I am a... cabbie / JPMorgan analyst
Wed Mar 5 2008
I always knew I was going to drop out of my Ph.D. program in medieval history. I was very New York–focused: I felt out of place at Yale, torn away from where I should be. Academia had seemed like such a reach—a dream. Leaving was cataclysmic. The thing I really wanted to do was drive a cab. I’d always had a fascination with it.
I started applying for lots of jobs. The funny part is, getting a position as an analyst at JPMorgan was far easier than becoming a hack. I needed to get a license, and it got lost in the mail; I needed to find a doctor who’d confirm I was in good health—each step of the way got screwed up. Meanwhile, when JPMorgan called me for a phone interview, I was sitting in my underwear in New Haven and had no recollection of even applying for the job. In a panic, I started scanning the Web to try and figure out what it was. I ended up acing the interview, and the second and third rounds, too, never knowing what the hell job I’d applied for. So I became an analyst before getting my hack license.
Finally, the license came through. It became a part-time life on the weekends; I go to bed at 9pm and get up at 3am, biking to the garage and getting integrated into the hack world. Everyone apparently hates riding in taxis and taxi drivers hate their passengers, but I experience both sides of it. I don’t mind taking payment from a passenger’s credit card; I don’t mind driving out to Brooklyn—I live in Brooklyn and hate it when I can’t get a cab to take me there.
It’s taken me a while to get to know the other cabbies at the garage. I’m just thought to be a normal hack. But I’m not a Sikh or from Bangladesh. At the airports, there are huge knots of cabbies in their ethnic groups. There, I feel isolated. It’s an ethnicity thing. But from a professional standpoint, it’s all the same—none of them know about JPMorgan. I guess I feel much more guilty talking with them about it than talking about hacking at the office, because I don’t need to drive a cab and a lot of these people do. A lot would kill to have a no-show job at JPMorgan, and a lot of them would be a lot better at that job than I am.
My friends at JPMorgan know about it, but my other coworkers don’t. I like having it hidden from them—it’s a secret life that’s my own and not theirs. I haven’t picked up any coworkers yet—they all live in New Jersey or Connecticut—but whenever I drive past the building I imagine it happening. Once, I picked up the son of my parents’ neighbor, who is a banker and a huge asshole. He was surprised, completely baffled by this choice. I can’t explain it to my parents, either. It was one of the worst nights of my life when I told my dad I was dropping out of Yale to be a cabbie. But I’m making a lot more money driving than being a medieval historian. People get hung up on the word Yale and the word taxi. It’s kind of like jazz—either you get it or you don’t.
As told to Michael Freidson, Allison Hope, Kate Lowenstein and Lauren Shopp