Literature and media allowed me to grow up in New York without ever actually being in New York. It started off with “Gossip Girl,” developed with Holden Caulfield and Nick Carraway and is still being shaped by Woody Allen. I catch myself conjuring up a concrete paradise that I travel through in an iconic yellow cab. However, a few days ago, when I found out that Uber cabs are outnumbering yellow cabs 14,088 to 13,587 in New York, according to the Taxi and Limousine Commission, Uber began intervening with my imagination.
Statistically, yellow cabs are still making more trips than Uber cabs. But for my generation, Uber feels like the next new thing that will transcend any taxi in the world. What does that mean? Technological development. Nobody can deny the convenience Uber brings in not having to scramble for change at the bottom of your bag or pocket and being able to get a cab at an exact location in a quick manner. Nonetheless, is technological development worth cultural disappearance?
Yellow cabs are not only functioning taxis that bring one side of New York to another. Yellow cabs are Alvy Singer (of Allen’s “Annie Hall”) not having to drive because he is in New York. Yellow cabs are Travis Bickle (portrayed by Robert De Niro in “Taxi Driver”). Yellow cabs are the ubiquitous element of New York that remind us of its vastness, history and culture. What are we to do when we can’t consider them predominant anymore?
We should realize the negative side effect of technology in this sense. There is a homogenization that has arisen in the technological era, and it is causing the disappearance of something symbolic to understanding and recognizing an iconic city. Is being able to call a cab in a second worth the inability to hail one anymore? Is being glued to our phones as we wait for a taxi worth not taking our eyes off a screen to actually see the real world? I do not think so.
While I can objectively appreciate the convenience and practicality of Uber, I cannot help but worry. This increase in the number of Uber cabs only marks one step toward the imminent future ahead of us: a world controlled by our phones. We can call cabs in them and transfer money to others through them via apps such as Venmo. Everything is abstract, and we never concretely feel the money we have spent as we pay it back to someone. We never concretely feel the pleasure and gratitude we get in sitting in a cab after standing in the rain hoping to be warm again. Because of this little device, we never feel the little things in life.
I use technology as much as everyone else — this is a blog post, after all — but I do not want us to reach a point where we cannot appreciate the richness of the world around us. I want the ability to take my eyes off Instagram long enough to see a parade on the streets. I want the ability to stop watching Netflix long enough to see a play in the park. When I visit New York, I want to channel my inner Blair Waldorf, hail a cab and look out the window thinking of how many stories that particular cab has helped create, or how many it has been a part of. I want the yellow cabs to remain and be appreciated because I need an element of history and “the olden days” in order to remain in a continuously new and developing world.