February 10, 2009 at 6:20 pm | Posted in Memoir, Nonfiction | 5 Comments

Melissa Plaut’s book Hack: How I Stopped Worrying about What to Do with My Life and Started Driving a Yellow Cab has everything I love in a book.  It’s an up-close-and-personal look at a job I’ve never done, complete with a sympathetic heroine and all kinds of random stories.  I enjoyed every minute of it.

Taxi cabs have always fascinated me, though I’d never be a cabbie because a) I’m a horrible driver and b) I could get lost in a paper sack.  I am really, really good at swearing, though, not to mention political rants.  So maybe I could get a job sitting next to the cabbie and doing those things for him.  You know, if he was too shy.

Anyway.  One of the best things about Hack is that Melissa Plaut is a lady cabbie, and evidently they’re as rare as you’d expect.  She’s also young and college-educated.  This made the book a tremendous vicarious thrill for me.

I started reading the book on the bus home from the San Francisco Public Library, about a 2.5 hour ride.  By the time I got back to Santa Rosa, the local buses had quit running.  Ordinarily, I would have set off to walk the 4-5 miles home without thinking too much about it.  But there was a cab sitting at the curb outside the bus mall, and I couldn’t miss the opportunity to chat with the driver.  I told him I was reading the book, and it turned out he didn’t know the word Hack in relation to cabs or to writing.  He was interested, so I quizzed him a bit.  We’re a long way from New York City, but he corroborated:

Yes, he’d had people do drugs in his cab, including smoking a crack pipe.  He’d had people ask him to drive them to drug deals.  He’d had people vomit – and if you’re curious, there’s a cleanup fee.  Unlike Plaut, he had had people pee their pants.  He’d also had people bring dogs in the cab, including one lady who spread out a blanket first, though it didn’t help because the dog was in desperate need of a bath.  He’d had more PDA than he cared to see, though I didn’t ask if anyone had actually had sex back there.  In spite of all this, after five years he claimed he still enjoyed driving a cab.  And he should have, after what I tipped him!

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