Cabbies - they may belong to the world's second oldest profession, for without them the world's oldest profession may not have been able to operate.
Cab drivers come in all shapes and sizes, and they come from all types of races and classes. They all have a different raison d' etre, but the ones who last invariably do for the same reason - they love it. Why?
Some do it for the challenge of getting people from point A to point B. Some do it for an adrenaline rush. Some do it to meet women (or men). Some do it just to be able to talk to people - sometimes famous people.
Some taxi tests are a joke, and some are quite difficult. In London, England, prospective cabbies are forced to drive around on a motor scooter for a number of months learning the streets, and then they must take a very rigorous examination to get their taxi license.
In a small town in Saudi Arabia young men aspire to be cabbies in New York City. If they are able to fulfill their dream, they become the pride of their hometown.
Many cab drivers become targets for passengers who are racists, especially drunken racists, who abuse them for everything from their accent, to their nationality, to the color of their skin.
It can be very frustrating being a cab driver. In the passenger's eyes the driver is always wrong. He is always taking thelong way around, or he is driving too slow, or he has tampered with the meter. Some passengers don't even believe that taxis have a jump fare, they think the meter should start at 0.
Many cabbies take great pride in their work. Their cabs are immaculate, and they take great pains to go the quickest and most direct route. They want their passengers to be happy and to feel safe.
Many cab drivers wait on taxi stands for hours hoping for a long fare to make their night, but it rarely happens. The best drivers are constantly in motion, like a good soccer player looking for a loose ball. To be a good cab driver requires a considerable amount of skill. A proficient driver must be able to get out of traffic jams quickly, and they must be able to read traffic and stop lights as well.
The drawbacks to driving a cab are many, including lack of proper physical exercise, which can lead to many ailments. The job demands long hours, and it can be very dangerous. Cab drivers also are not treated with a very high regard. As one driver said, "We don't get any respect." It's true they don't, and yet they are the first people we turn to in an emergency, or when the weather turns nasty.
One of a driver's worst fears, besides being held up, is being shafted. Cabbies claim little old ladies are the worst, because what are you going to do with an eigthy year old spinster, when she tells you she has forgotten her purse.
The perks of driving a cab include being your own boss, being able to drive around and listen to the radio for hours on end, being free to choose your fares, being able to stop the cab and take a break whenever you want, being able to go to a movie or baseball game halfway through your shift, and being able to meet different people from all walks of life.
Cab drivers also serve as psychiatric counselors. It is amazing the things that people will divulge to a cab driver. Passengers speak of intimate details in their personal lives - their fears, their hopes, their dreams and their betrayals.
Some drivers have to do favors for their dispatchers, if they want to be given a good ride. When a dispatcher wants a driver to bring him a cup of coffee, he usually uses some sort of code like Chase & Sanborn. One rookie driver booked on this call, thinking it was a destination. He spent the next half-hour looking for the intersection of Chase & Sanborn.
There was a story in Toronto, some time ago about a refugee who used his brother's taxi ID to get a job. They both had the same first initial, same last name and a similar appearance. The only problem was that the refugee couldn't speak any English and the only location in Toronto he knew was his brother's house, so whenever a fare got into his cab he would take the passenger to his brother's house, smiling profusely all the way.
Some ladies of the night are willing to trade sex for their fare, but drivers say it is wise not to cross them. Many of them have pimps, so one of the few perks they get is their taxi fare. They know exactly how much their ride should cost, and the shortest way to reach their destination.
Many academics, professionals and even athletes, moonlight by driving a cab. They claim that once they've done it, it is impossible to get it out of their system. Cab drivers love to bemoan their lot, but many truly enjoy what they are doing, and they don't give a dam what anyone else thinks of their profession.