Here, I aimed for every pothole I could find.
Sure, the NV200 had to have been tested for pothole-worthiness at some point, but Michigan’s potholes are of such size and splendor that in New York, they might well be listed in the classifieds as garden apartments. Or you might be charged a $7.50 toll to cross the strips of road traversing them. Our potholes are geographical features.
In this regard, the NV200 just doesn’t hack it. Unlike the old boats that sailed gently over Manhattan’s undulating road surfaces, inducing just a touch of seasickness, the NV200 hits them hard, with a noise and a jerk that’ll make you wonder which side street your hubcaps just rolled down.
After a few of these, the NV200 didn’t go wobbly, but it did begin to develop the kinds of rattles and squeaks that, along with the announcers on 1010 WINS-AM, form the familiar soundtrack of a New York cab ride. The center console seemed to be shaken by the experience. It still whimpers.
Awkward moment at bus stop
Straight up Woodward lies Birmingham, an upscale suburb whose quaint downtown has pedestrian traffic and parking meters to match its Fifth Avenue pretensions. It also has a place called Brooklyn Pizza, where they serve slices New York-style -- that is, oily on flimsy paper plates. I thought about a snack, but couldn’t find a spot to park. That’s how authentic the place is.
A good cab has enough zoom under the hood to try to beat a changing traffic light, and enough stopping power to call it off when a bicycle comes out of nowhere. By that measure, the NV200 is a good cab. It won’t win any drag races. But we have cars for that in Detroit.
At one of those lights, I had to disappoint a gentleman who eyed my vehicle longingly as he shivered at a bus stop. We both knew the bus wasn’t coming, but without a functioning meter in the test vehicle, I didn’t feel I had anything to gain by picking up a stranger. And why would a commuter in Birmingham, Mich., risk hailing a New York City taxicab with Tennessee license plates?
Around the corner on Old Woodward, Birmingham’s main downtown drag, the NV200’s authoritative horn helped me avoid a collision with a Chevy pickup truck that was recklessly backing out of a parking space. Understandable mistake. Our two vehicles had perhaps never encountered each other before.
Behind the glass
When I went to pick up the kids at the pool on the south side of town, they were delighted by my tease that I would be treating them to a unique experience, and a late dinner at Brooklyn.
Pizza ended up being a no-go. At a quarter to 9, Brooklyn was closing down. Birmingham is a city that sleeps. It’s nodding off right now.
But boy did I deliver on the unique experience: a free ride home in the back of a New York taxicab, driven by their dad, who is not a cabdriver. The NV200’s sliding rear doors and running boards make for easy entry, and the bright-yellow seat-belt buckles all but glow in the dark. Once inside, my children, 8 and 10, enjoyed acres of legroom, and though the rear video screen was inoperative, they marveled at the possibilities: GPS maps. News snippets. Commercials!
Among the other thoughtful touches for the paying customer: Dual USB ports and a big sunroof for our favorite winter pastime, cloudgazing. Plus plenty of room in the easy-to-load cargo area for two backpacks and two lunchboxes, the trombone, the science-fair project, you name it.
And for the driver, there’s a rear backup camera, a massive pocket for paperwork and even a panic button, marked with an exclamation point. It activates a “Call 911” signal above the taillights.
Aside from the rattles and squeaks, there was another sound I discovered on this leg of the journey: I could actually hear myself think. This thanks to the sturdy plexiglass partition between the front and back rows. It’s a standard feature of New York cabs, there for the driver’s security -- and in my case, sanity. The barrier isn’t soundproof, but it does muffle enough of the screaming, cackling and whining that make chauffeuring children so tiresome. A handy button on the center console activates a two-way intercom, for those times when, I swear, I will turn this cab around!
And so I ask you, auto industry: Why can’t every family vehicle have a glass partition?
Friday morning, I was up well before dawn. Though my shift doesn’t officially begin till 9, I had a fare waiting: my 16-year-old daughter, who enjoys the extra 20 minutes of sleep she gets when we ferry her to school instead of sending her on the bus. She’d rather not ride in something clunky and yellow, but on this day, she had no choice. She orbited the NV200 in the driveway with that teen-appropriate level of curiosity, or whatever, and then hopped without a word into the front passenger seat.
No, I told her. We’re going to do this right. She climbed in back and slid the door shut.
While waiting for the windshield to thaw out on a frosty Michigan morning, I tried making small talk with her over the intercom. The weather. The Yankees. Usual stuff. But I could see through the rearview that she was composing a text, so I let her be for the 15-minute ride.
At the school dropoff zone, she struggled briefly with the sliding door, then stepped out with a quick “bye,” the way teenagers do.
Moments later, as I turned out of the driveway, a text message popped up on my phone. It was from my teenager: Thanks for a memorable ride.
Hey, lady, just doin’ my job.