NYC Taxi Driver Dishes on His Pet Peeves, Cab Sex, and What He Really Thinks About Going to Brooklyn

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Pictures From a Taxi
We admit a fascination with certain New York City professions -- the ones that are generally unsung; the ones that keep our city functioning day-to-day without much attention or interest from the public unless something actually goes wrong. For long we've wondered: What's it like to drive a cab in New York City? Run a bodega? Work in a subway station? Be a mailman? Be a nanny? And so on...

For installment one of our investigative NYC jobs report, we spoke to New York City cab driver Eugene Salomon, who runs two blogs, Cabs Are for Kissing and Pictures From a Taxi, when he's not delivering passengers to destinations around town, entertaining his daughter's Boston Terrier, or playing the five-string banjo. Find out everything you really wanted to know about cab sex! Where they pee! How drivers really feel about those annoying TVs!... And more, after the jump.

You're a cab driver who blogs. Tell us about that.
I'm a writer -- I've written several stage plays, a screenplay, a libretto -- and I'd always kept journals of events that happened in my taxi since I started driving in '77. So writing a blog was a completely natural and logical direction for me to take. I only wish the blogosphere had been around 30 years ago!

How did you get started as a cab driver?
The fault lies with my old friend Harry, who was driving a cab while putting himself through chiropractic college. Harry seemed to think I might enjoy driving a cab better than selling umbrellas on the street.

I think I would always drive a cab even if I didn't need the money, although I wouldn't put in the long hours (12 hour shifts) that I do now. This occupation is in my DNA at this point and as a writer it is, of course, an endless source of material.

How have things changed over the years?
Certainly one thing that's changed is that people get in cabs now and talk on their cell phones and watch TV as if they were in their own living rooms. Some passengers seem to think they're in their own bedrooms, too, but that is not a new thing.

Another change is the ethnicity of the drivers. The Russians, Greeks, and Israelis have pretty much left the business and have been replaced by the Indians and Pakistanis, who tend to be more law-abiding and timid than were their predecessors. Gone is the guy named Georgi whose mantra was "I don't go to Brooklyn."

What's a typical day like for you on the job?
The shift begins at 5 p.m. I will have about 35 fares, 80 percent of them New Yorkers, 20 percent tourists or people on business from other parts of the country and the world. Half of my passengers will talk on their cell phones during the course of the ride. There will be two or three times when I'm not sure if they're talking on their phones or if they're talking to me.

At 9 p.m. I will stop at a Starbucks to get a tall Pike, without which I would surely die.
Out of the 35 fares, three or four will be to Brooklyn or Queens. Maybe one to the Bronx. NONE will be to Staten Island. (On the average there is only one ride to Staten Island per year. That's why it took me 25 years before I finally had a fare to each of the five boroughs during the course of a single shift... yes, I do keep track of these things!)

I will have a conversation with about half of my passengers. Once a night the affinity between myself and a passenger will be sufficiently high that the only appropriate way to end the ride will be a handshake. There will be one thing that will happen, either in the cab or out on the street, that will be memorable -- something about which you would later say, "Oh, yeah, that was the night that that happened." The shift ends at 5 a.m.

Tell us your best cab-sex story.
One night a thirtysomething couple got in the back seat and after about a minute assumed the "taxicab position" -- the man sits facing forward and the woman straddles him, facing the rear window. They had moved themselves over to the far right side of the cab, behind the partition, so my view of them through the mirror was blurry.

This created a little problem for me. From the way they were holding onto each other and from the muted sounds they were making, it seemed like they were having covert sex back there, but I wasn't completely sure. My curiosity was aroused, among other things, but I couldn't very well turn around and say, "Hey, there, how are you doing, just wondering, are you fucking?" So I thought of another way I might be able to know for sure and maybe make some extra money at the same time.

When the ride ended, and they were now sitting side by side, the fare was $9.90. As I turned off the meter I said, "That will be $19.90."

"What do you mean?" the guy replied, "it's $9.90 on the meter."

