The Recession - The View from a Cab

December 16, 2009
Posted by Jay Livingston

Poll Reveals Depth and Trauma of Joblessness in the U.S.

That was the front page story in the Times yesterday.

I hadn’t seen the paper when I got into the cab at 6 a.m., but my ride to JFK was itself a look at the recession. The cabbie wasn’t what I expected – a woman, for starters, with an accent that wasn’t Asia or Africa but pure New York. And she asked me whether I wanted to go via the Triboro or the Midtown Tunnel.

She had just started her shift, picking up the cab from a fleet in the Bronx. She had three kids – a daughter recently graduated from Fordham, a son at NYU, and another son at Yale. She had worked on the trading floor for JP Morgan, not as a trader but in some auxiliary role that was nevertheless important and probably well rewarded. Family trips to London most winters.

Then she got fired, and since last spring, she’s been driving a cab. And she knows many people, former colleagues, who aren’t even doing that. (I didn’t ask her about money and how she managed two high-end tuitions. She never mentioned a husband, so I assumed she was a single mom. But I didn’t ask about that either.)

She also sold Christmas trees on the street, though that was mostly to support the Boy Scouts. Their trees were expensive – $60 and up – but sales were very slow, and even now, well before Christmas, she was knocking down prices for customers who seemed reluctant. (This is all anecdotal evidence. The Wall Street Journal reports that tree sales are strong. )

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