As opposed to most other drivers on the road, we cab drivers are out there trying to make a living. We're not just joyriding around for fun. If we're on a trip we need to get our passengers to their destination. If we're empty, we're trying to get back to where the trips are (e.g. the mall, airport or the Navy base). Either way, we don't like to waste time because as we all know, time is money. So if I cut you off a little closer than you'd like, don't take it personally; it's just business. Obviously, some cab drivers get too aggressive. I've noticed that the more desperate for money the cab driver is, the crazier he'll drive.
Working three days a week, I drive between 2,500 and 3,000 miles per month, all of it in the city. So far I haven't had any wrecks or gotten any tickets, but I've come pretty close. When you drive for a living, you have to refine defensive driving into a fine art. You literally cannot be defensive enough; there's no such thing. And I thought flying helicopters required a lot of concentration! My buddy, Terry and I often compare stories of close-calls we've had due to the stupid things people do.
Still, though we are out there trying to make a living, there's no excuse for being rude or driving recklessly. But we do get impatient with drivers who aren't really paying attention to what they're doing. Oh, and we see that a lot! At nearly every red light now, the first driver in line won't take off right away when the light turns green – at least not until he finally notices that the light has changed and puts his phone down. Cell phone use at red lights is rampant. It's annoying. But I learned a long time ago that it's not my job to teach people how to drive. So I just shake my head and motor on.
The majority of drivers – especially guys – think that they are an “above-average” driver. Obviously half of them are wrong – must be wrong. Not everyone can be above-average, and trust me, not everyone is. There are a lot of really bad drivers out there. It's almost as if people, upon passing their road test forgot everything in the DMV driver's manual – if they ever knew it to begin with. Nevertheless, every guy will tell you that he's among the best. And he believes it! Sadly, the evidence is to the contrary.
Guys tend to believe that in addition to the space around their vehicle, they also own the space directly ahead of them out to a certain distance (and that distance varies). Violate that space and you'll be treated to horn-blowing and angry finger-gesturing. I just ignore it the way I ignore it when someone does it to me. I don't let my ego get involved with my driving.
Sometimes guys will just be toodling down the boulevard slowly in the left lane, blocking traffic. Once you find a hole and go around them, now they suddenly speed up! This happens...all...the...time. It's bizarre. It's as if there is a subconscious, neurotic need in guys to not be passed...like it's an insult to their manhood.
My own aggressive tendencies reveal themselves when I drive a non-taxi. I'll find myself having to consciously tone it down a little and not be “driving like an idiot” as my dad would angrily say. He used to get really pissed at bad drivers.
And like I said, it's not that I drive super-aggressively in the cab. I mean, the passengers don't want to be scared or banged around. It's not an amusement park thrill-ride. You have to drive smoothly. But there's a way of being aggressive, safe and smooth. It's sort of like the difference between the kind of experience you'd get on a short sightseeing helicopter ride at a county fair and the one the pilots would provide to a Mr. Warren Buffett. The passengers at the fair don't mind a little bit of “rock 'n roll” (in fact they might expect it), but such flying would get Mr. Buffett's pilots fired on the spot and possibly shot.
Similarly, the military kids don't mind a little aggressive driving, especially when it's late and they have to be back by curfew. Plus, they drive that way themselves – they're teenagers after all. But then I'll take a trip off the airport and have to remind myself to drive like it's Mr. Buffett in the back.