Friday, March 21, 2008

Urban Renewal

Yesterday, Joe.My.God posted a thread about NYC taxis. More specifically, he was talking about the car that Ford is trying to sell as a future NYC taxi. He thinks it's ugly. I have little opinion, one way or another. As far as I'm concerned, any motor vehicle in NYC is one too many, so I don't much care what the taxis look like. Besides, it's not like I ever get to ride in one: it's enough of a chore just to get b&c to agree to take the subway. He thinks that anything less than fifty blocks is a distance that you really should be walking.

Anyway, I commented in the thread that if NYC wanted to see more of my tourist dollars, they should entirely eliminate cars from the streets and replace the taxis with a fleet of rickshaws. Because I understand that people are attached to a certain visual identity for taxis, I suggested the rickshaws be pulled by buff young men sporting yellow Speedos.

I think some people thought I was joking. That annoys me a little: if there's one thing I can't stand, it's people thinking that I have a sense of humor.

Rickshaws are such an obvious solution for major urban centers that I can't believe more cities haven't started using them. I mean, have you ever seen the speed at which traffic moves in NYC? Wow. The last time I was there, I wanted to see the Cloisters, and the guidebook said I could catch a bus to there from the Metropolitan Museum of Art. And we did, but the ride took over an hour. It couldn't possibly have taken that much time if we'd been in a rickshaw and there'd been no cars around.

And talk about quality of experience. Sure there's a lot to look at when you're on that long bus ride, but I would definitely have preferred looking at the backside of a fit young man to looking at the backs of seats on an MTA bus. Really not pretty.

And my very modest proposal solves a host of other problems as well. Air pollution? Not from rickshaw drivers. Besides, we're about to head into a recession, which means fewer jobs, especially at the entry level. And that means there will be a host of collegiate athletes graduating and unable to find work. Only the tiniest percentage of them make it to a professional sports league, you know. The rest of them are, let's face it, very strong but not all that bright. They weren't recruited for their ability to solve differential equations, after all.

Now, you take a well-built young man, and you put him on the streets of Gotham with a rickshaw, and he's set for life. Presumably his capitalist overlords are going to take most of the fare income, but the driver's going to make a killing in tips and extras. I suggested, for example, that the driver might, for a modest gratuity, allow the passenger to oil him down. This provides a certain level of visual and tactile gratification to the passenger, of course, but there are aerodynamic and moisturizing benefits to the driver, as well. After all, he's going to be exposed to the elements (thought not to smog or many of the other environmental hazards that are produced by internal combustion engines), and while all that running is going to keep him very fit, he's going to want to keep his skin smooth and supple in case the guy needing a ride happens to be an agent.

Looking good will be of the utmost importance to the drivers, but what beautiful guy doesn't look good in a yellow Speedo? After all, you'd expect some of the drivers to make their way into the adult entertainment industry, and that means you need to show off the goods. And if you're going to wear a banana hammock, shouldn't it be yellow? There will, naturally, have to be warmer outfits for the winter months, but we'll still be able to see the shapes of our drivers. If God hadn't wanted us to see hot men's bodies year round, he wouldn't have created lycra. I would, of course, insist on adequate footwear. No flip flops, in any season. Athletic shoes in yellow and black, with room for small advertisements.

Some of you will say that my proposal exploits young men, but nothing could be further from the truth. Some years back, I went on a date with a guy who was in his early thirties and who had been, ten years earlier, an escort. I was fascinated by this guy's past and asked him a lot of questions. Ultimately, he was insulted when I expressed disbelief that he'd made $200 an hour, tax-free, and was now working as a hairdresser. He'd spent the money on clothes and drugs, of course, and he wasn't too pleased when I pointed out that if he'd put half of his earnings into a balanced portfolio of investments, he could have lived on half of what was left and still had a quarter to shove up his nose. The economics would be similar for our rickshaw drivers. Ten years on, if they hadn't been snapped up as a model or the companion of a wealthy businessman or society wife, they'd have a large enough nest egg to retire to some place less expensive -- perhaps Baltimore -- find a nice husband or wife, and spend the rest of their days swapping stories and playing pool in a neighborhood bar, or going to Orioles games at Camden Yards. Or they could have their own reality TV shows.

Or we could stick with the status quo: traffic, air pollution, noise, and ugly taxicabs. That's probably what the Republicans want, making me ask, yet again, just why do they hate America?


Anonymous said...

I suddenly like the color yellow. taxi's will never look the same.

franck said...

You have created one of those (very) rare moments where I wish I was the mayor of New York.

The Neighbors Will Hear said...

I'd vote for you, franck. As Mayor of New York, I think you'd be expected to have a mistress, but in your case you could get by with a kept boy. Maybe you could put me in charge of his security detail. Naturally, you'd choose a rickshaw boy for the position, and when he got older, you'd appoint him to a lucrative post on the Rickshaw Boy Oversight Board. Then there'd be a scandal and a lot of pictures of you surrounded by handsome young men in yellow Speedos. I can hardly wait! I might even get to see myself quoted saying "No comment" in the Times.

Father Tony of the Farmboyz said...

Once, while in the little town of Monckton, New Brinswick, I went for a stroll near the hotel and a man in car slowed down to cruise. I ended up in the car with him, and he revealed a fetish for men in yellow bathing suits. He made me tell him that I was wearing a pair of them under my jeans and he came violently when i threatened to unzip and reveal them. Canada is weird.