Born in Bronx, New York city. Been living in Virginia for more than 30 years. Writing is my passion.
Taxi Driving--A new adventure.
Years ago, I decided to take in a new job. I was in and out, hopping from one job to another and decided on driving a cab. When you ask people, what do you think about being a taxi driver, you have all kinds of opinions. Some good and some bad. The fact of the matter is, I have met some really nice people who have driven cabs-full time and part- time. Not all cab drivers are shady and ready to rip you off. Believe it or not, there are some honest cab drivers out there.
I started working for Yellow Cab company. I went to a one day training class, where I was given some tips on taxi driving. Nothing elaborate, just a warning to sit and wait for a call, because if you use the cab to cruise, you get to the "poorhouse." Yellow cab company had a lease program and not a commission program. The year was 1987 and lease programs were becoming popular in the Norfolk area.
The lease program involved leasing a cab for a day. For example, you pay $50.00 for the day plus gas. Gas at that time was cheap, about a dollar and some cents, but it, still, added up. Whatever you make over $50.00 is yours, but if you don't, you owe the company money.
The commission program was, generally, splitting your profits with the company. For example, 40% is yours and in some cases, if you did good in mileage, you had an extra 4%!! Now, when you count tips, it could add up. The advantage of working commission is that the company pays for the gas! Another benefit of working commission is that if you had a slow night, you could bring the cab in and go home.
The first day I worked, I worked nights. I remember it as if it were yesterday, I put in 12 hours and all I earned was $15.00 for the day! My wife was disgusted, but I did not give up. I liked the job and saw great potential. A couple of days later, I made $60.00. I was blessed with a 1 1/2 hour trip going to Nags Head, North Carolina. The customer was a nice guy and I was happy because, at least, I had a change in the routine. It was something different and I enjoyed the countryside roads.
I, also, made some money working for the airport, but had a bad experience, when a cop gave me a ticket. I avoided the airport and started working the streets. Soon, I wasn't making much so I decided to work for the competition. I applied at Norfolk Checker cab and got interviewed by a manager who passed me through the "coals." Somehow, I must have had some favor with her because I winded up being hired.
Life in Norfolk Checker cab
When I got hired by Norfolk Checker cab, it was as if I was in another world. These people were more professional and gave attention to detail. They took me on a driving improvement course and gave me tips on proper taxicab driving. They, also, gave me a map and trained me on how to use it. To be honest, it was better than working for Yellow cab, plus they had me on a commission program.
I got back to working nights. This time, I learned where to go and wait for my calls. The worst jobs that I ever got was grocery calls. I had to put bags in my cab for the customers. Upon arriving, I had to help carry their bags, sometimes going up a flight of stairs and by the way-few tips! I remember a customer gave me a nickel tip! Yes, they added up with two dollars here and maybe 4 dollars there, but it was a pain.
Tips were, generally, good. Sometimes, working at the airport, you got some decent tips. On a slow day, the tips would get you through. Sometimes, I would get a tip for $20 or 30 dollars. You got to remember, this was more than 25 years ago and gas was cheap then. I, also, remember some stories.
I picked up this merchant marine who was drunk and going to the Naval base. Upon arriving, he tells the guard---"Arrest him, he's a communist!" Now, I got nervous. This was during the Reagan years and the evil Soviet empire. It was a good thing that the guard recognized that he was drunk. In the midst of this, he dropped a roll of dollar bills which was bundled up and into the hundreds. Since he left my cab in a mess (He was eating and left crumbs!), I returned the money minus my fee for cleaning the cab which was $5.00! So, Cab driving had its perks!
Having a Naval base in the area was an advantage.When the ships came, you could make some big time money because the base was booming with business. On Sundays, you can go to the airport and make some good money. I got some great jobs working there. There was, also, hospital jobs that hired you to take some documents or blood transfusions. Norfolk Checker had its share of regular customers, so working nights was safe or so I thought.
Taxi Cab in Times Square, New York City, NY.
A Wake up call !!
As a taxi driver, you can get so comfortable that you can lower your guard. I had some people take a cab and when it was time to pay, they would bolt out and run. There was, also, the risk of being held up at gunpoint. I had a friend who was stabbed. He survived but had surgery for hours and took a while to recover. There was, also, the risk of accidents.
When you got into an accident, the company had a deductible to which you were responsible. I, myself, got into a skid on a winter night and busted the fender on the side. For that mishap, I winded up getting about $300.00 plus deducted from me. Thank God there was no loss of life.
My wake up call came on January of 1988! I was working nights and was putting in my hours. It was a long and frustrating night with hardly any money being made. I picked up these two ladies at a grocery store. They were going to leave the cab without paying, but I stopped them. They told me that someone else was going to pay me.
I saw this individual working as if he had a limp. He asked me how much was the fare and after I answered him with the amount, he pretended to look in his pockets for the money and he took out a shiny .38. He took aim and I just stood there in shock. I thought it was a holdup but it was not. He aimed for my head and shot me. Thank God, he missed and shot me in the arm instead. He, then, tried to shoot me on the side and shattered the glass on the driver's side. Again, thank the good Lord, he missed. It was at this time that I floored the gas.Then, I called dispatch and was directed to go to a convenience store and meet a police officer.
When you are staring death face to face, your priorities change. It's one thing to see people being shot at in the movies and TV, but when you experience that, it's another thing. Being shot felt like a bee sting. The good thing is that I had a heavy coat which cushioned the blow somewhat. Blood started spurting out like a fountain and I thought it would never end. My coat winded up being stained with my blood on my right arm.
Then, came the good part. The paramedics came and a detective started asking me questions. He asked me if it was a domestic dispute and two times, I told him no. Upon going to the hospital, I found out that the bullet, narrowly, missed one of my arteries and bone. To be honest, I was, somewhat traumatized and affected.
To add to this, the newspaper practically printed my address. The news came on the TV saying that I was involved in a domestic dispute, which I was not. One of the employees got so angry that she wanted to call the TV station and set the record straight. Then, came the recovery. The company tried to help me out by giving me a job as a dispatcher and other functions, but I was not making that much money. It was a trying time for me getting over this trauma and trial but thanks to the good Lord, I managed to pull through.
The road to recovery!
Soon, I managed to overcome my fears and got back on the road as a cab driver. Then, I found out that a friend, who was a cabdriver, was held up.This incident so affected him in many ways. He suffered a nervous breakdown and his wife, who was pregnant, lost the baby. By the way, when I got shot, my wife was, also, pregnant. I managed to put that behind me and tried to encourage my fellow cab driver in his road to recovery.
It was not long, when, I made some money again. Soon, I worked making mail deliveries for Bell Atlantic and started to see progress in my finances. Afterwards, I was hired by the phone company and spent 21 yrs in my new job. Now, I am retired and doing full time ministry. I credit my faith in Jesus for having put me through such a trying time. So, do me a favor, when you get into a cab, think about that cab driver. Most cab drivers are hard-working and honest. If they do a good job, show your appreciation with a nice tip!.
Nostalgia---The Checker Cabs!
When I started driving cabs, One thing I won't forget is those old Checker cabs. They were built to last and had lots of room. I was privileged to drive one of those vehicles. For the younger generations who don't know what an old Checker cab looked like, check out my picture and videos below.