One morning last month I drove a young lady from Chelsea to Central Park South. It was rush hour, the only segment of my 12 hour shift in which seldom words are exchanged between my passengers and I. Traffic is frantic. Vehicles of all shapes and sizes shifting lanes without notice. Horns blaring in synch with brake lights. Pedestrian kamikazes sprinting at every angle and dozen other things all happening at once.
Regardless of whether my passengers are, I certainly am on a race against time. It's a 120 minute window of opportunity to make up for the other, sometimes drastically less lucrative hours of the shift. All of my energy and attention is absorbed by an effort to connect point A with B as quickly as safely possible and then find point A again (new fare). The stress is punctuated by the endless stream of people hailing my cab as I weave towards point B. Silly, pointless questions share my brain with its two only other ingredients: adrenaline and a throbbing hippocampus. "Where were all of you a couple hours ago when I couldn't find a single fare?" and "do I look like Adolf Hitler to all you Nazis?"
Every now and then, however, I'll make the extra effort to open up lines of communication with a passenger who I absolutely can't help but feel intrigued by. At the brief pause of a red light I'll look up at the mirror or turn my head and ask "what big plans do you have in store for today?"
On that particular morning it was Nilo Tabrizy. In the final minute of the ride I learned that she's a photojournalism student at Columbia University who interviews people on the street, keeps a blog, and has been to much of the world. I offered myself as a subject for any of her future projects and received a call from her about a week later. This is what came out of it: