The Night Shift
December 13, 2009 5:04 PM   Subscribe

“I could not understand what was happening,” Mr. Sherpa said. “This man, my partner from my own country, he’s trying to kill me. He was a crazy man, like he didn’t know me. He said nothing — he just kept chopping me.”
posted by william_boot (50 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

 
What an awkwardly written piece that is
posted by mhjb at 5:15 PM on December 13, 2009 [4 favorites]


I read this article earlier today. It is a sad story, but some of the writing struck me as florid:

The Sherpas’ reputation for being trustworthy and tireless guides translates well to the profession of ferrying people around the more flat — but perhaps equally daunting — streets of New York.

and

Then he drove off toward the mountains of Manhattan.
posted by theclaw at 5:17 PM on December 13, 2009 [2 favorites]


The awkwardness is the author's attempt to make a simple situation seem more complex by doing a gradual reveal.
posted by localroger at 5:20 PM on December 13, 2009 [3 favorites]


Uh, that's horrific.

Something about the way the article's written is kinda rubbing me the wrong way though. Like, I guess the way it's framing the story as good, hardworking, unsuspecting immigrant vs. crazyevil immigrant... feels condescending somehow. Maybe I'm reading too much into it.
posted by hegemone at 5:22 PM on December 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


The gradual reveal works a lot better if you don't blurt out the whole story in the first sentence.
posted by mhjb at 5:26 PM on December 13, 2009 [2 favorites]


I wonder how common the second name 'Sherpa' is over there.
posted by I_pity_the_fool at 5:47 PM on December 13, 2009


Sounds like that cabbie... *dons sunglasses* ... just couldn't hack it.
posted by Kraftmatic Adjustable Cheese at 5:47 PM on December 13, 2009 [34 favorites]


YEEEEEEEAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH
posted by Avenger at 5:52 PM on December 13, 2009 [24 favorites]


Sounds like that cabbie... *dons sunglasses* ... just couldn't hack it.

Episode title: Chopping Spree
posted by Artw at 5:54 PM on December 13, 2009 [4 favorites]


"To have someone stab someone is unusual here,” Detective Chang said. "

Seriously? In New York City? Somehow I don't think that's true.

And yeah, great story, terrible writing. I almost gagged when I read that "mountains of Manhattan" line at the end.
posted by DecemberBoy at 6:04 PM on December 13, 2009


Rather obviously, it's a newspaper, and not literature. It's the story though, one of the oldest -- anyone can snap. Worse, anyone can blame *anyone* else for their problems -- jesus. And then the redemptive humanity -- the guy shows up at his friends funeral ceremony, trying to comfort his partners relatives, not blaming, knowing his partner just snapped, asking if he'd done anything to wrong his partner in some way he didn't know. And finally, the understatement of the year:

He has not yet chosen a new driving partner.

“This time, I am more careful,”
the Sherpa said the other day.

posted by dancestoblue at 6:28 PM on December 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


the guy shows up at his friends partners funeral ceremony
posted by dancestoblue at 6:31 PM on December 13, 2009


That was such a complicated and strange article- I wish I had someone of Nepalese descent to guide me through it.
posted by farishta at 6:31 PM on December 13, 2009 [4 favorites]



"To have someone stab someone is unusual here,” Detective Chang said. "

Seriously? In New York City? Somehow I don't think that's true.


Sigh, New York has one of the lowest crime rates in the country. Less if you don't know the person doing the crime. Yes the 70s were bad, no it's not nearly like that now. Hell, you have people wishing there where more stabbings. Yesesh.

When I think stabbing I think Glasgow cause
posted by The Whelk at 6:46 PM on December 13, 2009 [7 favorites]


Sorry I'm just sick of having to explain to parents that their son isn't gonna be raped and killed on St. Mark's Space at 3pm.
posted by The Whelk at 6:46 PM on December 13, 2009


Somebody got paid to write this: "They seemed to be running side by side on a familiar treadmill. But their lives were actually mirror images of the immigrant experience in New York."
posted by boo_radley at 7:28 PM on December 13, 2009 [2 favorites]


Somebody got paid to write this

Well, someone got paid to do hours and hours of legwork, talk with victim, with cops, family members, teachers at the taxi school, spend time at Nepali hangouts, note many, many details and try to get them all right.

