The Hustle – Gypsy vs Uber 5

Hailing Uber

Uber, smuber.  The idea of having private cars provide taxi service is not new.  Uber and other similar companies, have just  put some organization around the concept.  I remember gypsy cabs.

Have you ever taken a gypsy cab?  Do you know what a gypsy cab is?   Did you know they are still running especially in many inner-city neighborhoods?JitneyCMYKb

In Boston, you’ll find them at the South Bay Mall, at several Stop and Shop grocery store lots, and outside of Ashmont Station. The Dudley Business District is another place they proliferate.  Try finding a regular cab there day or night although this may change now that the Bruce C. Bolling Municipal Building has opened and a whole bunch of Boston Public School Department workers have come to the district.

(Image from play, Jitney,  by August Wilson)

A gypsy cab is a private car used to pick up people on the spot to get them from point A to point B.  They are usually caught on the fly.  Like Uber they are unregulated. Unlike Uber, they are part of the underground economy. They do not use technology for payments or deployments.  Cash only. Phones are seldom involved.Gypsy cabs are full-time income for some people and a side-hustle for others

Cause it’s all about money, ain’t a damn thing funny
You got to have a con in this land of milk and honey (from Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five“The Message“)

Thinking of gypsy cabs got me to musing about the underground economy – the hustle.

About 30 years ago, a woman I know who is now quite an accomplished artist with a few public sculptures, was a young mother with young children and a husband who had flown the relationship and any financial contributions to their family.  She used her station wagon as a gypsy cab with her children in the back seat.  It was cash, it was regular, and it got her through a tough patch.  The women who used her, felt more comfortable with her and so she was busy. You’d have to have been poor to understand this.

The underground economy has always existed and always will.20140129174022-Rent_Party_Image_2

At least twice a week, I notice a woman walking through my neighborhood and other parts of Dorchester, collecting cans and bottles for refunds.  Some neighbors have actually started leaving them outside of the recycle bins for her to find more easily.  Another gentleman drives his truck through on garbage collection days and picks up mostly metal objects.  Metal can be sold for a tidy sum.

People have rented out rooms forever before Airbnb and didn’t rely on a middle-man to get referrals (and didn’t have to give anyone a cut of their earnings).  As long as you managed the flow of people and were discreet, you were in business.  Another friend has rented out a room in her house to college students every academic year.  She has met people from all over the world and formed lasting friendships with several of them.

Self-reliance, i.e., hustling is much better than being inert and broke-ass broke.  I know people who are paralyzed because they don’t have the wherewithal to hustle and therefore they have no flow – cash that is.  Cash always attracts cash.  Doing something will bring other somethings to you.  I have never seen this fail.

I found out recently that another long-time acquaintance of mine has a few regular cleaning clients that keep her cash flow going.  She has a “professional” gig, is college-edumacated  (lol), and presents herself as though someone  should be doing her cleaning.  She actually enjoys creating order and makes sure to keep this work far separate from the rest of her life.

My hustle used to be typing term papers. 100112-Selectric-in-situ I had a lot of clients, even had a few bidding-wars around finals’ time.  Students (including family members) knew that I could spell, was fast, and would rewrite when I saw glaring errors.  They also counted on me to expand and expound if they were stuck on ideas (for an additional fee). I have fond memories of receiving and posting papers in the mail for my Aunt J.

The shadow economy does carry many risks and it does keep tax revenue out of the economy.  Still, everyone I know who’s had or has a side-hustle, also has a regular job but has to do this to make ends meet.

Interestingly, some of the young, middle and upper-class people I know who don’t consider themselves part of this economy are in fact able to avoid the side-hustle because they have parents and/or grandparents who “loan” (actually gift) them money on a regular basis.  Everyone but the monetarily wealthy needs mo’ money to get by.

Have you ever hustled for money?  Have you ever worked under-the table?  Do tell.



More Americans work in the Underground Economy

Why Black Market Entrepreneurs Matter to the World Economy

Hiding in the Shadows: The Growth of the Underground Economy



About Candelaria Silva

Candelaria Silva-Collins is a marketing, community outreach and programming consultant; writer; and trainer/facilitator who lives in Boston, Massachusetts. She has designed and facilitated workshops on a wide variety of topics including communication, facilitation, job search skills, team building, and parenting issues. She currently coordinates the Community Membership Program of the Huntington Theatre Company. Her work as Director of ACT Roxbury was profiled in several publications, including The Creative Communities Builders Handbook. Candelaria’s children’s stories, short stories, essays and reviews have been published in local and national publications and she is an active blogger. Her publications include the booklets, Handling Rejection; Pushing through Shyness: Networking Tips when You’re Shy, Slow to Warm Up or Just don’t Feel you Belong; and Real Questions about Sex & Relationships for Teens: A Discussion Guide for Parents. She has served on the boards of Goddard College, Wheelock Family Theatre, Boston Foundation for Architecture, and Discover Roxbury. She is currently Chair, Designators of the Henderson Foundation.

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5 thoughts on “The Hustle – Gypsy vs Uber

  • Carolyn

    I truly appreciate the phrase “underground economy” and can see its place in our lives today–and so many other are all too familiar with it as well. A person truly needs to be resourceful and creative these days as in days gone. Being able to make ends meet is an art and does require a person to take stock of every acquired skills and every resource available to create a service for which the marketplace can embrace and pay.
    Thanks for sharing an interesting insight.

  • Wyoma

    Well Put Candelaria! ..all of it :)
    Uber vs Gypsy particularly peaked my interest. I’ve taken gypsy cabs plenty…and recently have been trying to sign up with Uber…but having difficulty. and It’s hard to get answers.
    But then again….I waited 25 min. for a gypsy cab the other day. So some complexities on both ends….but I do appreciate and like supporting the gypsies when I can!
    Good to connect more with your work!

    • Candelaria Silva Post author

      I haven’t used Uber yet although I signed up once. I have a gypsy driver and a couple of taxi-drivers I use when I need to because of long-established relationships. Thanks for reading my blog and leaving a comment.

  • Deborah

    Here you go again Ms. Candy! I know I hustled back in the day from making my own clothes to sewing outfits for a few friends who needed a business wardrobe.We all have it and we Urban Beauties know how to tap into the energy. Did you know that Zipcar is going to allow Uber drivers to use Zipcar vehicles to increase business opportunities for those that may not own a car? To think, these cars, which I use, are parked in our communities now.