I was walking down Flatbush Ave last weekend toward an appointment, strolling along slowly and soaking up the sun of a nice spring day, when I checked my watch and started doing the math; there was no way I was going to get to my appointment on time.
I stepped aside and to the curb as my brain started rifling through my options.
I could sprint. But a mile in five minutes? In these shoes? (Back story: I was wearing dress shoes)
I could jump on the subway. But who’s to say that a train would come any time soon?
I could hop in a cab. But really? Seven bucks to go one mile?
My frustration was building at my lack of options when I heard the honking.
Enter the dollar van
First, a definition: A dollar van is a privately-owned 15-passenger van driven along the major thoroughfares in Brooklyn. They’re lightly regulated, if at all. I honestly don’t know the distinction between these and “gypsy cabs,” but some people seem to use them interchangeably.
Of course I’d seen dollar vans before. More than that, I’d heard their incessant honking countless times. I’d also nearly felt the full force of them on more than one occasion, so close do they drive to the curb all the time.
But ride in one?
I’m sure to other people who are more “real” Brooklyn than me, dollar vans are totally old news, but you see, I’d relegated dollar vans in Brooklyn — perhaps unfairly — into the same category as unmarked cars in Rio or jumping on the back of a motorcycle in Johannesburg. I assumed the ride could lead to me getting hustled, and possibly dangerous
But this time I had no better options.
It was thrilling.
I jumped into the 15-passenger van, then the driver slammed the door shut with a rope he’d attached to it and yelled at me to find where I was headed. I had no choice but to yell back my destination, because the other passengers and music were so loud.
Before I had a chance to put on my seat belt, we were off! The driver dodged cars, yelled at dispatchers and other drivers over the radio, and generally flailed us around like the best cabbies I’d seen around the world — except that we were in a 6000-pound, 15-passenger van going down crowded New York streets.
Needless to say, I got to my destination with time to spare, just a couple dollars poorer, and with a sweet story to tell the blog.
Hope you all have a great weekend!