, I know, I am such a sophisticated world traveller, plus points (narcissus mode on); as the compliments accumulated, my guard went down.
10:30 p.m., I am a stranger to this city, with all the memories on cop-vaillant shooting and aliens attacking NY city in movies, I secretly took a picture of his face and sent to my friend because I forgot to check the car number plate. Only after seeing the airbnb address was pinned in the GPS, I could feel slightly relaxed.
uber沒有現場配對的功能 uber “pairing on-the-spot “? No-no!
『我不用打開uber app嗎？』因為他剛剛說沒問題，誤導我以為有功能是可以輸入driver code後現場配對，讓這趟在系統上有記錄，也可以分享乘車資訊給朋友。
Notes: uber USA and uber Taiwan have some different features. But pairing with the driver in front of you? There is no such a thing.
「剛剛你也看到app上計算就是$78 + 20%小費，$92我收你$90」沒現金？「我載你去提款機領錢」他說。
『那為什麼網路上一堆人都說$45 – 60?』我不甘心地問著。
‘ How come I don’t need to use my uber app?’ earlier he mis-led me to believe that he could make this ride via uber app, I knew uber USA has some different features than uber Taiwan, and I thought pairing with the driver in front of you is one of them. At this moment, it is obvious that there is no such a thing. So I can’t share my route information with my friend to keep me safe, neither can I make any complaint to uber if this ride goes wrong.
" Don’t worry, I text your address into the app and charge you the amount it shows, plus 20% tip. You know, it’s basic in USA. But you can’t use the app now because we can’t be sure I will be paired up with you. " he said, while we were on the highway. I kept silent. I had no choice but staying in the car.
‘ 20% is a lot. Besides, on the internet, people say it costs $45-60 from JFK airport to Manhattan. ‘
" Oh, don’t worry, the app shows $78, and plus 20% tip, it will be $92. Too expensive? You can pay me $90. I am uber SUV so it will costs more than normal uber. " he explained to me innocently. " If you don’t have cash, I can take you to ATM. “
Tipping in restaurants up to 15-20% in USA, Yes, I’ve heard. But 20% at a taxi ride, never heard. I don’t want to be cheap but 20%?
Notes: right judgement is hard to make after a long-haul flight. You compromise on things you mostly don’t if someone nailed the art of manipulation. The entire next day, you will be thinking ‘ what the hell just happened? ‘ So do use uber app when having brain fog.
But anger can’t change anything, so I said to myself I just got one more silly joke to make my friends laugh.
「因為我是uber SUV， 本來就比較貴」好了，台灣沒有uber SUV，而且這趟也沒有記錄在uber app裡，之後也無法評價或抱怨，那一秒我才知道，gut feeling那個怪異感從哪來。他沒有要謀財害命，也不是要劫財劫色，但是，對，我就是飛完長班、神智不清的肥羊（咩~），滿臉倦容、拿著招搖的銀色Rimowa大行李箱、單身女子、不太會吵架的亞洲人，然後我還在高速公路上，才問清楚這一切。
He is smart, street smart. He does drives uber but uber SUV, rarely people pick that due to it costs more. So he proactively picks his potential clients: mostly asians featured mild-tempered, those who look empty-eyed after exhausting long-haul flight, with shining expensive suitcases, women who travel alone. And he told me the truth after getting on the highway, no turning back.
Anthony, he said that’s his name, his parents are from India but he is born and raised in USA. With his way to pick his clients, he must make at least 1.5 – 2 times more than regular taxi drivers. He analyzed me and picked me. But the only thread I collected from him is just a fake name probably.
很街頭？很幫派？Ghetto v.s. Gang, any different?
During the ride, he stopped me bargaining on cab fare by tons of compliments and chats. " You are so pretty, can I have a selfie with you? " I was so flattered and dumb that I even did a typical Taiwanese Y hand gesture in that selfie. (It is ridiculous…)
" Why did you pick that area to stay? A girl like you shouldn’t stay in that area alone. " I picked that airbnb because the room is very artistic, decorated with many oil paintings, a wall of books, some half-bodied statues for sketching. The romantic hippie style it is, but I didn’t expect him to understand.
" But that area is very GHETTO! " he paused, “Don’t worry. It’s ghetto, not gang."
“They both look dangerous but people here are more ghetto, they look like bad people in a cool way but it’s just their style." WT… I don’t understand what he was talking and the image of my cool, arty room now broken into pieces, so did my heart…
" Pretty girl like you shouldn’t stay in this area alone. It is very ghetto here! " right at this moment, the car light lit the road and someone walked pass in a scary zombie way. A man in dirty oversized suit jacket, stiff limbs, empty-eyed, walking like his soul was talken. A shiver ran down my spine.
‘ You mean… “gang" will rob you and hurt you, but “ghetto" is just… looking like bad guys? ‘
“Yes, yes, you can say that. But I still don’t understand why a girl like you wants to stay here alone. " he said. Right at this moment, the car light lit the road and someone walked pass in a scary zombie way. A man with beer belly in dirty oversized suit jacket, tilted head, stiff limbs, empty-eyed, walking like his soul was talken.
A shiver ran down my spine.
Taipei, where I live, is the 3rd safest city in the world according to the Crime Index 2017. Now I am alone in a ghetto area of Brooklyn and am like a innocent sheep walking into hell. ‘ Do you think that guy is on drugs? ‘ I just hoped he wasn’t bitten by a zombie.
" huh, yes, I think he is high." the driver replied.
‘ You know… have you ever played any computer games like BIOHAZARD, he looks like the zombie you should shoot at. ‘ and bang, bang, bang, their weird color blood splatters like fireworks in my imagination now.
He laughed so hard but I didn’t find it funny AT ALL. The tragedy of 1997 school shooting in Brooklyn came into my mind for some reason… Omg, I am going to cry… Taiwanese national swear words now forming a rap song in my head and replaying again and again…
So frightened that I wanted to go to Manhattan and to check in a random 4 or 5-star hotel, at this point, a sense of security is priceless. But I told myself to be brave when seeing a NYPD police car with 2 officers parking at the end of the alley where the accommodation is. Paid $90 unreluctantly, I got off the car.
" Wanna go clubbing with me? I really like asian women, let me take you out for a drink? Or tomorrow? No? How about the day after tomorrow? " at this terrible timing, all the flirty words and yellow fever joke sounds like a harassment and only made the situation worse. There was no street lights on this endless dark road, scary index times 100%. I want him to get out but the car light has to stay.
No response from the airbnb host, following the information he sent me earlier, I walked into the house and tried to switch on the lights at ground floor but in vain. Some dim light and TV noise sneaking out from the bottoms of 3 very thin doors, a movie scene of cops breaking the door at cheap motel appeared in my mind. I still couldn’t find any lights to turn on so I dragged my heavy suitcase and walked upstairs.
What awaiting me was still, darkness.
~To be continued~