Taxi driving: The other side of the partition

Driving a taxi is certainly not a glamorous job, although occasionally one can transport a rather prestigious passenger. What makes this an interesting position, however, is the sheer variety of fares and destinations. If one is looking for diversity and challenge, as well as independence, driving a taxi may be a good choice of occupation.

Being a professional driver encompasses several things: driving safety, car cleanliness, a sense of direction (or a GPS), a pleasant personality and the ability to distinguish between customers who want to chat and those who prefer silence, and some organizational skills.

In most places, a driver must be at least 18 years old, in some places 21 or 25 – this is largely dependent upon insurance regulations. Of course, a valid driver license is required, and often a commercial or chauffer license. One must be familiar with the area served, or at least be able to operate a GPS; few things are more irritating to a customer than having a driver who becomes lost, or asks constantly for directions.

Taxi drivers are most often independent contractors, which means the pay is a percentage of the fare, and all tips, but the driver is responsible for gas and the condition of the vehicle; usually the cab company pays all maintenance and repair. There are seldom any benefits like health insurance, and no paid time off. Most drivers work set hours, and some work a particular area of town. Most are still dispatched via two-way radio.

There is some danger involved. Anyone is usually capable of calling for a taxi, and the companies seldom screen potential customers; of course, some do maintain a “black list” and no car will be dispatched to certain addresses. The vast majority of clients are upstanding, pleasant, hygienic individuals; some, of course, are not.

Television and movies portray taxi drivers in a fairly unrealistic manner. Yes, there are probably drivers who help deliver babies, inadvertently pilot a “getaway” car, and assist the police or maybe even “secret agents”. But these incidents are certainly not the norm.

The typical client has called for a cab merely to go from one place to another; he is pleasant, but perhaps not talkative, seldom has unusual requests, pays his fare, and usually tips well.

Driving a taxi is not for everyone; one must be independent-minded and enjoy both people and the driving itself. One must learn to overlook some external characteristics, and be pleasant and polite to all clients. Keeping good records is important, and of course, providing a well-kept car as well as taking care with one’s own appearance. Being a cabbie is not the most typical job, but it’s always interesting and can be quite rewarding.

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