"It's $9.90 for the taxi ride and ten dollars for the hotel room," I said.

He laughed and gave me a twenty, keep-the-change style.

And then I knew for sure.


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7 comments
taxi cabs Oakland
taxi cabs Oakland

Taxi drivers basically encounter a lot of people in every walk of life. Aside from the decent job they make, they can surely share a lot of different ride stories that may either be funny or sad. These are just some of the things that make their journey challenging yet exciting. Thanks for sharing!

Jennifer
Jennifer

Hi Sal! Thanks for sharing this article. I am a long term follower of your blog, and I think it is one of the best blogs out there. You have an incredible way of telling stories and I truly feel you manage to bring all aspects of humanity into your writing, and into your cab. Keep on writing! Greetings from Vienna!

Rob
Rob

Hey, cool article. I will check out the blog.

I understand that driving a Taxi, is like driving no where else in the world.

Rob

stevecrowell
stevecrowell

I'm curious about the other 13 comments. You hide them on purpose? I like your writing. It is easy to read and there is a nugget style to your vignettes that is concise, like a cab ride. Point A to point B.I would like to hear a diatribe... or short essay, by you, about partitions. Reflections/illusions, edges, protrusions, hearing, seat travel, etc.I used to think everybody was oblivious and or ignorant when they would vigorously 'flag' my cab... even though it was obvious (to some) that I had people in the back seat. The problem is... it isn't obvious to those - in front of the cab - who only see partition reflection and not whether there is someone in the back seat.I could go on about the drawbacks of partition use, but I would rather invite you to do so. Waddya say?

Steve

Eugene Salomon
Eugene Salomon

Jennifer, Thank you so much for letting me know that! It really means a lot to me. G.S.

Gene Salomon
Gene Salomon

Hi,Thanks for the kind words, much appreciated. I don't know what you mean about the 13 comments - there were only two and I haven't hidden any (nor would I know how to do it). As far as the partitions are concerned, I must admit to some ambivalence about them. I drove cabs for 20 years without one and was never held up. But in those days I owned my own cab and had a cut-off switch installed so I could ditch a dangerous passenger. I devised a system I call the "Three Strikes and You're Out" method of evaluating and getting rid of passengers whom I feel are dangerous, and this is what I rely on more than the partition for my own safety. (I wrote a post in my blog about it which you can find by searching in the blog for "three strikes and you're out" or "crime".) I don't like the partition mainly because it's a hindrance to two-way communication between driver and passenger. It's also dangerous to passengers, because it's so close to them, and I've heard many stories about people who suffered injuries because of them. However, I must admit that on the rare occasion in which I feel I am in danger, it's a good thing to be able to slam the partition closed. This happens to me maybe once a year, if that. But it could save your life. I knew a driver, Phil Cohen was his name, who was murdered. I don't know if his partition window was closed or not, or even if the cab had a partition. But there's the chance that it could have saved him if he'd used it.So I'd have to say that if I had to say that given the power to say yea or nay to their use, I'd reluctantly go with "yea".

stevecrowell
stevecrowell

About the 13 comments first, I was mistaken - that was a number attached to how many comments I've made.Ambivalance is a word that can be attributed to, maybe, most cab drivers concerning the partition drawbacks.There is a chance that a deck of cards or a small bible might stop a bullet too. It is well known, benignly, that drivers get shot dead even when there is a partition, open or closed. They are shot through the side window if the weapon access hole is closed. So, if they do no good and also do plenty of harm in collisions, how does apathy prevail? Slamming the partition closed is never a good thing.I agree that your wits will serve you better than any device. Is it a good idea to hamper communication? My wits are hampered when I can't hear what prospective assailants are mumbling about.I used to use a 'kill switch' until I realized that I had better learn to assert myself when I've made a determination to decline service. I had to learn that evicting passengers is as easy as extracting the ignition key and getting out first. Of course that only works where there are others to see, and even then you need to watch out for the mob mentality sometimes.

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