Sometimes you want to expand your cultural horizons, but you lack the tools. If you stop your typical yellow-cab on the street, it's very likely you'll be inhaling exhaust and burning rubber as they peel out before you can even say "Bedstuy Do or Die please." Enter gypsy cabs — like ghetto Charons ferrying you into Hades, these cabs shuttle around in territory where yellow cabs act ... well, yellow. Add in the flexible price plan, honey maple spice air freshener, and radio station locked into WBLS, and you start to get an idea for why New Yorkers everywhere are starting to let the Canaries drive by in favor of "Going Gypsy!" So all aboard, and leave your token cab-hailing caucasian behind, they won't be needed. Your unmetered smellgood ghetto-chariot awaits.
Planning a Trip - Since we're talking about transportation, the "planning a trip" section is closed due to meta-difficulties. (But it might be fun, in that Boratean way, to get in a yellow cab and say "Quick, take me to the playgrounds of your bastard gypsy siblings at once!" Sometimes you'll get taken to cabs, sometimes you'll get taken to family members wondering if the unexpected late-night guest is here to tear them apart.)
Am I in a Cab, or a Stranger's Car? - The first key hurdle in utilizing gypsies is identifying which vehicles are in fact cabs. Considering that the traditional, somewhat innocuous gypsy cab provides the unique opportunity of looking like both (1) a person hailing a cab, and (2) a street whore with aggressive sales techniques, you may want to condition yourself to ask, "You're not expecting anything sexual out of this transaction are you?" before getting comfortable in any vehicle. As all the rules regarding gypsy cabs are unwritten, it never hurts to be particular. Never in any other context might you find yourself walking up to a sedan with tinted windows, asking, "How much for Flatbush?"
Two Kinds Of Cabs - There's nice, and there's not so nice. You can judge as soon as you get a look at the interior, presuming you don't already see enough cardboard in the window to let you know this particular one = not so nice. If all the windows are glass (Yes!), then check for torn leather on the inside. Unless you have a special fetish, that too = not so nice
The Meek Shall Be Extorted - When you get in the car you want to know where you're going, and how much you want to pay. You may talk a little, but eye contact is your primary means of communication. You must be confident. Some drivers may say "Oh, you want to go to Queens? That's $500." Then they will look you in the eyes to see if you're stupid enough to be stared into checking your wallet for enough cash. You must steel yourself and have your eyes reply, "I only got $5 son. Take it or leave it." You may want to verbally say this as well.
You Can Always Walk - Knowing you're in Hades, some drivers will try to leverage your earnest desire to return to civilization posthaste. You can either be extorted, or you can walk through THE FLAMING BOWELS OF HELL, err Harlem, in search of another cab. The choice is yours.
• Did you know Gypsy Cabs are always open for negotiation? If you need to stalk your ex, or you want to make multiple stops because you just woke up feeling like Tom Cruise in Collateral, while the unionized and regulated Canaries just say "no, no, no," these guys are open to discussion. As always, money and marijuana talk.
• Did you know that all cabs licensed by the Taxi and Limo Commission must have a "T" as the first letter. In other words, you want the cars with no T's.
• Did you know there are five-hundred billion flavors of air freshener trees? Yet they all somehow inspire the same universal feeling of nausea.
Ghetto Terror Alert - The gypsy cab provides a fine opportunity to practice your own brand of terrorizing. Drivers generally work "off the books" and pose little threat, so if you live in a remote, sparsely populated neighborhood, say Williamsburg, you might want to try killing a driver, taking all his money, and sending his car into the East River. Carpe diem bon vivant!
Slang Check - If you want to play it safe, there's one phrase you need to know. "I want to go to [target destination], and I want to pay $7." That should cover most trips. If your distance is egregiously beyond that, you'll be corrected. And if it's less than $7, your lazy ass should just walk. For goodness sake, you're in an urban ghetto somewhere. Get some chicken wings at the GCS. Pet a cat in the local Co-Bo. Soak it in.
Earlier: The Corner Bodega