The Human Computer And The Cat Chauffeur

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Jerry Tierstein and fellow taxi driver Andrew Vollo.

Jerry Tierstein (right) and fellow taxi driver Andrew Vollo. StoryCorps hide caption

itoggle caption StoryCorps
New York cab drivers Oleg Roitman and Andrew Vollo.

New York cab drivers Oleg Roitman (left) and Andrew Vollo. StoryCorps hide caption

itoggle caption StoryCorps

Andrew Vollo is a New York City cab driver who has made it his mission to interview as many other cabbies as he can, recording their memories for the StoryCorps oral history project.

Recently, Vollo spoke with Oleg Roitman and Jerry Tierstein about their experiences driving passengers around New York.

A Head For Dates

"My nickname is 'The Human Computer,'" Roitman said.

"If you tell me — in Russian, Hebrew or English — any date, for example the date of your birth, in less than a second, I will tell you on which day of the week you were born."

Roitman performs that feat with his passengers all the time — and he doesn't expect them to take his word for it.

"I always carry a book with calendars from 1900 to 2020," he said.

When a couple got in and wanted to go to Penn Station, Roitman drove — and also asked for their birthdays.

The man said he was born on April 14, 1973.

Roitman's response: Saturday.

"He paid me double the meter," Roitman said.

A Cab Cat

Tierstein has a story, too, about driving a pet around town.

"A lady puts a cat in my cab," Tierstein said. "It's rush hour."

But the woman had forgotten something in the building. She'd be right back, she said.

"Just drive the cat around for a block or so, and come around," she told Tierstein.

"Now I'm sitting here, I got the cat in the back seat," he recalled. Tierstein started to circle the block — and other pedestrians started to rush toward his cab.

First came a man who ignored Tierstein's claim that he already had a fare — until he opened the door and started to hop onto the back seat.

"Why didn't you tell me you got a cat in here?" the man yelled.

The scene was repeated soon after, this time with a woman. She opened the door, saw the cat, screamed and jumped back.

Finally, Tierstein got back to his fare's apartment.

"Lady, you don't know," he told her. "People are jumping in the car, you're killing me here. They think there's no one in here, but I got this stupid cat in the back seat."

"Don't call my cat stupid," the woman answered.

Produced for Morning Edition by Michael Garofalo with help from Katie Simon

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