I'm not a big fan of the florid writing style either, but I'm really glad somebody's paying people to do this.
posted by neroli at 7:40 PM on December 13, 2009 [9 favorites]


./
posted by localhuman at 7:41 PM on December 13, 2009


But also: yeah, those are some fucking awful sentences.
posted by neroli at 7:41 PM on December 13, 2009


Holy fucking shit.

That stabbing took place two blocks from my fucking house.

I've walked down that street dozens of times on my way home from the seven train.
posted by jason's_planet at 7:49 PM on December 13, 2009


Why are people calling this a stabbing? Clearly this is a case of chopping right?
posted by delmoi at 8:00 PM on December 13, 2009


"To have someone stab someone is unusual here,” Detective Chang said. "

Seriously? In New York City? Somehow I don't think that's true.


I have lived in that neighborhood, Woodside, for nearly a decade now. Most of the people who live there are upwardly mobile immigrants, Hispanic and Asian. The overall vibe can be a little rough around the edges sometimes but still, the crime rates are very low, the families are intact. This is not the ghetto. This is not Travis Bickle territory. It's a stable multiracial workingclass neighborhood. The absolute worst you might encounter is a drunken barfight on Roosevelt avenue.

Detective Chang's assessment is actually quite accurate; a stabbing would be, and is, deeply unusual for the neighborhood.
posted by jason's_planet at 8:05 PM on December 13, 2009 [3 favorites]


I'm unfamiliar with NYC taxicabs. What is the author referring to here?

and a small metal medallion riveted to its hood: a city-issued concession that cost him $575,000 but turned the vehicle into a 24-hour money-making machine.
posted by pravit at 8:28 PM on December 13, 2009


Standard NYT human interest story in their house style upsets MetaFilter. Again.
posted by dhartung at 8:30 PM on December 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


Sorry I'm just sick of having to explain to parents that their son isn't gonna be raped and killed on St. Mark's Space at 3pm.

I know, it's just that quote seemed like something the sheriff of East Nowhere county would say, not a New York City detective. I'm sure this isn't the first stabbing he's seen. People get stabbed here in Austin, and we're all pot-smoking hippies.
posted by DecemberBoy at 8:36 PM on December 13, 2009


I'm unfamiliar with NYC taxicabs. What is the author referring to here?

and a small metal medallion riveted to its hood: a city-issued concession that cost him $575,000 but turned the vehicle into a 24-hour money-making machine.


The author is referring to the (yellow) taxi license. Political lobbying keeps the number of taxi licenses, or medallions, artificially low.

Because supply far exceeds demand, taxi licenses are extremely expensive. It's not unusual for the owners of said taxi licenses to eschew driving the cabs themselves and lease them out to other people. In this case, according to the article, the fee appears to have been $1,400 a week, split between the two drivers.
posted by jason's_planet at 8:47 PM on December 13, 2009


Maybe he meant to say CHOPPING WITH A MEAT CLEAVER as opposed to a stabbing, cause, dang, a MEAT CLEAVER that's novel.
posted by The Whelk at 8:48 PM on December 13, 2009


Leave it to cleaver.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 9:03 PM on December 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


Nepali people pride themselves on being peace-loving, but also fierce fighters if provoked.

Those proud and noble savages. Its a good thing that an entire nation is so easy to characterize with such a sweeping, dumbass generalization. Otherwise Kilgannon might have actually had to write a coherent article.
posted by orville sash at 9:05 PM on December 13, 2009


I know, it's just that quote seemed like something the sheriff of East Nowhere county would say, not a New York City detective.

He probably cares more about defending this safe, pleasant neighborhood's reputation than he does about impressing you with his worldly experience and bad-assitude. (After all, as you point out, he's a NYC homicide detective, and doesn't really have anything to prove in that department anyway.)
posted by nebulawindphone at 10:05 PM on December 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


He probably cares more about defending this safe, pleasant neighborhood's reputation than he does about impressing you with his worldly experience and bad-assitude. (After all, as you point out, he's a NYC homicide detective, and doesn't really have anything to prove in that department anyway.)

