Today the wise bloggers over at Daily Intel have attempted to answer a New York City etiquette question for the ages: What is a fair amount of space between the honorable person who is already there hailing a cab, and the jerkish-or-oblivious person (who, if going into labor or needing immediate medical attention, is hereby forgiven) attempts to steal the cab from the former? “Upstreaming,” as explored in the opening scene of a recent episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm, is an actual thing, with an actual name — “the practice of hailing a cab by positioning oneself in front of another person who is also trying to hail a cab.” Note: If you are upstreaming, you are bad, bad, bad. But what are the limits of upstreaming? Where does one person’s righteous cab hail end, and another’s begin? And, most importantly, what do you do in those all-too-fleeting rage-filled moments in which someone successfully upstreams you — moments that, without advance preparedness, would leave you staring, open-mouthed, like a tazered guppy instead of the sophisticated New Yorker you aspire to be?
According to David Yassky, head of the Taxi and Limousine Commission, “a good 15 feet” was that invisible line at which the upstreamer can suddenly lay claim to your cab. Dubious, Daily Intel prodded further, and Ashwini Chhabra, the TLC’s Deputy Commissioner for Policy, suggested a full block, then half a block, and then “far enough so that you can in good faith pretend that you don’t hear [the other cab hailer] yelling at you.”
Being that there is no official answer to this, and that, suffice it to say, this is one of those things that you should just not do for fear of ending up on the wrong side of karmic justice (unless you’re super late for a meeting, or a flight to Aruba, or happy hour), we’d like to address a final, related point, and that is: What do you do when someone steals your cab?
We have seen, in our day, a variety of options, and we have employed others. These are the most reliable.
5. Simply stare, as we mentioned, like a dazed fish floating atop the dessicated reeds of its own aquarium. This says: I have no idea what just happened and, secondarily, I am ill-equipped for this rowdy and vicious terrain. If you are lucky (which you haven’t been previously, but there’s no time like the present), the cabbie just behind the one who has passed you by will take pity on you and stop, and the person who stole your cab will be mercilessly tortured by a TV that won’t turn off for his entire rush-hour trip to JFK.
4. Mold your face into a pudding of rage (it may do this on its own) and step into the middle of the street, middle finger raised to the back of the speeding taxi driver (in some ways, isn’t it his fault, too?) who has failed to recognize you. Cars will honk and sheepishly you will shuffle out of the way, and, given the humiliation of defeat, walk to your destination.
3. Yell something. Something like, “You fucking asshole! You took my fucking cab!” The person who has taken your cab will either be from another state or country and have no idea what just happened, remarking nonchalantly to the driver, “This town has a lot of crazies, huh?” or will be from New Jersey and will shout “It’s New York City, bitch!” out the window and give YOU the finger. If the person who stole your cab is from New York, they will feel a brief pang of guilt that is cancelled out by you behaving so rudely, and, anyway, they’ve moved on — after all, they’re in the cab.
2. Throw something. Ideally not your suitcase, as you’ll need that later, or your stylish fedora or shopping bags, but perhaps a semi-full bottle of Vitamin Water, perhaps the 50-Cent kind, because nobody would steal Fiddy’s cab…or so you will be thinking as the taxi pulls away and you end up instead splashing an elderly lady with your vaguely lavender-colored water, causing her to beat you about the face with her pocketbook and you to smell for the rest of the day like a Fred Flintstone vitamin.
1. Do not react at all. This is the New Yorkiest of options. Instead, pretend that you didn’t even want a cab and were only stretching yogically, side to side, as you waited for the light to change. When the light does change, run as quickly as you can to catch up with the cab, yank the passenger out, and take his spot. No, really, don’t do that. Just go take the subway. There’s no such thing as upstreaming, there. Yet.
Taxi Officials Differ on the Etiquette of Upstreaming [Daily Intel]