Among the 40,000 or so active licensed taxi drivers in New York City, cabbie Melissa Plaut is an anomaly—she's a young, petite, white, Jewish, college-educated, American woman—and that's precisely what makes her story all the more interesting. Gayle talks to Melissa, author of Hack, about her life as a cab driver in the Big Apple.
After getting laid off from a job as an advertising copywriter, Melissa says she craved adventure and excitement—and loathed the idea of going back to corporate America. "This was sort of a life-changing moment for me," she says. "It was not, 'I want to become a taxi driver.' It was, 'I want to do everything under the sun that I want to do, and I'm going to have adventures and I'm going to be a person that if I met them, I would envy them.'"
Behind the wheel of her taxi, Melissa says she found adventures—and misadventures—while shuttling passengers, befriending other drivers and enduring 12-hour shifts. While she says she feared getting into an accident more than she feared picking up unruly passengers, on more than one occasion, she says she did deal with some interesting characters who performed sexual acts in the backseat of her car.
For the most part, Melissa says she picked up normal individuals just trying to get from point A to point B. Although work as a cabbie isn't always easy, she dispels the myth that New Yorkers are rude—even if they sometimes tipped poorly and acted surprised to see a woman driving a cab. "What people in other parts of the country consider rude, in New York, people consider just getting straight to the point," she says.
Published on August 28, 2007