Um... very well then?

Man, some people are fucking pricks.
posted by DecemberBoy at 10:18 PM on December 13, 2009


By the way, I meant to flag your post, but I accidentally favorited it. I'm leaving it that way because it's funny.
posted by DecemberBoy at 10:19 PM on December 13, 2009


I kept reading the article hoping there would be some explanation for the stabbing/chopping, and there was not. What a strange article.
posted by KokuRyu at 10:25 PM on December 13, 2009


KokuRyu

There's no explanation because nobody knows why the guy did it. He was suicidally depressed and apparently wanted to "hurt those who had hurt him"; maybe he felt Sherpa had wronged him in some way.

Though I do agree that this article had a very strange, noirish style to it that isn't really appropriate.
posted by Target Practice at 10:32 PM on December 13, 2009


I know, it's just that quote seemed like something the sheriff of East Nowhere county would say, not a New York City detective.

The "here" in Detective Chang's comment "To have someone stab someone is unusual here" is a reference to the specific neighborhood, to Woodside, Queens, not New York City as a whole.

And it's actually an accurate characterization of the neighborhood. Yeah, it can be a little rough around the edges. This isn't tea-and-crumpets territory. Sometimes bad things happen. But overall it's a stable, safe neighborhood filled with people who are working very hard to build better lives for themselves and their children. This sort of incident is actually very rare.
posted by jason's_planet at 10:50 PM on December 13, 2009


neroli: "
Well, someone got paid to do hours and hours of legwork, talk with victim, with cops, family members, teachers at the taxi school, spend time at Nepali hangouts, note many, many details and try to get them all right.

I'm not a big fan of the florid writing style either, but I'm really glad somebody's paying people to do this.
"

Agreed there, entirely.
posted by boo_radley at 11:10 PM on December 13, 2009


Sorry, DecemberBoy. In my head that sounded more jokey and less insulting than it must have come across.
posted by nebulawindphone at 12:00 AM on December 14, 2009


I'm unfamiliar with NYC taxicabs. What is the author referring to here?
...
"a small metal medallion riveted to its hood"

Taxis in NYC and many other places are regulated. The numbers are limited and you can't drive a legal taxi that isn't registered. The cab owners buy a taxi license from a cab owner who is (typically) retiring, and they hire other drivers to drive their cab 24 hours a day, to maximise the return on their investment. When they want to retire they may sell the license to someone else, or just hire another driver to take their shift.

Anyway, the medallion represents the license, and it turns the cab from a funny-looking yellow car into one that can be used as a taxi. The taxi is driven 24 hours a day, so it's a "24-hour money-making machine".
posted by Joe in Australia at 1:15 AM on December 14, 2009


"There's no explanation because nobody knows why the guy did it. He was suicidally depressed and apparently wanted to "hurt those who had hurt him""

Actually the reason is kind of obvious, and a fairly common motive for murder: vengeful suicide. He felt cheated out of success, and so he murdered a more successful peer as a kind of Karmic justice. Social animals like humans, canines, and primates are all sensitive to inequality, and are prone to punish unfairness.

The fact that their lives were so similar in toil, and yet so radically different in reward was unfair. So he took control from the hands of indifferent chaos and made their circumstances equal.
posted by dgaicun at 3:22 AM on December 14, 2009


The awkwardness is the author's attempt to make a simple situation seem more complex by doing a gradual reveal.

Yeah, the author is definitely trying to pull out the story - like taffy - to make some kind of "point" in what is actually just "Man, this thing happened and it was weird and awful."
posted by grapefruitmoon at 5:10 AM on December 14, 2009


the only part i really liked is reading about how mr. sherpa showed up at his assailant's memorial service.
posted by lester's sock puppet at 6:25 AM on December 14, 2009



Because supply far exceeds demand, taxi licenses are extremely expensive. It's not unusual for the owners of said taxi licenses to eschew driving the cabs themselves and lease them out to other people. In this case, according to the article, the fee appears to have been $1,400 a week, split between the two drivers.


