Thursday, January 22, 2009

Cab Crap

The only gentile on our block is the mailman.
(maalos, a Yiddish periodical.)

As a kid or teen I was cautioned by my Hassidic mentors not to engage in any conversation with non-frum people.”Eve conversed with the Serpent and sinned”, they would misquote the Talmudic inferred lesson from the Torah against theological discussions with a heathen. Not that my skills in English or any other language would allow for a fluent dialog with a non-Yiddish speaking partner, but it did serve to build up an imaginable barrier to buttress the physical limits that confined my Hassidic ghetto.

However, theoretical perfection is never achieved in real life scenarios. Hassidic teens do come in contact with outsiders—occasionally; it is an unfortunate reality that comes along with being in exile. All is not lost, though. A good dose of adult supervision is administered—whenever possible. But it’s not always possible. A taxi ride with a gentile driver is off limits.

Picture this: an innocent boy or girl goes by his or herself to the orthodontist for a braces cleaning. En route, the gentile cab driver talks to the kid and drops the wrong word that would stain the child’s soul forever. How can we allow this to happen? Don’t we know that all the dogma we imbued in our children from the moment they started babbling are so precarious that one word can blow it all? We must act to rid our holy ghettos from those outsider cabdrivers.

The problem with unregulated taxi service is not new to Monroe; the Times Herald Record had a story about it a while back. But the issue was raised again by Hassidic community leaders in KJ.

Below is a news story that appeared in the most recent issue of HaKirya (The Village). The story in the local village paper tells us about a proposed village law that would crack down on gypsy cabs in Kiryas Joel. (It appeared originally in Yiddish [here and here]; translation by yours truly.) The dramatic tone is typical of any Hassidic Yiddish paper and especially of one established more for propaganda purposes than out of a genuine desire to inform the public.

I fully understand the dangers of unregulated taxi service. Under-insured against passenger injuries, drunken drivers, kidnappings, rape, and unfair competition are some of the troubles. But what seems to bother KJ leaders most, is unsupervised contact with outsiders; the so-called spiritual damages.

If all they want is crack down on pirate cabs, let them pass a law that will grant police the authority to pull-over suspected vehicles. Why make all those fancy codes and hotlines? Can’t they just enforce existing state laws on Class E license and livery plates? Why create a new department to oversee another registration process? Is it because they want to exercise full control over all cabdrivers, legal and illegal? Is it because they want a pretext to oust all outsiders?

Contrary to what they claim, the proposed law will hurt Hassidic taxi drivers. They will have to deal with another bureaucracy and pay new fees. Not to mention that some Hassidic drivers are not insured either. Hush; let me not talk about that. Or maybe I shall? Village officials will anyway turn a blind eye when it comes to their people.

KJ Mulls Strict Taxi Laws to Battle Harmful Drivers

In these days, plans are being discussed to draft a new local village taxi law to bring an end to increasing troubles that come along with outsider dangerous cab service in Kiryas Joel.

As reported before and as is well known, several non-Jewish taxi firms infiltrated KJ in the past years. Because their fees were somewhat less than what the heimish taxi companies charge, they succeeded in getting a market share among KJ residents.

Unfortunately, the lower prices cost KJ residents a big price. The taxi firms introduced immoral drivers who caused inconvenience and untold sorrow both bodily and spiritually.

Some drivers are here illegally and don’t even have a valid driver’s license. Some don’t have their vehicles properly registered, and nobody can track them down if they commit a crime, God forbid.

The Village Public Safety was involved in a number of incidents concerning these individuals, and it became evident that some of them have a horribly criminal record. Their presence in the village puts all residents in danger both bodily and spiritually.

The cry of the heartbroken families was heard by village officials, begging them to take drastic measures to come up with a solution to the heaven-reaching problem.

In light of this, the village management convened to discuss plans on how to bring about an end to the growing problem in a legal manner, which will force these individuals to get the hell out of here.

After lengthy deliberations in the presence of competent attorneys, several alternative drafts are currently being refined into laws that will reduce the influx of unfavorable taxicabs and curb their ability to spread and saw further damages, God forbid.

Some the plans considered include: A special village permit and medallion that every driver will have to obtain in order to drive a taxi in village of KJ. To get the medallion, the vehicle will have to be registered with the village and drivers undergo a criminal background check to ensure they don’t have a criminal record.

Another plan submitted is that every taxi vehicle should be painted with an indentifying code number along with a telephone number. This will enable residents to make note of the code number and call in with complaints about the driver, and the Village Public Safety officers will address the issue.

According to current plans, registration will have to be renewed annually, which will allow officials to review whether there were any problems with that driver. Thus, it is our hopes that, God willing, the aforementioned troubles will be eliminated as far as possible.

Quite understandable, the law will benefit the five heimish and responsible taxi firms operating in KJ, which provide respectable jobs to tens of Hassidic men. The law will strengthen the ability of KJ residents to further patronize their own brethren.

Presently, village officials are working on the details of the law and how the Public Safety will enforce it. The new law will, God willing, go into effect shortly for the benefit of the general public.

God will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore.

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