Olney: Hackers Of All Trades

Jean Paul offeres rides as a taxi hack.
Jean Paul offeres rides as a taxi hack.

Dressed head to toe in many layers, a group of men stand at the corner of Broad Street and Olney Avenue and offer people rides. The temperature is in the teens. It’s the middle of the afternoon, and the Olney subway station is bustling with people. A tall man in a long coat turns to us and asks, “Do you need a ride?” We decline, but we got to talking, and he informs us that he and his friends are hacks.

A group of hacks wait at Broad Street and Olney Avenue.

A taxi hack is a person who takes you where you want to go in exchange for money. Unlike a taxi, the driver keeps all of the money, and they won’t be driving yellow cars. “Like a computer hack hacks computers. There are hacks of many trades. We hack the taxi business,” says Jean Paul, the man in the long trench coat. Paul said that this was an easy way to make extra money. With the current economical situation, being a hack provides means to support their families. “Some of us have other jobs, but it’s never enough,” explains Paul. “We can come out here, drive people around, make 200 dollars and go home.”

Jean Paul and another hack about to catch the bus crowd.

Although it’s an easy 200 dollars, it also has serious dangers.  “Over there, a cop got shot and killed,” Paul said casually. “You don’t want to be here.”

Our time abruptly ended when a SEPTA bus brought a new crowd of potential customers. It was back to business, but Paul made us a promise. “Come back sometime, and I’ll show you what a typical ride is like.”

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