Saturday, February 6, 2010

The Writing Life (new web design)


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Melissa Plaut is a rarity in the city -- a female cab driver and an aspiring writer who chronicles her exploits on a blog and is set to publish a book next year about her experiences on the road.

"I thought it would be my next adventure," said Plaut, 30, who lives in Bushwick, Brooklyn, and worked a string of office jobs before being laid off in 2004 and deciding to get her hack license.

"I'm as surprised as anybody that it led me to where it did," she added.

Plaut, who grew up in Rockland County, the daughter of two teachers, and went to college in Buffalo and New Mexico, said she was drawn to driving a cab because of a romantic image she had in her mind of old New York.

Nearly two years later, the reality is not quite as glamorous, but she has met her share of characters and found ample fodder for her blog -- -- which registers more than 3,000 hits a day.

"I'm a cab driver; of course I'm bitter," she quipped recently. "I listen to the traffic report even on my days off. I read Gridlock Sam religiously."

Recent posts include getting the finger, getting lost and getting bad tips. She also riffs on bad traffic, slow nights and annoying out-of-state drivers.

"You can always count on that guy from New Jersey in an SUV making a left turn from the center lane," she said. "And then they'll give you the finger if you honk."

Still, as frustrating as it can be, Plaut said she's never been afraid driving a cab -- afraid of customers, that is.

Close-call accidents are another story.

Plaut's only weapon is a digital camera that she whips out to shoot pictures for her blog ofmen who harass her or hotheaded drivers who give her the finger -- like the two "wanna-be thugs" she snapped June 13.

"The best part of all this was, as others have done before him, the finger-giver held his pose for the camera," she wrote.

Plaut said her parents do worry about her during her 12-hour shifts, even though they are excited that her offbeat career choice has spawned a book contract with Random House.

When she first started driving she once had to call her mom -- who taught for years in the Bronx -- for directions on how to get from LaGuardia Airport to the Bronx Zoo.

"[As I was] growing up, they said, 'Don't be a teacher. It's a hard job,'" she said. "But now that I'm a cab driver, they say, 'Maybe you should be a teacher.'"

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