TONIGHT: Taxi Confidential

September 16, 2009 by
Filed under: 11222, Greenpoint, Greenpoint Brooklyn, Greenpoint Magic 

TCTonight Word Books will be hosting an event with Taxi Confidential author (and Greenpoint resident) Amy Braunschweiger. What is Taxi Confidential about you ask? Here’s a synopsis from the book’s web site:

In Taxi Confidential, cabbies ranging from a lead-footed pothead to a philosophizing immigrant sage grapple with what chance tosses their way. Author Amy Braunschweiger uncovers the best taxi stories from the 1970s through present day, and takes the reader on a 100-mile-per-hour ride through Gotham’s darkest alleys, roughest neighborhoods, and hidden sweet spots.

This sounds intriguing enough— but I wanted to learn more. So I contacted Word Books. They, in turn, put me in contact with Ms. Braunschweiger. I asked her a few questions which she was kind enough to answer below.

H: What gave you the idea to write Taxi Confidential?

AB: I wish I could take all the credit for it, but I can’t. My editor, Lee Klancher, approached me with the idea of a book about NYC taxi stories. I liked it, but then expanded on it and make it my own. I wanted stories from both cabbies and passengers – from both sides of the partition.

Also, I wanted stories that read like fiction – suspense, action, drama, the good stuff. I wanted to get into the mind of the cabbies and their passengers, to see what they were thinking and feeling every step of he way. So when you read Taxi Confidential, you know everyone’s opinions and motivations, as well as their backgrounds. If someone started out the day dumping hot coffee in their laps, I tell you.

H: A number of books have been written about cabbies (New York City Hack and Taxicab Wisdom immediately come to mind)— what sets Taxicab Confidential apart from them?

AB: Taxi Confidential, is a collection of around 50 stories from the 1970s through present day. Some stories are lurid, some are poignant, and they’re all entertaining. Almost all these stories focus on a specific moment when the interaction between cabbie and passenger changes someone’s life – when an unexpected variable flies into the situation like a pickax, forcing a change of course.

It’s a book that contains factoids without reading like a dry academic book. It has stories from both passengers and cabbies. And it’s a tour of New York City through four decades.

H: A number of stereotypes abound regarding New York City cab drivers (for example, that most are from Pakistan or India). Thus I imagine in the course of putting together your book the issue of stereotypes arose periodically. What is in your opinion the biggest cabbie myth?

AB: The first stereotype you mentioned is true – about 50% of cab drivers come from India, Pakistan or Bangladesh. And as of a few years ago, about 90% of cabbies were born in foreign countries. Today, cab driving is an immigrant’s story.

Until I researched this book, I didn’t realize how dangerous a job driving a cab could be. Think about it. As a driver, you’ve got your back to the passenger – a total stranger – and you’re focused on navigating traffic. Oh, and you’re carrying crazy wads of cash. And everybody knows it. Talk about a prime robbery target. In the past couple months alone, three limo drivers were killed in robberies. Many drivers I spoke with have been held up.

H: What is the craziest cabbie story you were told?

AB: Not surprisingly, the craziest stories involve sex and drugs. One of my favorites involves a transvestite prostitute robbing a driver by holding one of her stiletto heels to his head like a weapon. Another cabbie told of driving into the sunrise while his hooker passengers drank 40s and smoked crack in his backseat. And then there’s the sex. I mean, we all know that sex in cabs happens, but I had no idea of the extent.

H: What was the most touching?

AB: My book has plenty of stories of passengers and drivers sharing a special moment, and forging a special bond of mutual respect and understanding. But for me, the most touching stories were also the most disturbing, the ones that really pushed the boundaries. One cab driver had a teenage boy die of a stab wound in his cab during the 80s. The story is packed with action, but it’s also about the cabbie’s personal journey, his fear and his grief. Another touching story has a post 9/11 theme, and is about a misunderstanding between a Muslim cabbie and his passenger, a well-traveled woman. They actually leap out of the cab to yell accusations at each other. But they reached a point of understanding and ended up hugging on the street.

Sounds interesting to say the least, yes? Why not swing by Word Books tonight for an evening of taxicab goodness?

Meet The Author: Taxi Confidential
September 16, 2009 starting at 7:30 p.m.
Word Books
142 Franklin Street
Brooklyn, New York 11222

Oh yeah, Ms. Braunschweiger will also be bringing along some special cabbie guests!

Miss Heather


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