A young professional’s take on the trials and tribulations of everyday life in New York City.

By Nina Pajak

Last week, my husband and I experienced what was, without a doubt, the greatest cab ride of both of our lives.

It began inauspiciously. We were headed for the airport, big suitcases in tow, attempting to hail a taxi smack in the middle of the dreaded afternoon shift change. Everybody was off duty, and the few cabs who weren’t took one look at our obvious destination and breezed right on by. We were feeling frustrated, rejected, and slightly panicked.

Finally, a hybrid SUV cab pulled up. We were elated. We loaded our bags into the trunk and hurried inside. Feeling rushed and relieved, it took us a moment to settle in, negotiate our coats and compose ourselves. That’s when we took a look around.

Lining the top of the divider was a garland of all sorts of plastic flowers, dotted with hanging Christmas ball ornaments. And pasted all over the Plexiglas and in the front of the cab were wallet-sized photographs of all sorts of bygone celebrities and public figures, from Malcolm X, MLK Jr. and the Dalai Lama to Marilyn Monroe, James Dean, Marlon Brando and most importantly, the King himself. Elvis was definitely in the building. Car. Whatever.

Our host had equal affection for every single one of his permanent passengers, but none so much as Elvis, who was better represented than any of them. He explained that in South Korea, where he grew up, people grew their hair out to look like Elvis, in spite of the fact that it was illegal. He told us that Elvis was not dead, would never be dead, because his musical style and influence will live on beyond that of any other artist. I’d never thought of it that way, but I felt overwhelmingly compelled to agree with everything he said. He said a lot. He talked the whole way to JFK, and there was quite a bit of traffic (around which he took a fantastic shortcut).

Apparently, and I guess not surprisingly, there is a community of people who would pay ungodly sums of money for a cutting of the King’s hair. Our guy is one of them. Or he would be, he said, if he had thousands of dollars to burn. I honestly can’t imagine it, but the idea seemed to make him incredibly happy. So, okay.

Part of me hopes we run into him again. But then part of me feels that we’re better off if experiences like this are rarities, not to be expected or overlooked. Either way, I hope some of you catch his taxi or already have.

If my luck continues in this way, it won’t be long before I hail the Cash Cab! I have got to find that great white whale.


Dear Readers: While I am rarely at a loss for words, I’m always grateful for column ideas. Please feel free to e-mail me your suggestions.

Nina Pajak is a writer and publishing professional living with her husband on the Upper West Side.

The Nina Archives:

Rites Of Spring

Art Is In The Air

Get Out Of My Way… Please

Tales From The Dog Run


Thank god for Detective Elliot Stabler. And Sam Waterston, Olivia Benson, Jeff Goldblum, the chick who’s married to Bobby Flay and Elton from Clueless. Without their tireless vigilance and selfless dedication to justice, I wouldn’t be able to sleep at night.


The thing that they’ve allowed me to realize is that people are after me. Criminal-type people. I don’t know who or why, but they’re everywhere, I’m sure of it, and it’s only a matter of time before my number is up. Danger lurks at every corner. I frequently triple-lock my door and check all my closets to make sure no one has broken in hours earlier and hidden himself only to pop out in the dead of night to brutally murder us.


It’s a scary world out there when you’re addicted to the Law & Order franchise. Of course, it’s a scary world out there even when you don’t obsessively watch procedural cop dramas on television. But I only ever feel unsafe in New York when I’m fresh off an SVU marathon. The good news is that they almost always get their man (or woman) and no crime is committed more than once an hour. So that’s reassuring.


But it wasn’t until I started getting all caught up in crime shows that it dawned on me that I’m in peril every time I leave the house. Every normal looking person is a potential murderer! On the other hand, the abnormal looking people are almost always red herrings, so you don’t have to be afraid of them.


I don’t like monster movies or slasher flicks, and I don’t read bloody thrillers. After I watched Friday the 13th, I slept with the lights on for two weeks. Is that fun? That’s not fun for me. This is my version of a horror show. Why get scared by fiction when you can scare the living crap out of yourself by exaggerating the truth with ghastly frequency? I guess I could stick to only the programs that are set in other cities. But honestly, I’m not interested. Crime shows in Los Angeles and Chicago are what they are—fun and entertaining. And I can take them or leave them.


Take that same show and plop it on a set around the corner and I must devour every one, almost as if my life depends on it.


Which, of course, it obviously does.




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