I like to think I’m a pretty friendly and outgoing individual. I typically strike up conversations with my Uber drivers, people I photograph from time to time, and the random person I bump into at the coffee shop or grocery store. Where I’ve yet to break through the hard candy shell exterior is with cab drivers. They are a peculiar bunch.
Look, I know there are exceptions to the rule and I certainly don’t want to offend anyone so please take the following with a grain of salt… This is obviously just my limited experience of the 30 or so cab drivers I’ve met over the past 5 years or so.
Here we have a demographic of individuals that literally get paid to service others (mind out of the gutter please). Nobody would fault you for assuming that in the service industry, no matter what you are doing, there is a level of client satisfaction one would try to obtain. Not theses guys… In fact, you’re lucky to get a greeting or answer to the customary “how are you today?” Most cab rides I’ve taken consist of me hopping in the car with a pleasant “hello” only to be greeted by “where to?” Then, a twenty minute ride of listening to a heated conversation in another language where I can only assume my cabbie is sharing how his day is going with someone else… Leaving me in the dark on how his day has gone so far. I didn’t care. My day was going well, thanks for asking.
Which brings me to the point of this article (finally, right?)… I have always been intrigued by the elusive North American Bearded Cabbie (see what I did there, like they were a rare bird or something… Humorous, right?). I once got in a cab with chili-pepper lights strung around the inside of it and wanted so badly to just ride around town with this guy and photograph him and his clients all night but, like many of the cab drivers I meet, his poor attitude dissuaded me from joining him that evening. So, this last trip to NYC I decided that come hell or high water I was going to photograph my cab driver.
Instead of getting into the cab and pretending I know where the hell I’m going to avoid getting taken advantage of, I pretended like I was unsure and just interested in seeing the city. I asked if it would be alright to photograph the drive out the front window through the opening in the middle of the partition between the driver and passengers. He mumbled something which I took as approval and began to pretend I was photographing the scenery. In reality I was adjusting focus on the side of his face and asking him questions to get him to turn towards me a little so I could get a good shot. I even spoke at an almost whisper a few times to get him to turn his ear towards me so I could capture the side of his face rather than the back of his ear. In the end, I got the shot I was looking for this go around and will continue to document my cab adventures in the future.
Why didn’t I ask permission to photograph him? Because there was a chance he would say no. I’m pretty sure he caught on to what I was doing and either didn’t care or wasn’t certain and didn’t want a confrontation. I simply thanked him and gave him a nice big tip at the end of the ride. No harm, no foul.
Feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments section below.