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Monday, September 12, 2011

My ONE DAY As A Taxi Cab Driver

It's an inner city cab company.
A little less than 30 years ago, I needed a job and answered an ad for taxi cab drivers. I was told to report at 6 am at the cab company. Once I was processed and issued my hack license, I waited for an assignment. What ensued was a soup concocted of confusion, boredom, anger, paybacks, and frustration. Here is my ONE DAY as a taxi cab driver.

If you've never driven a cab before, let me give you a brief rundown of what goes on. You need a hack license to become a cab driver. This involves taking a written test, getting your picture taken and signing some forms. Bingo! You're a cab driver.

You lease the cab for the day, which, from what I recall, was around $25.

The cabs used by this company were all old highway patrol cars. They had extremely powerful V-8 engines and flew like rockets, but not all of them had brakes or shocks. I was instructed which cab would be mine for the day, and then I waited.

I was told by the dispatcher that the easiest way to get started was to do school runs because they were simple and you received a guaranteed fare for the run. My first run was to pick up a kid from the inner city that was supposed to be bused to a white school (remember busing?), but the bus didn't go near his house.

So, I got out my Cleveland Street Guide and figured out where this kid lived. I had no problem finding him, but it got interesting getting him to school. Our destination was a school in the Shaker Heights area of Cleveland. There, the streets are no longer in a grid. They go on angles, curve around and play games with your mental compass. My first rider got to school, but I think it was around third period. Oooops.

Then, I had to figure out where to sit until dispatch radioed me with another run.

I was told, "On your first day, kid, stay away from the airport. You can get caught in the cab line there for hours." That was bad advice. It didn't matter if I sat in the cab line for hours, eventually I'd get a fare. Instead, I went to a popular hotel and waited there, and waited, and waited, and waited.

After about four chapters in a book I brought with me, I got a radio call to pick up a couple and take them to a downtown hotel. Out with the Cleveland Street Guide, again. I found the people, but the downtown hotel turned out not to be where I thought it was. Circling around downtown, my passengers were getting a bit angry because the meter was running and they seemed to feel I was screwing them. And they didn't know where the hotel was, either. I finally found the place and charged them half fare. I don't recall a tip.

After sitting near that hotel for an hour or so, I got a radio call from dispatch, "We have another school run for you..." He gave me the details. I was to pick up five kids from a white school and deliver them to the inner city.

The school was on the south side of town. I found it and these five kids got in the back seat. Seat belts? They weren't required back then. "Just load 'em up." These boys were all between 6 and 8 years old - first through third graders.

As soon as they got in the cab, they started slapping each other and screaming. I had to get on the highway in late afternoon traffic to head to some nasty inner city neighborhoods. All five kids went to different destinations. Fortunately, they all had a decent idea where they lived and were helpful with directions.

On the ride there, the back seat became even more raucous. Add to the fact that I'm flying on the highway with literally no shock absorbers. The giant Chevy Caprice was choosing its own lanes for most of the ride. Every bump or buckle in the road flung those kids up to the ceiling and we changed lanes. Then they started slapping me in the back of the head and laughing.

There was one kid in particular that was causing all of the trouble. He had two cohorts, and there were two kids that were trying to be nice and polite, but every now and then they got caught up in the chaos.

I delivered the first two nice kids to their homes without a hitch. Then, I pulled the cab over and parked it. I turned around and screamed, "YOU THREE ARE THE WORST KIDS I'VE EVER SEEN IN MY LIFE!!!!!!" I pointed at the least guilty, then the next and finally at the worst of the bunch, "I'm taking you home first, then you, and if YOU don't settle down, you may never make it home. YOU GOT IT? NOW SHUT THE FUCK UP AND BE QUIET." Total silence.

We bounced from lane to lane through ramshackle neighborhoods and I got all three of the little monsters home. Thank God I was getting a guaranteed fare.

Then, I had to see if I could get another fare. I wasn't doing too well on the day. But, there was no time limit on how long I could work, so I figured I'd stay out until I made some money to put in my pocket. It started to rain. That's when I realized how bald my tires were.

I drove around for a bit and kept radioing the dispatcher to see if I could catch a fare. After an hour of driving around, I parked and tried reading my book using the interior dome light in the rainy darkness.

About nine and a half hours into this affair, I decided I had had enough taxi driving for one day. I returned to the yard and turned in my cab. I filled out my shift paperwork and handed it through a hole in a bulletproof glass wall to a small, skinny, angry woman. She took the paperwork, stamped it and then says, "You know first day drivers get a $10.00 discount on their lease, but you didn't check the first day driver box on the form."

I said, "Well, let me check the box and you can give me the $10."

"Sorry, too late, paperwork has already been processed."

WHAT?

After a ten hour shift, I made a net of $1.00. 10¢ an hour.

That's when I remembered that I left my hack license in my cab. I decided to leave it there. I went home and never went back. And that was my ONE DAY as a taxi cab driver.

A good friend of mine emailed me that he could get me a job driving cab. He does it part time on weekends. He said it would make for some great stories for this blog. Hmmmmm... I'm not quite sure if I want to do this. I can't find anything unless you tell me where it is or I can look it up on Google. It's tempting. I'm unemployed and I could use the cash. What do you think?

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