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Madeleine Begun Kane,
Humor Columnist,

Madeleine Begun Kane

If you don't get enough Net surfing in at home or on the job, you now can do it in some New York City cabs, thanks to a Yahoo! Inc. and Medallion Financial Corp. pilot program. This should help distract Big Apple taxi riders, who spend most of their time clutching door handles and each other, while praying they'll make it to their destinations with most of their bones intact.

If this experiment is successful, even more Web-enabled cabs may hit New York ... even as they hit other cabs, cars, and pedestrians who have the audacity to cross the street.

Passengers in these cabs may especially like the surfing-for-directions feature. After all, finding a New York cabby who has any idea how to get to where you'd like to go, is almost as hard as finding one who speaks English, can read a map, and who knows how to drive.

You think I'm exaggerating? I wish I were. Here's what happened to my husband Mark and me just the other day:

1:15 a.m. After an exhausting night of swing dancing, we hobble over to a major Manhattan intersection. "Maybe we can catch a cab with Web access," I say as we gesture futilely at dozens of passenger-free taxis. "I'd be happy to get one with wheels," Mark says.

1:26 a.m. We give up on that intersection and limp to another one, all the while continuing our fruitless arm signals.

1:34 a.m. Mark and I successfully beat out a little old lady with a cane for a cab. Okay, we didn't really do that, but the thought did cross our minds.

1:37 a.m. Victory at last! We flag down a cab, thrust ourselves in before the driver can change his mind, and have the following conversation:

Mark: Please take us to Penn Station.

Me: (after looking around and peering under something that probably was once food) Does your cab have one of those new hand-held computers?

Cabbie: Several unintelligible, mumbled words in some language I don't recognize.

Me: Oh well, it's such a short trip. We'll be there way before I have time to log on.

Mark: Excuse me sir, I said Penn Station. We're trying to catch a train.

Cabbie: Louder but still unintelligible words.

Jackie Mason: (piped in -- he surely wouldn't be caught dead in this cab) Some words of welcome, plus he nags us to fasten our seatbelts.

Me: Why are you turning left here? We said Penn Station. That street leads to Grand Central Station. If you had a computer, I could show you on a Yahoo map.

Cabbie: Unintelligible, but definitely hostile sounding words.

Mark: This isn't the way to.... Hey watch out for that... Wow, close call.

Mark: (whispering in my ear) At the next red light let's make a run for it -- that is, if he actually stops.

Me: But we're nowhere near...

Mark: Doesn't matter. Just watch for my signal.

Cabby: (suddenly sounding like an Oxford Scholar, as Mark flings open the door and Jackie Mason reminds us not to forget our belongings) That will be $8.75.

Cabby: (still clear, though more menacing than British): Hey! Where's my tip?

From now on we'll be avoiding taxis ... until they come up with a cab computer that replaces the driver.

© Madeleine Begun Kane. All Rights Reserved.
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