In This Cab, the Future Has Arrived and Wants to Pick You Up.
The New York Times City Section, October 5th, 2003
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New Yorkers may think of a cab ride solely as a means of getting from here to there, but a 45-year-old Romanian immigrant named Ioan drives a yellow 2003 Crown Victoria that he is sure will change their minds.

First there is the cab's legroom, made spacious because he removed the partition. The dashboard accomodates a 75,000-word talking dictionary (to help his English pronunciation) and a 28-disc CD/MP3 audio system with XM satellite radio. This driver encourages passengers to make selections, though his own favorite is the country music station America (XM channel 10), where he is known as John the Cabbie and regularly calls in to request the song "City of New Orleans."

Dashboard accouterments include a digital camera that he uses to take photos of passengers on request and record every mile he travels, "just in case," as he puts it. He will e-mail the photos without charge via his Sony Picturebook laptop, which also stores a highlight reel of near-accidents that he plays for passengers upon request.

Ioan, who asked that his last name not be published because the city's Taxi and Limousine Commission has set a list of approved devices (which doesn't include laptops and digital cameras), lives in Jackson Heights, Queens. He came to New York 13 years ago with $8.25; it took him four years to earn enough to bring his wife and two young sons over from Romania. He has been driving a cab for 12 years and saved enough to buy his own medallion, cab and gadgetry ($225,000 for the medallion, $27,000 for the car and $3,500 for the options that make his cab feel like a particularly well-stock branch of Best Buy.)

The cabby has an engineering degree, but after living 32 years under Communism, being his own boss was deeply attractive. He works 12-hour days, mostly around the West Village and Upper West Side, and he uses his downtime to adjust his gadgets. Anyone hoping to catch this cab should look for one that idles a little longer than usual after dropping off a passenger.

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© Copyright Ethan Todras-Whitehill 2003