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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  1. I loved this book too, and was sad it didn’t get more mention in book reviews, etc. I also have very good memories of it because it’s what I read sitting by a beautiful lake the last time my husband and I went on vacay–which is too long ago now!

    And good on you, chatting with a cabbie and tipping him nicely. I’m glad you did, as I’m sure all of his fares are not as nice, chat- or tip-wise. I once had a very enjoyable chat with a cabbie in Boston who liked Boston okay, but was saving up to go back home to Africa. He said the country, but with my terrible memory I’ve forgotten. I sure hope he made it back to wherever home was.

  2. I read Melissa’s blog while I was going through taxi school, and she helped with advice for my own. What a gutsy woman, and she really knows how to tell a story!

    Now, would you be a BookCrosser?

  3. I haven’t really done BookCrossing because *blush* I don’t usually own the book to begin with. Almost all my books come from one library or another, and most of the remainder come from Paperspine.

    I have done BookMooch, though.

  4. I add more books to my list from your reviews! This is my favorite type of non-fiction.

  5. I want to read this! I’m sure it was CR’s rev that I first saw it; now I have to go see if the library can get it for me. THANKS for the reminder! Great review.

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