No eating or drinking inside this car, reads a sign in Mansoor Khalids cab,Except candies.
There are plenty of them. Khalid keeps the back dashboard of his New York yellow cab stocked with enough candy to induce envy in the most successful trick-or-treater.
Turn around; see what else is back there, Khalid recently told Legend Wilson,7,who was riding in the cab with his mother,May Wilson. Theres a lot of options.
Wilson said her son had plenty of candy at home. Come on,he can have some; hes is the candy cab, Khalid said. Ill call you when he has to go to the dentist, Wilson said as her son collected a small pile of treats.
Free candy is not the only perk of riding with Khalid,a 37-year-old electrical engineer from Pakistan who has been driving a yellow cab since 1996. He also recently bought a $400 subwoofer that,in his words,makes your heart go boom,and invites customers to plug their devices into the speakers. To complete the nightclub-in-a-cab experience,the car is also outfitted with an advanced lighting system that,when activated,flashes fluorescent reds,blues and purples.
His altruism is not bad for business either. Khalids cab has become an Internet celebrity,earning thousands of followers on Twitter,Instagram and Facebook. That loyal online following supplies a steady stream of customers for Khalid,who gets frequent requests for pickups from fans who send their locations to him via Twitter or Facebook.
This grassroots outreach is one way that yellow cabs can rise above the fray in an increasingly competitive market. But dont expect the 13,000 other yellow taxis to follow suit any time soon. The $300 a month Khalid spends on candy would probably be a deal breaker for most cabbies.
Khalids customers certainly appreciate the effort. One rider,Casandra Johnson,was quiet during the first few moments of her ride with Khalid a few weeks ago,but perked up once she saw the stash in the back seat. I was in a bad mood because Ive been lugging boxes all day, she said,You just totally changed my Monday.
Another passenger wrote on Twitter,Sweetest ride in fifteen years. Left my bag of knitting there,but gained so much at heart when I Googled you. God bless.
She was referring to the sombre back story of Khalids generosity. His son Saad was born in 2010 with a congenital heart defect,and when Khalid visited him at Montefiore Medical Centre in the Bronx after his night shift,he would bring coffee for the doctors and nurses there,who called him coffee man.
My average was 20 bucks every night,for coffee and sweets, he said.
Saad died last April,only 18 months old. When Khalid returned to work,he decided to turn his cab into a rolling
celebration. A year later,Khalid has not moved on. He still smells his sons old clothing,and has kept the boys room untouched. But he learned from his time in the hospital that giving to others could at least hide,if not heal,his own feelings of loss.
I like to buy something for people; I feel good, Khalid said. When you give something from your hand,you feel very good when someone gives a smile.