“No Queens! No Queens!” (1963ish)

NO QUEENS—My first boyfriend, Jim Fragale, was turning 40 and I was 27. It was 1979. He’d moved to NYC from West Virginia in 1963 at 24. When we began dating, I couldn’t believe he’d lived in NYC for such a long time. I remember saying to him “I hope I’m not still here after 16 years (As it turns out, I’ve now been here 41 years, though I had a 2-year break in Tokyo working for a bank).

One of Jim’s early experiences upon arriving in Manhattan has forever stuck in my memory: he got into a cab one night and, new to the city, was unaware of the general aversion of Manhattan taxi drivers to take their riders to any of NYC’s other four boroughts – Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx, and Staten Island – because they would be unlikely to pick up a fare for the long ride home.

As Jim slid into his seat and pulled the car door shut, the taxi driver quickly blurted out: “No Queens! No Queens!”

Jim disconsolately opened the taxi door, jumped out, and stormed off in indignation.

I imagine the taxi driver was as perplexed by Jim’s reaction as Jim had been by the driver’s statement, since the car owner had merely wanted to be sure his rider didn’t expect to be driven to that outer borough.—Mike Balaban

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