Life in New York might be hectic — running around trying to pay the rent working a bullshit job, dealing with crooked landlords and lunatic neighbors and cockroaches you can hear coming a block away — but we wouldn’t trade any of it for going back to school. As far as we’re concerned, there is nothing worse than sitting in a classroom.
Where I hailed him: Lower East Side Where he hails from: West Africa Years as a cabbie: 2 Previous profession: Livery car driver
The hard part for me is that I didn’t know the language, I wasn’t born here. You were born here, you could go down there, take the test and start driving tomorrow. But me, I don’t speak English, I don’t read English, I don’t write English — in my country it is French. So for me the whole process took two months because I had to learn the language as well as the information for the test. But the information for the test isn’t hard at all — it was the language.
Where I hailed him: East Village Where he hails from: Egypt Years as a cabbie: 2 Previous profession: Engineer
The school was not hard. I have an engineering degree in my country. That was hard. I am going to school here in New York also. In computer science. Taxi driving school is not really school, you know?
Where I hailed him: East Village Where he hails from: Peru Years as a cabbie: 23 Previous profession: Teacher
We didn’t even go to school back in my day. We showed up, they gave us a book, and that was about it. Well, I guess they did ask us things like where the Empire State Building is, or Rockefeller Center. Otherwise, it was a piece of cake. Anyone could drive. The new guys, they have an intensive course: language, geography, rules of the road, safety, the works. It’s not like the old days.
Where I hailed him: West Village Where he hails from: India Years as a cabbie: 12 Previous profession: Clerk
I got my license in 1995. Back then it was a lot easier, I think, than it is today. It was just one day of school. I’ll never forget it. I had to get up at five in the morning and go out to Queens Plaza. The line was down the block even at that hour because they only took 40 people per day for the class. It couldn’t have been easier though. Just some English testing and some basic directions. Today you have to pass with 75 percent or else you can’t drive. I know I’d pass though. I have all the experience you could want. And patience. The best thing you can have for this job is patience.
MOHAMMED Where I hailed him: East Village Where he hails from: Pakistan Years as a cabbie: 5 Previous profession: Store clerk
There is nothing that’s so hard about it — for me I remember thinking that I would never be able to remember all the streets and how to get to all the different neighborhoods. Especially outside of Manhattan, it gets very complicated. But you learn — and the passenger can always tell you if you don’t know where [you’re going].
Where I hailed him: Midtown East Where he hails from: Trinidad Years as a cabbie: 3 Previous profession: House painter
Ha! The hardest part was just sitting there so long. You’re in a class for eight hours, so you get tired of being there. Most of the things you know already anyway. Some of the regulations and things are new, but it is all pretty easy. For some of the drivers it’s harder because their English isn’t very good. But other than that, it’s no problem.