Main content

Yellow Cab Blues

Meet New York City's rookie taxi drivers, immigrants mastering the art of driving and charming passengers into better tips.

Meet New York's rookie cabbies - fledgling taxi-drivers trying to earn a living in the most stressful city in the world. Most are immigrants, already grappling with the challenges of a new language and a new culture. Now they have to deal with long hours, short fares, and grumpy passengers in the back. Will they make it?

The new drivers come from all over the world. Not long ago they were leading very different lives in Dhaka, Islamabad or Accra, dreaming of a new life in the US. Now they are in an airless basement below a Tibetan restaurant in Queens learning how to avoid traffic tickets and charm passengers into better tips.

And it is tips they need. Most New York cab-drivers lease rather than own a car. Every morning they pick it up and pay a few hundred dollars for the privilege. They work twelve-hour shifts, seven-days a week driving round and round waiting for a hail. On a bad day they wind up with less money than they started.

In this honest, funny feature, Cathy FitzGerald travels to New York to hear how the taxi immigrants make sense of their new lives. How do they square religious beliefs with passengers wanting to have sex or do drugs during the ride? And how do they stay calm when the guy in the back picks a fight?

(Photo: Sherrin lost and found her cab. Credit: Matt Thompson)

Available now

27 minutes

Broadcasts

Amazing documentaries from 2017

Catch up on some of the most powerful global stories from the last year

In Detail: Moving Pictures

Take time to discover the detail in old masterpieces using your phone, tablet or computer

Space

Stargazing - from eclipses to the spacecraft changing our view of the Universe

The Documentary Podcast

Every episode of The Documentary, on your mp3 player, to play wherever you are

The Compass

The essential take on big ideas, issues and trends from the 21st century