Taxi drivers have the dubious distinction of being the only people (other than parents) who experience the phenomena of being invisible much of the time to the passengers in their backseat, allowing them to hear, see and smell more than they may get paid for most of the time. Melissa Plaut has written a terrific expose on life in the Big Apple, as witnessed from behind the wheel of a yellow cab.
Hack is an interesting read, not only for its content but for how it’s presented. The author writes in a very free and open manner, much like an informal chat online. Apparently she did start a blog under the title of “New York Hack,” and clearly this book evolved from her diaries.
Although this is definitely a very personal account of learning to drive a taxi in New York, it is also a slice of social history. We learn how very few women cab drivers there are, and how many of the cab drivers are actually immigrant men with impressive degrees from foreign countries who can't get work in their chosen profession. Melissa meets a fellow hack and asks how long he's been driving:
“Two years. Its terrible. I'm really an engineer, but when I came to this country, no one would hire me without an American degree even though I'd been practicing for thirteen years.”
Nothing is sacred in a cab driver’s experience. They are subjected to harassment from all sectors of the population, witness to sexual encounters, drug transactions, fights and robbery. The hours are long and the pay is so dependent on tips, weather, and traffic patterns that no cabbie can predict what their income will be from week to week.
Read this book. You will learn more about the great American public in these pages than from an entire year of reading the paper. Melissa and all the hacks out there deserve our respect and a good tip, too, for all they put up with.