According to the NYC Taxicab Factbook, there are more than 13,000 yellow cabs in the city, and over half a million people take them on a daily basis.
What’s it like driving a taxi around New York City? We hopped into over a dozen cabs downtown to find out what drivers have seen and heard — and what they really think of their passengers. Turns out they’re not paying attention to you (a customer is a customer is a customer), even though a lot happens in the backseat of a cab.
The drivers spoke to Yahoo Travel only on condition of anonymity. Here are their confessions:
Cab drivers are judging you (Photo: Sakeeb Sabakka/Flickr)
Cabbies immediately know if you’re a tourist or a New Yorker. According to taxi drivers, New Yorkers don’t interrupt — they trust that the cabbies know where they’re going. Tourists always turn on the GPS and are concerned how long the trip will take. The out-of-towners may take the time to bid their driver, “Hi, good morning.” But city residents don’t have time and simply bark “26th and 9th Avenue.” Europeans — especially the British and French — don’t tip, but the drivers won’t treat you any differently. They’re used to it and don’t discuss pricing/tipping up front.
Tipping is always appreciated — but not everyone does it (Photo: Thinkstock)
They won’t help you if you’re running behind. One cab driver told me, “It’s not my job that you came late, so stop rushing me.” They won’t drive any faster or go over the speed limit. Traffic is traffic, so deal with it.
People are gross. Literally. According to another driver, a lady took a poop in the backseat. It wasn’t pretty.
We can hear you! (Photo: Jonny Hughes/Flickr)
They eavesdrop… and they want you to shut up. ”If we don’t want to listen to your voice, we turn up the radio,” said a driver. “But even if you close the partition, I can still hear your secrets.”
They think you’re boring. Most women talk about relationships. And guess what? “Everyone has the same problem,” said another driver.
We’ve got your number (Photo: Damian Morys/Flickr)
Women are sneaky and stealthy. One cabbie told me that women change their clothes in the back of his all the time. Does he care? No. Some girls even pretend to say goodbye to their date then switch up their outfits, continuing the ride to a second date.
Couples fight, openly shouting and yelling. As if the cab driver is not there, and he’s a witness often. Husbands and wives have a lot of crazy fights. Girlfriends and boyfriends argue all the time. “If the two are heading home,” said one driver, “they’re more likely to be upset.”
Navigating the streets of New York City (Photo: Thinkstock)
They want you to behave yourself. “We don’t care if you’re making out in the backseat,” said a driver. “But don’t have sex back there. If a woman sits on the man’s lap, we know something’s going to happen.” According to drivers, iIt’s against safety rules and against city taxi laws to have sex in a (moving) cab. “We don’t care if you get mad for stopping the foreplay and don’t tip us.”
Drunks are the most annoying customers. “People throw up in cabs every few weeks,” one driver said. “We carry plastic bags and we’ll hand you one because we can tell if you’re going to throw up.”
Keep your drink on (Photo: Jenene Chesbrough/Flickr)
Uber/Lyft/etc. is hurting business. “They rip off people all the time,” explained one driver about rush hour and price surging. In December, a city council member introduced legislation to create New York City’s own Universal E-Hail App that would also allow other third-party apps to pick up the traditional taxi drivers with the guaranteed meter fare.
They work hard. While the average shift is 9.5 hours, some of the drivers we spoke to sometimes work up to 12. And the demographics have shifted over the decades — many drivers are immigrants, with Bangladesh representing over 20 percent of drivers. Other interesting facts: the average fare in 2013 costs $13.40. The average trip is about 2.6 miles (or 52 blocks) long.
Cab drivers are rarely off duty (Photo: Thinkstock)