Instead of taking a cab last night on the way home from the bar, we hailed a black towncar instead, whose driver agreed to take us downtown for $20. I considered it a deal, especially now since the weather is starting to get a bit colder and people don’t want to walk or take the subway, myself being one of them.

About halfway through our ride we came to a stop near City Hall and heard some shouting from the right side of the street, where a group of guys were about to start a fight. It was three against one, the one having already taken off his shirt and swing it around his torso to appear more aggressive or threatening. It reminded me of those fighting beta fish that, when you put their bowls next to one another (or a mirror if you were slightly cruel-minded), puffed up their fins to reveal colorful iridescent blues, greens and purples to warn the challenger. Sadly, the young mans t-shirt was a common grey which did nothing for his image. The opposing party of three walked away, towards the subway entrance across the street, laughing and joking with one another. The young man followed and weaved through the traffic which had now congregated at the halted intersection. Behind our car, he had stopped after treading about 60% of the way across the street. Green light. We drove on, the honking cars behind us finding it a bit more difficult.

Our driver shared our amusement, but added that he “had seen everything, and this was nothing.” Perhaps it wasn’t really anything, I mean, they hadn’t thrown punches or pulled out weapons.

Considering it lucky that the scuffle hadn’t been more serious, I did realize that I’ve been in this situation before. Where the driver knows everything. I honestly think it is a job qualification, or a goal to achieve when signing on as a cabby. I’ve only been in one cab in the last two years where the driver admittedly said he had no idea where he was going. We came to find out that he had just started his taxi career, and although he had no idea how to get us to Alphabet city, he explained the entire procedure for becoming certified as a taxi driver, getting your car, and so on. On the occasion that I did question a cabby on where we were going, I either had to sit and listen to the lecture on why we were going this way and how rude it was that I doubted his knowledge or in the extreme case, get out and run.

As a pedestrian, I’ve lived here for two years I hardly ever find myself giving directions. Ironically, when visiting a few summers ago and out on an interview I was asked six different times for directions, without knowing where I myself was headed. I’ve never been in a taxi where I thought that I might know more about the city or have seen more of New York than the driver, but since I moved downtown I have taught several cab drivers how to find William Street and consider that a small contribution to the wealth of their knowledge.

I took OzoCar, a green limo company to LaGuardia Airport, on the Friday of Memorial Day weekend this past summer. I didn’t leave myself much time before my flight and the only way I knew how to get to LaGuardia was on the highway. However, no fear, we turned off the highway and wound around the broken streets in the outskirts of Queens. He must have know I was restless when he said he had been driving for 20 years, which did make me feel better, although I have no idea how he knew where he was going.

When taking a car to Westchester this past winter, our driver explained to us how he used to drive for Martha Stewart, has lived in over 20 countries and speaks five languages. I can’t recall where he said he was headed next, I do believe it was India, but I do know that he can’t get there by driving.