It's somewhere around 7:30pm and I'm in the Upper East Side. As Megan, Ned, and I climb into one of those van-cabs. If you live in New York, you know what I mean. If you've never been, you can imagine it. It's a van that is painted like, and functions like, a cab.
We ask the driver to take us to the main library at Bryant Park. The driver starts rasping at us, nearly unintelligibly. He actually sort of sounded like a mentally challenged person. This was probably either for the producers to get some reaction shots of us, or because the guy was bored. He was white, which isn't often the case with NYC cabs, and had a big bald head. I had a slight sense that something was up. I recall purposefully not reacting, not being alarmed, because the cab was very nice and clean, and surely the City wouldn't give a license to someone gravely unqualified. Also, there were electronics in the ceiling of the cab, which I soon surmised were lights and cameras.
Then the square, disco-ish lights flashed on the ceiling of the cab, and the ruse was up. Driver-host-comedian Ben Bailey parked and turned around and in his normal voice welcomed us to the show. A producer showed up and opened the door. She congratulated us and gave a rundown of how the show works: you're in a cab for x number of blocks. You're asked progressively harder questions. Each one right gets you money. Three wrong and you're kicked off and get no money. You can ask two people for help: call someone on the phone, and stop someone on the street.
At this, I clandestinely whipped out my cellphone. Long ago my friend John and I established a number of hypotheticals, like what we'd do in case of a zombie apocalypse, how we'd like our funerals conducted, and who we'd use as our Lifeline if we were on Who Wants To Be A Millionaire. John is firmly my answer to that last one, and he's often guilty of not answering his phone. So while the producer was still talking, I excitedly texted him "EMERGENCY", then stowed my phone.
When the producer finished talking, she informed us we could now call someone to be on standby. We could say no one was in any danger, and to please be ready for a call in the next half hour or so, but little else. I pulled out my phone. I had six missed calls from John, as well as a few texts from concerned friends who had heard that something drastic had happened. I called him back, said I was fine, be ready to answer a call soon, and be smart. By that I meant be near a computer with Google pulled up, which is not something I think he did.
We re-shot me hailing a cab, as apparently there weren't sneaky camera-people hiding a few feet away when we did it the first time. I don't think this makes the show inauthentic. I do think that America will soon see me hailing a cab with bad form.I cannot state the results of the show until it airs. I will state that Ned performed admirably, and that Megan and I were of little help. I will also state that the show's questions have gotten far, far harder than they once were, as evidenced in this older episode:
Other cabs recognized the flashing lights inside ours and gave friendly honks. It made me think of how, if I were swimming in the ocean and friendly dolphins were around, they might swim alongside me for a little while, barking those clicking noises in an encouraging way.
Ben Bailey, the host, is a funny guy, and sort of personable. He swore at people on the road when we weren't taping. He called someone a "son of a whore" and we laughed politely. I admire his ability to host a TV show and drive in Manhattan at the same time. We mostly just went down Broadway, but still.
Next week: Martha Stewart