It may have only lasted 20 seconds, but the rendezvous with the lady taxi driver on E.16th St and Union Square West on Sunday was enough to make me feel as if I actually belonged among the ranks of New York cabbies.
We were both stuck in the traffic jam caused by road construction on Broadway and E. 14th St when she reached out her driver’s side window and asked me to let her merge.
I motioned for her to go right ahead (It’s rare for any driver in NYC to ask permission to do anything, so if and when this happens I’m happy to oblige). When we saw each other’s ponytails, we both did a double take.
Female cabbies make up 1% of all taxi drivers in New York – of the 48,000+ licensed cabbies in the city, there are about 500 women – so I can count the times I’ve seen another woman behind the wheel on one hand. Whenever it happens, it’s a happy surprise.
But there was something else going on with this lady cabbie on Union Square East. She waved at me and smiled as she turned onto E. 16th St., thanking me again for letting her pass. I looked back at her with what I hoped was the same expression of recognition and you-go-girl solidarity.
The rest of the shift was less of a struggle. Especially after I fueled up on fast food at Woorijip, a Koreatown fixture on W. 32nd St. that is now one of my favorite pit stops.
Not only is it a two minute walk from a little-known taxi stand on 32nd and Madison where I can almost always find parking, Woorijip is cheap, their food is fresh, and no matter how insanely crowded it is (which is most of the time), the cashiers rip through the line with an efficiency that puts Starbucks to shame.The hardest part about eating at Woorijip is choosing from all the goodies. Besides the hot and cold buffet, they make udon and ramen soups to order and have a giant refrigerator full of prepared sushi, salads and pre-cooked veggies.
Unfortunately, my minuscule bladder means I have to steer clear of all the amazing-sounding cold teas while I’m on duty – they have at least 20 brands that would be wonderful to try if you know you’re going to have easy access to a bathroom.
Between the drunk Australian who’d been my first passenger, the Oprah Winfrey walk that blocked 57th Street, a lady from Philly who asked me straight away what I was doing driving a cab, and the man I picked up on 42nd St. who didn’t want to get out of my taxi to face the wild spring winds, I was starving.
I stuffed a styrofoam container with a fish cutlet (crispy outside, moist inside), egg-battered tofu (tender and mild), a scallion and zucchini cake (tasty but undercooked), buckwheat noodles with pickled ginger (tasty but overcooked), sautéed spinach with sesame seeds (refreshing and delicious, but I’m a sucker for anything with sesame), and stir-fried broccoli with imitation crab (good but so garlicky that my cab stank for the rest of the shift) and brought it to the cashier for weighing. Grand total: $6.36.
Lady Cab Driver on Union Square East, if you’re reading this, I hope you have a chance to try Woorijip (Maybe you already have?). And I hope we can share the road again someday.
12 West 32nd Street – Midtown West
Tel. (212) 244-1115
Open: Mon-Thu, Sun 24 hours; Fri-Sat 6 am-2 am
Credit cards accepted