The New York City taxi industry is certainly male dominated. No question about it. Most passengers expect to see a man behind the wheel when they get into a taxi, and I have been called sir, pal, and bud more times than I can count. I have even had police officers in a car next to mine roll down their window to tell me that I am a rare sight. Every shift I drive, I have several people tell me how they have lived in the city for many years and I am the very first woman cab driver they have ever had. In a city where there are roughly 46,000 yellow cab drivers, there are around 170 women. That is a pretty low percentage, so it is no surprise that most people are caught off guard.
Everyone, especially other drivers, assumes that as a female driver, I must make amazing tips. It may be the case sometimes, but sometimes it is no more than any other driver would get, and sometimes, even less than that. But the times that it is the case, it’s usually pretty good. I don’t know if it is that I am female, or just friendly, but some people feel generous. It is usually guys trying to leave an impression, or little old ladies who get really excited to see a younger woman taking on the “man’s world”.
Another perk of being a woman is usually once people see me, they get excited and it opens up a door for conversation. They want to know, usually in this order, “How long have you been driving a cab?”, “do you like it?” and “how did you get into this?” It’s like someone pasted a script for them to read off to the divider behind me. So I have pretty much mastered my responses. I don’t even have to think about it anymore.
They are also more open to other conversation as well. I love talking and try to be friendly with all my passengers. So, if their surprise at me being a woman gets the conversation going, then I am happy for it. Nothing is worse than a night where nobody wants to talk.
Sometimes you get guys who take the situation as a chance to hit on you, though. I’ve had guys ask me to flash them. I’ve had guys ask me out. Just last week, I picked up a group of guys who had been out on the town and one of them told me that he was going to be my Christmas present and I was going to get to “unwrap” him. Even other drivers, too. I’ve been hit on at my garage, at the JFK taxi lot, even from another driver in a car next to mine on Park Ave. And none of these situations, thankfully have been in any way threatening. If I felt unsafe, I couldn’t do my job. While it can sometimes be amusing, it isn’t always my favorite part of the job.
One of the things I get asked all the time is “where do you stop to use the bathroom?” Unlike the guys on the job, I can’t just pull over anywhere. Driving around the city, I have had to learn places where not only will I be welcomed to use their facilities, but where I will be able to find parking while I go. Certain neighborhoods are impossible at some times of the night, while others have ample parking. And I need to usually know where I am going to be able to go before I get there otherwise it’s a gamble, and some places have tried charging me to use their facilities, and others flat out turn me down or tell me there is no bathroom (which is usually a lie). I am not above lying about being pregnant to use a bathroom in a dire situation. But after a year and a half of driving a cab, I have a few favorite spots that I know I can always use.
Being a woman driver has its perks, and it has its drawbacks. I may have to work a little harder, drive a little faster and cut a few more people off to keep other drivers from trying to push me around. But it pays off. And at the end of the day (or night), I can honestly say I love what I do. I can’t remember the last time I had a job I was as proud of. I love the conversations I have with my customers who may not give other drivers a second thought. In a world filled with cell phones and iPads, most other drivers tell me how nobody talks to them. And while I do get my share of people who don’t talk, I know I have a much higher percentage of people who do. I love that when I walk into the concession at the JFK taxi lot, once the other drivers realize that I am a driver too, they give me just that little bit of respect, because they know how tough the job can be. And while that respect won’t last until they cut me off next time on 2nd Ave, for that moment, I have it. I’m “one of the guys”. I like that street cred. I’ve earned it!
A big thank you to our guest blogger Erin Samuelsen, NYC taxi driver and Girly Cabbie blogger. We appreciate her honesty and willingness to write for TaxiFareFinder!