Our Horrible Economy Data Point: I've been seeing more older guys (and some women) driving Taxis recently. I assumed they where the original license holders who are now cutting out the middleman and driving themselves, but it just ossured to be they could be leasing for extra income
posted by The Whelk at 6:45 AM on December 14, 2009 [1 favorite]


Besides the "vengeful suicide" angle, you have to realize what the teacher said in the article is true: driving seven days a week, 12 hrs a day is a horrible existence, especially the night shift.

Ever watch Taxi Driver? That part where he talks about the dregs of society hitting the back seat of his cab? The fluids and the vomit and the nastiness? That's exactly what it's like. it can be like to drive nights.

It's fine if you're young and not looking at years of being a cabdriver forever and ever. If you look at it as a sort of lark (which is what I did). But I watched many immigrants being driven mad by the randomness of payoff (which seems horribly unfair if you then have to turn over the exorbitant nut to the cab company), and the cultural nightmare of nighttime in the big city, all surrounded by people you barely understand and who treat you like garbage.

Cabdriving is romanticized like crazy in the US. But it can be a hell for a lot of immigrants, who pass around tales of the "big win" (that crazy fare who paid you a fifty buck tip for no reason) just like gambling addicts. It's difficult to get enough exercise when you're sitting on your ass in a car 12 hours a day, and you often end up eating fast food or, worse, gas station food.

I knew some immigrants who owned their own cars, and worked fucking 20-23 hours a day, sleeping in the cab, trying desperately to make enough to bring their families over from the homeland. You become transfixed by the "luck" of the draw... the sense that the universe either loves you or hates you depending on who sits their ass down in the back of your car, and what they pay you. You'll wait for hours in line at the airport, only to get a fare going to a close-by hotel. Same goes for the downtown hotel cab-lines when you're hoping for an airport fare. If you come from a culture that believes strongly in "luck", I can imagine the self-hatred and unhappiness that can result if it doesn't work well for you.

Anyway.
.

I'm glad Mr. Sherpa survived and has such compassion.

Be nice to your cabbies, people. Their job sucks.
posted by RedEmma at 11:08 AM on December 14, 2009 [4 favorites]


... I'm really glad somebody's paying people to do this...

...the author is definitely trying to pull out the story - like taffy...


Must have been paid by the word.
posted by StickyCarpet at 11:43 AM on December 14, 2009


I've been seeing more older guys (and some women) driving Taxis recently.

I had a 90+ guy the other day. Showed me a curled B&W picture of himself with some hot Italian babe from WWII.

When he said, "this is the worst traffic I've ever seen on the West Side Highway," I was pleased by being able to feel properly sorry for myself.
posted by StickyCarpet at 11:50 AM on December 14, 2009


"To have someone stab someone is unusual here,” Detective Chang said. "

Seriously? In New York City? Somehow I don't think that's true.


It's Queens, not New York.

And if I had to go to Queens, I'd probably stab someone, too. That goes double for Brooklyn. Boogie Down is okay, though. They have a cool zoo.
posted by Eideteker at 1:10 PM on December 14, 2009


Eideteker, your Wiki link (to "Manhattan", oddly) itself explains (and don't you live in New York, and therefore know this?) that New York City is comprised of several boroughs, one of which is Queens. Queens (and your dreaded Brooklyn) is part of New York City, which, of course, is often referred to simply as New York. Your comment is, therefore, so misinformed and bizarre that I can only surmise that you're making a kind of joke, perhaps. The old "if it ain't Manhattan, it ain't NY" idea? I thought that kind of thinking was pretty much limited to Woody Allen and a handful of others, these days.

You hadda be joking, right?
posted by flapjax at midnite at 4:01 PM on December 14, 2009 [1 favorite]


Well now, Queens is really part of Long Island now isn't it? /nasaleastsideliltwithroundedtones
posted by The Whelk at 4:08 PM on December 14, 2009 [1 favorite]


Ahem. It's pronounced Lawn Guyland.
posted by Eideteker at 3:41 AM on December 15, 2009


Not by the nasaleastsideliltwithroundedtones-speaking people that Whelk was quoting!
posted by flapjax at midnite at 4:38 AM on December 15, 2009


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