Traffic is a bear and it makes you growl like one. Stoplights aren’t synchronized, people cut you off with a one-digit wave, others are speeding or crawling – in the left lane, no less. There are too many people on the road, on the subway, on the bus – thousands of grumbly commuters just like you, wishing they could just end this irritant and get to their destinations.
But what if your job was on those same roads, dealing with grumbly commuters, prostitutes, drunken citizens or worse? Read more about it in “Hack: Stories from a Chicago Cab” by Dmitry Samarov.
Following graduation from art school in Chicago, Dmitry Samarov moved back home to Boston in search of a job. When he noticed a “Drivers Wanted” ad in the newspaper, he applied for a position with Checker Taxi of Boston, took classes, obtained his license, and within two weeks, was behind the wheel of a cab.
In 2000, after moving back to Chicago, Samarov took some time off to create an illustrated zine and to work at a local bar-and-restaurant. Three years later, frustrated with his day job, Samarov took to a cab again - this time in the Windy City.
Cab drivers, he points out, see people with their guards down. Passengers may be drunk, sick, wanting their next fix, leaving or arriving, moving, escaping, or doing something very private in the back seat.
But first, a driver has to have a cab – a requirement that’s not easy to get. Samarov writes that there are usually more drivers than there are cabs, and that a several-hour wait for a vehicle is common. Fares, he says, aren’t the only ones taken for a ride in the cabbie biz; cab companies make sure drivers are given short shrift.
Every cabbie has stories of his favorite customers, though, and Samarov is no exception: the first-date couple, their glow leaving a bit of happiness to taint the night. The client who asked Samarov if he knew what was going on, when a drug deal was obviously afoot. The prostitutes heading home, or out for one last trick. People who rant about “foreigner” cabbies, unaware that Samarov was once an immigrant himself…
When two people meet, the inevitable question is “What do you do for a living?” Author Dmitry Samarov will tell you, with a poet’s pen and a keen eye.
People watchers will rejoice at Samarov’s observations in this very thin little book; it seems as though a representative of every unique person on earth has passed through his car. I enjoyed this quick and intimate peek at the backseat of a cab from the front seat POV, and Samarov’s accompanying drawings make each brief encounter all the more enjoyable.
If you ever need to crawl into a yellow car for a quick ride, this book will make you a little nicer to the driver next time. For you (and for that driver) “Hack” is a book you’ll hail.