There is a taxi-garage down the block, so the street outside my apartment is always lined with yellow cars.
The drivers are hanging out on the sidewalk, smoking and chatting. When I pass by, I sometimes put down my grocery-bags for a second or two, pretending to straighten my skirt while hoping to catch an eye or a line of their conversations.
Most of the them are foreigners, strangers in this town. Just like me.
Client: MONDO magazine, Finland
"So, it is the night shift and I stop by this bodega to get myself a coffee. I double-park the car and leave the motor running, lights blinking. In and out for coffee, but when I come back, my car is gone. I see someone driving it down the street and stopping by a red light. I run fast as hell but when I reach the car the lights go green and the guy takes off. I called the cops, they said : "We can do nothin´". I called my boss, said " Sorry, the car is gone." When he arrives in his private car the girl in our office starts giving us the stolen car´s GPS coordinates over the phone. My car is going back and forth, uptown, downtown. Can you belive the guy is now picking up customers in a hijacked car? We try to catch him, but the GPS is not that fast and there are plenty of cars around. Finally we find the car, nicely parked in the Bronx, keys on the front seat. The guy took ten rides, made a hundred bucks."
Chris Sglimbea, Romania
Pick Up: Tiffany & Co, 727 5 Ave
Drop Off: Crossing of Canal and Mott Sts.
Fare: 23 $
"I used to work on a cargo ship, it brought me from Athens to New York in 1968. When I came here I had nothing, just 350 hundred dollars in debt to my uncle. I borrowed some more to get myself a car and then I started driving. Now I have 18 taxis in my garage. I own a gas station too, and a couple of buildings down Mc Guinness Boulevard. Driving is different now from in the old days. It was easier then. The city wasn´t as expensive, you could live on what you made. There were some robberies of course, but it was still better back then."
Gus Kodogiannis, Greece
Pick Up: Strawberry Fields, Central Park West at 72 St.
Drop Off: Brooklyn Brewery, 79 N. 11 St, Williamsburg
"When I was younger I used to drive three shifts in a row. Don´t ask me how I could do it.
I think I was on my second shift, so I had already been driving for about 24 hours. In the back I had a businessman, he was sleeping. I don´t remember falling asleep myself, but I remember when the passenger woke me up, shouting. I was driving in between the lanes of Park Avenue, right through the flower-beds in the middle. Fowers were flying all over.
Nowadays you can´t drive more than one shift at a time. They keep track of who is driving and how much. It is all computerized."
Chris O., Nigeria
Pick Up: Balthazaar Bakery, 80 Spring St.
Drop Off: Strand Bookstore, 828 Broadway by 12th st
Fare: 10 $
"I was a young girl then, working as a hotel maid. I was driving over the Whitestone bridge on my way home from work. On the top of the bridge I passed a pedestrian, an old man. He couldn´t walk well so I stopped and asked If I could give him a ride. He said: " Drive me to that taxi garage." The owner of the garage was from Romania, from my country. He asked if I could drive and I said yes. He sold me a taxi for 3000 USD. Now I am 63 years old."
Lena Pitu, Romania
Pick Up: Gas station, Mc Guiness Blvd, Brooklyn
Drop Off: Across the Pulaski Bridge, Queens
Fare: 5 $
"I am a mechanic by trade. I have repaired taxi-cars for 25 years. Sometimes I pick up passengers when I test-drive the cars. I tell them that I don´t have a meter, that I drive for tips. I let people pay what they think is fair.
The worst taxi-wreck I have ever repaired was my friends car.
Her boyfriend had set her car on fire when she dumped him. It was completelty burned out, there was just a skeleton left.
I rebuilt her car from scratch, new-everything. It took months. She could not pay for it, but she was my friend. I can´t remember her name now."
Steven Rosado, USA
Pick Up: Bleecker st by 7:th Ave, West Village
Drop Off: St Marks Place, East Village
"I came here from India twenty years ago. My wife still lives in Punjab. I visit her two times every year. I am a Sikh, therefore I always carry five things: My hair, my wooden comb, my long underwear, my metal bracelet and my sword. My sword is for protection of the weak. My bracelet is to remind me only to do good with my hand. My long underwear is to remind me that I am a married man. Once a woman got in to my car. She said "You are very beautiful, Mr Singh. Please turn the car around and drive back to my apartment." When we got there she asked me to come upstairs with her. I said " No, I can not do that. If you need money I can give you 40 dollars, but I can not come upstairs with you. "
Karnail Singh, India
Pick Up: JFK Airport
Drop Off: 200 Green St., Greenpoint.
Fare: 52 $