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Women behind the Wheel

Barbara Bensoussan

Running a car service as a frum woman requires more than keeping your eyes on the road. Several seasoned members of this exclusive group share what it’s like to be the lady in the driver’s seat

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

When hailing a cab or calling a car service, most of us expect a driver of the male persuasion at the wheel. But just as women today become EMTs, plumbers, and zookeepers, some of the ladies who once drove “Mom’s taxi” now earn a parnassah as drivers-for-hire.

Driving a car service isn’t a career most girls aspire to when they’re growing up. It’s usually a job women move into as a second or third career, or a means of supplementing the family income. Faigie, for example, began driving despite her degrees in accounting and psychology. Widowed at age 23, she spent 15 years selling computers and many more running a business inBrooklyn. When business waned, and she found herself in desperate need of income, her son suggested driving for a car service to stay afloat. “Because I was over 60, I couldn’t find any other work,” says this mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother in her throatyBrooklynaccent.

At first, Faigie found working for a car service in BoroParkvery tough. She wasn’t used to an all-male environment — some of the dispatchers were not as refined as the frum clients she’d dealt with previously. “But they were decent,” she admits. “And some of the drivers were nice, ehrlich men between jobs.”

Dispatchers weren’t always so obliging about funneling female callers her way. “Sometimes I’d wait for hours,” Faigie says. “At one point I left and tried another car service, but they weren’t any better, so I returned to the first one.” Little by little, she built a client base and now has steady customers.

For Miriam, driving paid for summers in the country with her children and supplemented her income when her husband developed health challenges. With mountain destinations like camps, bungalow colonies, and stores so spread out and almost no public transportation, there was a demand for women drivers — especially after dark (see sidebar for yichud issues with male drivers).

“My kids were in bed by seven,” she says, “so I could arrange supervision and run out to start driving.” Another woman in her area who also drove for parnassah felt threatened by Miriam and let her know she wouldn’t appreciate her advertising. “I decided to be mevater and only take jobs that came to me privately, whatever was bashert,” Miriam says. “But it didn’t hurt me. I think I actually got lots of business because I was mevater.”

As her family grew, Miriam drove more during the daytime and eventually acquired a 15-passenger van. Back inBrooklyn, she started a playgroup that included, as part of the service, picking up and dropping off the children. (She even takes children to other playgroups on the way.) She’ll also take longer trips, like driving women to Monsey fromBrooklynfor weddings.

 

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