The Cab Ride From Outer Space: How Satin Heels Brought Me in Touch With Extraterrestrials


The next time you hail a cab, make sure that your driver isn’t wearing a navy baseball cap with an alien on it. (Photo Illustration by Kyle Morrison/The Observer)

Published: February 16, 2011

Like many women, I have a favorite pair of shoes. These pumps are things of wonder: the four-inch heels don’t leave me crippled at the end of a night of dancing, they look fresh and clean despite having gone through multiple seasons and I happen to get a lot of compliments while wearing them. Oh, and they’re black satin.

It was for the sake of these shoes alone that I stood at the corner of the street waving frantically to get the attention of one of those yellow taxis that have become symbolic of city life.

It all began with a fun night of goings-on that will never be published here and ended in the usual walk of shame the next morning, except with my luck, that morning happened to be freezing and flurry-filled. Determined to keep my little satin heels intact, I jumped into the first cab that stopped and hoped for the best.

The New York City government has clearly outlined what passengers should expect when entering a taxi cab in a rider’s bill of rights. It includes a noise-free trip without horn honking or radio interference and with a courteous driver who obeys traffic laws.

But it appeared that this driver was entirely unaware of my rights as a paying rider. I soon realized this as I began to listen to the CD the driver had turned up to a deafening blare. And, no, it wasn’t some ridiculous album with a playlist of offensive rap songs. Let’s face it: that would’ve been too normal to happen to me.

“Aliens walk among you,” the narrator of the CD bellowed. “They are friends with your children, they work in your offices and they eat ice cream. They are waiting, simply biding their time, until the moment to attack arises.”

And then the driver turned to me so I could see the front of his navy baseball cap, alien-adorned, of course. I couldn’t seem to close my gaping mouth as he told me his personal tale of alien abduction.

Apparently, they took a piece of his brain for experimentation, so the cap is necessary to cover the scars left by the extraterrestrial encounter. I’m assuming the aliens must have stolen the part connected to his driving skills, because this cabby had none.

Engrossed in his own story, the car came to a sudden and screeching stop inches away from the vehicle in front of us. The worst part? The driver laughed and called, “Close encounter, man!” out his window. So much for my entitlement to a safe driver…

I firmly believe my 17-year-old sister could have provided me with a better ride, and she failed her road test for nearly running over a pedestrian while driving on the wrong side of the road.

A mile and 10 near-death experiences later, I handed the driver a 50 and asked for change. He pulled off his cap and removed the wad of bills hidden beneath.

He counted my change out single by single and handed it over with a demented smile. When I thought my ride to another universe had finally landed back to earth, he asked me to wait just another second and pulled a dollar bill out of his coat pocket.

“This will protect you from malevolent aliens, so long as you do not spend it on some earthly desire,” he said with a straight face.

I looked down and saw a smiling alien superimposed over George Washington’s head. I laughed in spite of myself and walked back to my room, shoes perfectly intact.

Mine is not the first taxi cab gone wrong story and it surely will not be the last. It’s easy to chock an uncomfortable and potentially deadly ride into a bad experience story that you pull out every time there’s a lull in conversation.

Still, think about it: this salaried driver was responsible for my safety and comfort but behaved like an erratic, doomsday-preaching street dweller people avoid on their way to work. He failed at his job miserably, yet his only penalty was a low tip.

I could have filed a complaint against him, but that would require me not only to fill out a form, but attend a hearing on top of that. Quite frankly, I don’t have the time to spare to prepare an argument against an alien-obsessed driver.

Moreover, why was he allowed on the road in the first place? Why should the burden to weed out awful drivers fall on passengers like me? When the city government commits itself to defining the rights of riders, it needs to enforce these laws thoroughly and effectively.

Though I’m happy to report that I haven’t seen a malevolent alien (or that taxi driver) since, you could be the next unfortunate victim of a believer in the coming alien-induced apocalypse. Remember: if you see any hint of a navy baseball cap with an iron-on alien patch, keep walking.