Opinion Brief

The $5,000 cross-country cab ride

Two buddies from New York get a cabbie to shuttle them coast to coast. The question is, why?

The video: Two New Yorkers wanted to "do something great and fun and serious and magical and bigger than us," and here's what they came up with: Take a taxi from New York to Los Angeles. So they went to New York City's LaGuardia airport, and found driver Mohammed Alam, who agreed to make the 3,000-mile trip for $5,000 — about $12,000 less than it would have cost with the meter running. (Watch a local news report on the Denver leg of the trip below.) The passengers — investment banker John Belitsky and college professor Dan Wuebben — say they cooked up the idea at Wuebben's 32nd birthday party. Belitsky's father is a former cab driver, and he insisted no cabbie would make the trip. "It was a great idea. We've met a lot of fun people, seen a lot of interesting things," Belitsky said. As an added bonus, he said, "I proved my father wrong."
The reaction: As any New Yorker can attest, says Madison Gray at TIME, hailing a cab across town can be impossible. "So how two guys flagged down a cab and got the driver to take them all the way to Los Angeles is completely baffling." Add to that the fact that the cabbie shaved more than $12,000 off the metered price, and this is one of the great urban mysteries of our time. Well, it's really not so puzzling, says Jen Doll at The Village Voice. The cab driver got to avoid New York's infamous crosstown traffic, and relax on the open roads of the Midwest for three magical days. As for Belitsky, he got loads of attention by tweeting during the 3,000-mile trip. "We smell a book deal, which, oddly enough, smells kind of like the inside of a cab." Take a look at a news report on the trip:

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