Diana Diroy's ten minute film, What's A Girl Doing Here? goes behind the wheel with female cab drivers in New York City. There are 46,000 taxis in the city, and a mere 170 of them are driven by women. One driver, Elena Tenchikova, divulges that she once had a little girl in her cab who asked her mother, "What's a girl doing here?" The mother explained that Tenchikova as driving the taxi; the little girl argued, "but boys drive cabs." Tenchikova is a full-time student who drives three or four days a week — but the shifts are so long, a mere three days of work amounts to almost 40 hours of work. Meanwhile, she's getting a masters degree in urban policy and administration. Another driver, Shonna Valeska, is a photographer who finds driving a cab to be a "real learning experience."

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According to Diroy, Tenchikova is still driving, but Valeska quit after ten months to focus on her photography (she most recently shot her fourth book cover for Ann Coulter). But Valeska hopes to make a documentary about the taxi industry someday.

[Sociological Images, Narrative.ly]

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DISCUSSION

Back home in Canada, I usually walked to work at the bakery in the morning, but two miles at 3AM in the dead of winter was too much, so I took cabs when it got cold. The cabbies who worked for our small local company (the only one) were actually pretty well mixed with men and women. The two women I got most often, Deb and Kathy, were there for different reasons. Deb was very quiet and shy and self-conscious and just liked driving around listening to music because she didn't like dealing with people head on, while Kathy was (as she put it) nosey and liked to talk to people. She was cabbing for extra money. At one point she told me she was trying to get a friend of hers, also a lady, into cabbing. "She needs the money for her kids and she's thinking about spreading it. I told her, you do what you have to do to take care of your kids, if that's your last resort, but this is something you can do." That ride home got me a long speech about prostitution. (In summary: She hoped she never had to do it, but if it were the only way she had to feed her kids, she'd do it in a heartbeat, and just pity the girls who didn't have the choice.)

The best cabbie I got was a guy, actually. He was over from India and talked a lot about his wife and kids back home, and how he was saving and going through the paperwork to bring them over. He was so nice, and so incredibly in love with people and the world... had a positive way about looking at EVERYTHING. Anyway, winter passes, and the weather lightens so I start walking to work again. And about five months later, someone tells me somebody is looking for me and when I go out to see, it's him... and his wife and child. I was shocked and actually kind of choked up. He was so proud and happy he was glowing. He said, "I told you about my family, and I was finally able to bring them here, so I wanted you to meet them. This is the woman, the baker I was telling you about who was so nice and always spoke to me." I couldn't believe the ten minute interactions I had with him each day were enough for him to want to share his happiness with me that way. It was one of those moments that made me realise the whole universe wasn't so bad.