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archival printsHow’re you gonna figure it? Me, Sammy Hines, once the sharpest, smartest cabbie in New York put out of commission by two young Broadway punks. Taken for a ride in my own hack.

I just can’t get over it! A guy like me who’s lived all his life by trying to outsmart the world. For twenty-five years I’ve sat behind the wheel of a cab with schemes, phone deals and shakedowns running through my head. And now, two muscle-bound kids with running noses put me on my back in a crummy city hospital.

What hurts is that I couldn’t figure it— I couldn’t read the cards. I’m cruising along Broadway up in the 50s when these two guys hail me. They get in and I give them a quick once-over from my rear-view mirror… just two hipsters, sharp dressers, nice bankrolls is how I figure them.

Bergen Street in Brooklyn, and get there today,” yells the one with the trenchcoat and the gray slouch hat. I get the urge to tell them to use the subway— I didn’t like his time— but I keep quiet, figuring it’s a long haul to the Brooklyn docks and maybe the two weasels will try to impress me they’re big timers by throwing me a heavy tip.

As soon as I get off the Brooklyn Bridge and make a right to the docks and Bergen Street, I glance in the mirror and see the two kids sitting there, as proud as hell, sucking on marijuana. Well, I’ve seen more sticks of tea in my time than those kids have hairs in their head so it doesn’t bother me— I figure it’s their business how they spend their money.

We get to the docks when the trench coat punk tells me to stop. I figure they’re where they want to be and I’m reaching to throw the flag down on my clock when the other creep, the quiet one with a mustache hanging on his lip, says, “Leave it running– we want to sit here and talk to you– you’re good company. Ain’t he good company, Barney?” They’re both pretty well lit up on the marijuana now and Barney answers, “Naw, he’s not good company, he’s a no-good phony. Ain’t you a phony, Sammy?”

“When did you two guys read a book by Ernest Hemingway and decide you were tough guys? The ride’s over. Let’s pay the bill and part friends.” The words were hardly out of my mouth when the quiet kid pushed the glass partition aside and grabs me around the neck in a choke hold. Then suddenly a fist smashes down on one eye and, a second later, a blow from the other direction closes my other eye.

I feel as if two bricks were tied on to my eyelashes. The trenchcoat kid is opening the front door of the cab now and he starts to give my ribs and stomach a workout. Meanwhile, the mustache boy is all the time tightening his hold on my neck. For a minute his fingers leave my throat but then I feel a silken cord being wrapped around it— it’s his necktie. I feel the creep in front rifling my pockets and grabbing my wallet. When I finally came to I manage to start the car and head for the garage in Manhattan. With my reputation, there’s no point in going to the cops.
—from “What a Cabbie Knows”; Who Walk In Brooklyn, July 24, 1953

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