After I got out of high school in New York City, I drove a taxi for a short time. This was before the TV series, “Taxi." Even so, lots had been written about cabbies in the Big Apple (which wasn't even called that yet). They are kind of a legend unto themselves. And…I don’t know…I wanted to see if any of it was true. So I got my “hack license” and found a company that would hire me. It was not difficult.
I didn’t do it for very long and really have no interesting stories to tell. I never got robbed, never got hijacked, nobody ever jumped in and said, “Follow that car!” and nobody ever had sex in the back of my cab as far as I knew. I did sometimes get propositioned. I never did take anyone up on it. All in all, from what I remember it was a routine and mundane, unglamorous job.
Flash forward a bit to the time I found myself flying helicopters out in the Gulf of Mexico. We “Gomers” often referred to ourselves as glorified taxi drivers…because that’s really what we were. (In fact, until fairly recently the FAA referred to a company that did that type of work as an “Air Taxi” (wording which has since been changed to “Commercial Operator”). We air taxi pilots picked people up here, and took them to there. It too was a routine and mundane, unglamorous job. The only difference was the fact that my helicopter taxi flew instead of drove.
After over 30 years as a pilot I’m nearly retired now. No more full-time flying for me. I have my little summer gig, the cherry-drying thing up in Washington State. The job usually requires three months of my time – although last year I stayed up there for six full months. This leaves me in a bit of a quandary when I return to Pensacola. The cherry-drying gig pays pretty well, but I still need to do something to keep busy and make a little money the rest of the year. But don’t want to take a full-time job…and seriously, who would hire a guy who could only work from November until May? (And before you ask: No, there is no part-time work for helicopter pilots here in Pensacola.)
So instead of being a Walmart greeter I decided to lease and drive a taxi. It’s strange – it’s like a return to my roots, although admittedly driving a cab here in Pensacola is a lot different from driving one in New York City.
Oddly enough, I may have found the one job for which I’m particularly well-suited. I mean, what guy doesn’t love to drive? And get paid for it? Sweet! Plus, I get to meet tons of people. Yet I only have to interact with them for short periods of time; our trips are generally 20 – 30 minutes or less in length. Much of the time I am the first contact visitors have with this area, which I love. It makes us taxi drivers something of ambassadors for Pensacola.
And so a new chapter opens up and once again I find myself in yet another routine and mundane, unglamorous job: Cab Driver. But it is interesting, and has already provided me with plenty of stories. I’ll share some of them with you in this space.