The Word from the Belmore
By Mark Jacobson
It’s official: Old-time drivers, who hang out at the Belmore, say they’re suffering.
Meanwhile, over at the Belmore (at Park Avenue South and 28th Street), the official “relief-stop” restaurant of the cabbies who “own their own,” the mood is grim. The women handing out the buttered rolls are punching higher numbers on the pink cafeteria price tickets. The little guy sharpening his knives behind the steam tray is deleting a few slices per sandwich to compensate for the pinch that’s hit the pastrami market. And at the long tables in the rear, a group of older cabbies, many of whom have been through it all before, are laying into their Belburgers and sounding off.
I don't remember when the Belmore vanished. There still was a consensus that workers are human beings and most taxi drivers were white men. There actually was a place on Park Avenue where a cabbie could take a leak, wash his hands and eat a hot meal! Men with families being fed by this work! Cabbies used a real toilet, washed their hands and ate hot food at a table in the middle of their nine hour shifts! And they read newspapers, figured with the racing form and debated horses and politics. The City Fathers actually reserved parking spaces on Park Avenue to allow taxi divers simple human functions and pleasures - days long gone by!
Then they'd go out. work another four hours and go to homes they owned, spent time with their kids and left good money on the kitchen table. Not like us seventy - two hour a week men and women.
It isn't clear to me how I will signal to people on the street that I am not available even though my cab has no passenger. Even I sometimes need a toilet or want to go home.