What Drives a New York Cabbie? The Stories.

Melissa Plaut has magic nights when tips are big and lights are green. And then there are nights when she's stuck behind a garbage truck. Her experiences become part of her blog, New York Hack.
Melissa Plaut has magic nights when tips are big and lights are green. And then there are nights when she's stuck behind a garbage truck. Her experiences become part of her blog, New York Hack. (By Helayne Seidman For The Washington Post)
By Michael Powell
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, February 26, 2006

NEW YORK BEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEP!

"Oh, God. I hate to cut people off."

Melissa Plaut steers her yellow taxi down the roiling river that is Manhattan's Second Avenue at rush hour. "It's not really justified, I know that, okay? It's just a necessity."

A large white van swerves into Plaut's path. She hits the brakes hard.

"Oh, THANK YOU. Now you're going to cut me off? I don't think so."

Plaut accelerates, pulls her taxi around the van and cuts quite smartly across three lanes. The van driver more or less strokes out. He makes not terribly friendly gestures with his hands and arms before rolling down the window and suggesting that Plaut commit a physically impossible act or three.

Plaut squints back at him.

"Hello!? You can't see I need to pull around you?"

She hits the gas and we head west across 57th Street. Plaut dodges a double-parked panel truck, swoops around a black limousine and slides her taxi to a smooth stop at a red light. She's been out of the garage for three minutes and already she's got agita.

"I mean, thank you , he can't see I want to turn?" She shrugs, whatever. "I try to smile at 'em, but he's just some IDIOT in the wrong lane."

Plaut is pale and diminutive, with a mop of black hair -- a green-sweat-shirt-wearing, black-T-shirt-and-jeans-clad 30-year-old taxi driver, writer and confirmed career wanderer. Her passenger's destination is three blocks away, and already her green-blue eyes sweep the street for new fares. She wonders aloud whether the action is better on the West Side or the East Side and whether she still digs hacking. Then she reminds herself that it beats her crappy old corporate job and maybe she should just shut up and live the adventure.

Where else is she going to learn how to say "tip" in Persian? Or rattle off all 31 major water crossings in New York City?


CONTINUED     1                 >

© 2006 The Washington Post Company