Monday, December 7, 2009


I show up at the drivers' lounge between 2 and 3 am, in order to be first in line among the 'non-steady hacks'. I wait until 5 am or so, to be assigned a cab by the dispatcher. I read, write, and take naps while the night hacks crawl in from their shifts. I'm not a "steady driver", which means I'm not on the garage's weekly schedule. I like to keep my routine flexible, but that means I'm not always guaranteed a cab. I have to wait for one of the steadies to call off, and they often wait until the last second, or even until the dispatcher calls them. Most 'steadies' have been with the garage for so many years that seniority allows them to get away with letting taxicabs sit idle in the lot well into daybreak, while they take their sweet time, or not show up at all. These days the only way a garage will secure you a cab is if you agree to slave away 6 days a week. That's 12 hours a shift. That's 72 hours.

If you're a steady day shift, you have no choice but to work weekends too. If you're a steady night shift you have no choice but to also work the least lucrative weeknights (Sunday and Monday). If you're on that weekly contract, and you decide to (or must) take a day off, you're supposed to call the dispatcher before the start of your shift. Regardless, you're held responsible for the shift lease unless a part-time driver (like me) picks up the shift . Funny thing is that I often do about 4 shifts a week when I'm in town. 4 x 12 is 48 hours. That's a whole 'normal workday' more than in a 'normal full-time position'. And yet I fall into the category of "part-time driver." There is absolutely NO SUCH THING as overtime in the taxi industry. We're independent contractors! Another funny thing is that my garage couldn't give me a steady schedule, even if I WANTED one. The entire industry is over-saturated with drivers.

The ugliest thing about it is that everyday hundreds of people go through a 500 or so dollar process to become licensed cabdrivers, led on by a governing body that is well aware of the unfair ratio of actual cabs available for lease. To make matters worse, garages will gladly take $2oo deposits from new drivers, and then consistently turn them down when they call or come in. Imagine that! You 're hurting so bad economically that you decide to take a risk and put $700 down to get your foot in the door of possible employment (not to mention its daunting tasks), only to learn that it is in fact all but impossible to even get started, beyond the time and money spent on licensing. Knowingly leading people on when they're most vulnerable is unethical and heartbreaking to witness.

The weekend day shifts are easiest to get. I usually don't have a problem scoring two or so weekday or weeknight shifts either, if I wait patiently at the lounge, but not without being sent home on one or two other occasions. Dispatchers have a great deal of respect for someone who never whines. It seems it's either that or bribery. When I first started out as a hack I was on one of those brutal, previously mentioned schedules. Sunday through Friday, like a good Jew (but a bad Jew for earning my money in such a goyish manner). 288 hours a month, for months on end. Those were my days of serious mental and physical imbalance, in which my only purpose in life was to supply my sister with her college needs. My health has improved greatly since I took myself off that schedule. Sometimes I'm just simply out of town for week(s) and I don't have to answer to any dispatcher. I have time for a life!

Michael Duffer, my cabdriving comrade, taking a nap at the lounge. He's been working weekend mornings for a long time. Surprisingly enough, he was sent home cabless last Saturday. OK, so it's the highly taxied holiday season and everything, but give the good cabbies of NYC a break, will ya? He shows up earlier than anyone, pays his lease, never scratches or bumps the fiberglass, and provides our city with excellent service. Stop selling his well-deserved spot to higher bidders.


  1. Situation at garages is very sad, when i started working as yellow cab driver, i was desperate for money at that point but was only able to secure cab thrice a week. I use to wake up 1:00 A.M, go to garage wait there sometime till 8:00 A.M, and come back home, when every one is hoping you will come with some money at home, it is hard to go empty handed even after spending 8 hours outside your comfort zone,this situation, lead me to buy my own car,there are different kind of hustles and hustlers involved, i will write about them soon.
    Your garage looks very nice, compared to to Gotham in the bronx, they even don't have a place for drivers, where they can sit and wait.

  2. Preach on brother! I see your situation has it's pluses and minuses.

    I've got myself a situation where I am guaranteed saturday and sunday mornings, and I wait an hour for one day, and 15 minutes for another. Sometimes they throw me an extra day, a monday, maybe a tuesday.

    So I don't have to wait as long as you, nor worry about not having a cab, but on the other hand I can't land another shift or two per week, and I fear that if i call off for a vacation, the message won't go through to all the higher ups, I'll get yelled at and lose my job.

  3. What an educational post! The details of those first two paragraphs are crazy! I've already heard so much about it and I'm still wowed by the way you present it.

  4. Well over here in Ireland anyone can buy a taxi licence for € 5700.
    Before the trade was deregulated plates changed hands for €100,000!

    Imagine buying a plate at the old price.
    To add insult to injury the numbers were never limited, so in Dublin we have more taxis than New York 16,000 or so and only taxi ranks for 1,500 cars. Hundreds of cars driving around empty others picking up tickets while waiting to get on to a rank.

  5. What's so goyish about driving a cab? My great grandfather drove a cab. By the way, I live in Brooklyn now.

  6. Bev, I think you misunderstood me. I am in complete agreement with you about there being absolutely nothing wrong with a Jew being a cabdriver. I was merely trying to shed light on the current common perception held by most American Jews, which is that cab driving is indeed a job for gentiles because it isn't lucrative and intellectual enough to pass their standards. I'm not speaking out of my ass here. Nearly every single Jew who has been a passenger in my cab has expressed this sentiment. Personally, I take deep offense to this, not only on my own behalf but on that of all hard working, yet under-appreciated people.


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