In my long list of occupational hazards, driving a taxi has to be somewhere near the top level dangerous jobs, right next to nuclear bomb testers, action-hero stunt actors, Preparation H guinea pigs and deep-cover journalist operatives in Afghanistan. Many of these jobs come with some form of insurance and pension security, but being the taxi driver has to be one of the more colourful jobs I’ve happened to work at. Most taxi drivers have many horror stories of the things they had to do to get their job done. So far, I haven’t had to deliver any babies or resuscitate anyone from cardiac arrest, but I’ve had my share of scary stories in this business, even though I’ve been working for only four days now.
As with any other job, a set of critical skills and etiquette are necessary and some self-defence techniques and a degree in psychiatry are definite assets. Diplomacy is a necessary virtue as by the time I’m finished with this job (in about three weeks), I should have enough skills to diffuse any hostile incident by just smiling and saying, “Where to, sir or Madame?” Some skills are necessary such as being able to pick out the ones who can afford your high-speed delivery techniques and those who are just joy riders. Another tip is to refuse every tip offered then immediately say, “Thank you,” and pocket the 20 dollars before they change their mind. Sometimes storytelling helps to soothe the irate passenger by talking about the perils of riding the competition and how they could be left out in the cold too long.
I have to admit that I like to drive around; it gives me some sense of freedom and the wind which could have blown through my hair (if I had some) when I open the window and feel the minus 60 degree wind waft through my heavily mittened hand. Ahhh, that’s the life, when you manage to take a break from avoiding every stop sign en route or when a client says, “You’re already here? Wow!” But certain rules are forever written in stone. Only accept cold, hard cash and never say yes to any other offers. Always smile when you face your client. And never, ever ask any personal questions like, “Is that your wife (or husband)?” or, “Didn’t I just drop you off over there last night?” or, “Have a bad hair day?” Until the bicycle comes back as the way to get around, taxis will always be needed. Maybe one day, the perfect client will come around, the generous tipper who is completely sober and honest. But until that day comes, it’s war out there. Ten-four, good buddy, I’m off for a ride.