Best Video

On the 12-hour shift with New York's female cabbies

"What's a girl doing here?"

Loud flashes of yellow are all around you in this city — 46,000 taxi sedans, vans, and SUVs streaking across the streets of New York. Yet only about 170 of them are driven by women, a percentage even lower than the national average. In all my years of hopping into cabs here, and elsewhere, I never met a female driver until I shot this documentary. I needed to find them.

I went from one taxi garage to the next, the only woman in a sea of men, and the drivers would look at me like I was crazy. For weeks I had no luck. Then one evening, a good friend of mine hailed a cab — and there was Shonna Valeska behind the wheel. He told her about my project, wrote her phone number down on a record sleeve, and texted me right away.

In November 2010 I began filming Valeska, and Elena Tenchikova, to whom I'd been connected via the NYC Taxi and Limousine Commission. They graciously brought me into their world — one of late nights, early mornings, and forgotten corners — and a year and a half later, I caught up with the women for an update.

Tenchikova recently graduated from Brooklyn College with a master's degree in urban policy and administration. She put driving on hold for ten months as she completed a program at the NYC Civic Corps, an AmeriCorps initiative, through which she was placed in the NYC Housing Authority to work on its "green" agenda. She hopes to someday work in environmental sustainability, but until then she's back behind the wheel, navigating a yellow cab through the streets of New York.

After driving for ten months, Valeska hung up her taxi license in February 2011 because of the exhausting and repetitive 12-hour shifts. She loved the customers, but wasn't making enough money to support her photography studio and simply did not have enough time to pursue her passion for photo work. She continues to take photographs and most recently shot her fourth book cover for Ann Coulter. In the future, Valeska hopes to produce a documentary about the taxi-driving industry.

Watch the video below:


Narratively
is an online magazine devoted to original, in-depth and untold stories. Each week, Narratively explores a different theme and publishes just one story a day. It was one of TIME's 50 Best Websites of 2013.


More from Narratively...

Recommended

Herschel Walker, hardline abortion opponent, reportedly funded girlfriend's abortion
Herschel Walker
Maybe just one exception

Herschel Walker, hardline abortion opponent, reportedly funded girlfriend's abortion

Trump sues CNN for defamation, claiming he's been labeled a 'racist' and 'Russian lackey'
Donald Trump.
see you in court

Trump sues CNN for defamation, claiming he's been labeled a 'racist' and 'Russian lackey'

SCOTUS declines to hear bump stock cases
A view of a seized gun during a Homeland Security briefing in August.
Court Says No

SCOTUS declines to hear bump stock cases

Report: Abuse ran rampant in women's pro soccer league
San Diego Wave FC goalkeeper Kailen Sheridan plays the ball during an NWSL game.
A Scathing Conclusion

Report: Abuse ran rampant in women's pro soccer league

Most Popular

5 toons about Trump's spiraling legal woes
Political Cartoon.
Feature

5 toons about Trump's spiraling legal woes

National Archives says some Trump administration records are still missing
A view of the National Archives and Records Administration building in Washington, D.C.
More Trouble for Trump?

National Archives says some Trump administration records are still missing

Ukraine takes full control of Lyman while Russian media points fingers
Ukrainian flag in Donetsk
do svidaniya

Ukraine takes full control of Lyman while Russian media points fingers