I recorded the interviews used in this Op-Doc video between 2009 and 2011 while making a documentary“Drivers Wanted” about New York cabbies. As I hung around the taxi garage, 55 Stan on Vernon Boulevard in Queens, Spider was hard to miss, with a bodega cigar always dangling between his lips and a neon-lettered hat on his head that read Old Dude.
For the last few years Spider took it easier, and drove only two days a week. He spent most of his time loafing at his taxi garage, which he called his senior citizen building.
He didn’t like driving when it was drizzling, sleeting or dark. But he found comfort driving in other conditions that would irritate most New Yorkers. “I love the traffic,” he told me. “The worser the traffic get, the better I like it. It keeps me alert.”
Spider moved to New York City in the 1930s to escape the entrenched racism he faced in his native Florida. He deeply admired Martin Luther King Jr. and keenly observed the evolving narrative of this nation’s racial tensions. Seeing New York City’s new crop of taxi drivers, arriving from all parts of the world, gave him hope. He said, “They may not understand each other right offhand, but they get along.”