Jack EngelhardJack Engelhard’s classic international bestselling novel Indecent Proposal, which later became a worldwide hit movie, has been republished to meet readers’ demands. His other major works include Compulsive: A Novel, his award-winning post-Holocaust Montreal memoir Escape from Mount Moriah, plus Slot Attendant: A Novel About A Novelist. His website: www.jackengelhard.com
Outrage? That is not always the case anymore whatever the insult. We have become so passive, even here in New York, once happily famed for its abrasive citizens, that even talk of a mosque being built at the doorstep of Ground Zero hardly gets as much ink as Derek Jeter’s lapses at the plate.
This time something hit a nerve. Where’s that been?
Five times a day they pray, the cabbies, so everything stops.
Both the New York Post (front-page) and the New York Daily News stopped the presses over one of our cabbies who’d been doing the town wearing a swastika armband. People complained. That’s right. People complained. So he’s been suspended for a month.
The twist is that we now live in a time and place where the customer is always wrong.
We have grown so accustomed to being shoved around that we’ve forgotten how to protest.
Lucky is the man or woman who can finally catch a cab around here, even though there are some 13,000 of them, plus 40,000 other vehicles for hire. Five times a day they pray, the cabbies, so everything stops. People complain about this, too, but not much. We are a tolerant people.
Sometimes those cabs are parked for miles, clogging up our roads, because it’s time to pray. This too is now an acceptable inconvenience.
This cabbie who got nabbed says he’s from the Dominican Republic. He’s been quoted as saying…oh never mind. We can’t quote every ignorant jerk.
He says he is not ant-Semitic. I’m touched.
But the Dominican Republic? I don’t remember what the ADL had to say about that place in its round up of global anti-Semitism, which showed that one of four people around the world hated me. I never figured on the Dominican Republic. Scratch that vacation.
It’s possible that this guy who loves the Nazis but is not anti-Semitic is the exception, not the rule.
But it is the rule in Gaza and the “West Bank,” and many of our cabbies come from that part of the world and this is no problem. We are a tolerant people.
Everybody is welcome – legally, illegally. Who cares?
Just the other day our federal government released from jail thousands of rapists and murderers and dumped them onto our neighborhoods.
Fend for yourself, America.
So who complained about this swastika cabbie? I wondered if the people who spoke up were those who’d had enough – of everything! -- and were “not going to take it anymore.”
Are some of us worried even less about terrorism, and even less about anti-Semitism, but even more worried about our culture being diluted into thin air? That picture on the wall is not Joltin’ Joe DiMaggio.
I asked my driver who, strangely enough, spoke English.
“A few people complained,” he said. “Not much.”
I asked him how he got along with the other cabbies.
“They’re all right,” he said. “But I wonder where they get the money.”
Most are probably as honest and as hard working as the rest of us, and mean no harm. (The neighbor I trust as any member of my family is a devout Muslim. Life is complicated.) But it’s not like the old days when your cabbie was most likely from Brooklyn, Queens or the Bronx, cigar chomping and right away gabbing about those darned Mets. Immediately you were pals.
You are nobody’s pal anymore. You are a stranger in your own city. Diversity is terrific but it’s supposed to work both ways.
Today, the typical cab ride is done in silence. The music comes from a faraway place and he’s on the phone to his brother in Somalia.
Learn the language maybe? Give us a smile? Show that you are grateful that we welcomed you into the house we live in?
You pay the fare and you think to yourself – never out loud, since you are a tolerant person – how times have changed, and so fast. Overnight, practically.
People who were around yesterday are not here today. Did the grizzly but lovable old-timers all die or just fade away?
Uptown, downtown. How can you live in a town where nobody knows Sinatra?