When people learn how long New York City cabbie Eugene Salomon has been behind the wheel, the reaction is almost always the same: “The first thing people want to know is, did anybody ever have sex in your cab?” he said.
The answer, is “yes,” many times over, but in over three decades as a taxi driver, Salomon, 54, has picked up almost as many stories as he has passengers.
He has compiled over 100 of the best tales in “Confessions of a Taxi Driver,” released this week. Salomon details the good, the bad and truly strange things that have happened in his taxi, from the Mafia operatives who hitched a ride to the airport to the man who had — and shrugged off — a heart attack on his way back from the hospital.
And, of course, more than a few famous figures have graced Salomon’s back seat: Leonardo DiCaprio (a generous tipper), Paul Simon (who deflected Salomon’s suggestion that he buy the Yankees)and Abie Hoffman (who took a ride with his parole officer), just to name a few.
“There’s an exposure to the human race that’s extraordinary,” Salomon said of his job. “You look at all the people walking around the streets of New York and you see some pretty wild people. Think about this — each one of them eventually has to get into a taxi.”
Salomon, who grew up in Long Island, first felt “the gravitational pull of New York City” in 1970. After a series of odd jobs, including a stint as an umbrella vendor, he got behind the wheel of a taxi in 1977 and soon found that his passengers were a steady source of writing inspiration.
“I always kept journals,” he said. “I realized very quickly once I started driving a cab that the material for being a writer comes in your door.”
He began collecting material on his more interesting passengers and wrote a draft of his book in the mid-90s. He put it down after receiving a handful of rejections, but in 2006, he got the drive to try storytelling again. This time, Salomon started a blog called “Cabs Are For Kissing.”
The blog turned out to be Salomon’s big break. He eventually struck up a friendship with a fellow blogger, who had an ex-boyfriend who had recently started HarperCollins’ “Confessions of?” series of memoirs.
Salomon said his favorite story is the time a pair of NYPD officers commandeered his cab, which already had two passengers heading to Brooklyn Heights. The cops directed him to a crime scene.
“We drove right past the passengers’ destination,” he said, “to this wild, surreal scene on Dean Street in Carroll Gardens. All over the place, there were cops with flashlights.”
“My moral dilemma at the time was, do I keep the meter running?” Salomon recalled.
But after years on the job, it wasn’t such a dilemma after all: “Of course I kept the meter running.”
Even with a book under his belt, this chatty cabby is a long way from retirement.
“I don’t even like the word,” said Salomon, who works the night shift several times a week. “If I make enough money from this and other things that I don’t need to drive, I’ll just change the hours.”
But whether or not he pens a sequel, Salomon said he will still relish the adventure that comes with the job.
“Once it gets to be midnight, you feel like the city is your own,” he said. “You’re on the open range. You’re like a cowboy out there.”