Saturday, April 4, 2009

Cabbie Economics

"Tom, did you turn in all your receipts, yesterday? Did you forget any vouchers?"

It was my boss. Actually, it wasn't yesterday. It was today. I had gotten off work just five hours before, around 4 a.m. It was now a little after 9 a.m. and I had barely 3 hours of sleep under my belt. What the fuck?

"Your waybill. It was short."

"No, I turned in everything," I answered. "And what do you mean, it's short?"

"Four dollars. Your total was off. You owe us four dollars."

"I didn't add it up," I said. "The dispatcher added it up, just like he always does. Take it up with him."

"You owe us four dollars."

Jeeezuz H. Christ. He wakes me up over four bucks? Look, I say, double-check with the dispatcher. If it turns out I owe you four dollars, I'll square it at the start of my next shift, okay?"

"Right," and he hangs up.

There might be cheaper species on earth, but taxi drivers, and particularly taxi owners, have got to be the cheapest. I've seen drivers fight over the right to take some old lady four blocks to the grocerey store for a loaf of bread and a fifty-cent tip, or nearly come to blows over whose turn it is to pay six bucks to get the car they share washed.

Owners, however, take it to entirely new level. At my garage, the owner this past winter refused to heat the garage. The mechanic ended up wearing two sets of long underwear under his overalls in order to try and stay warm. His hands were so cold he had a difficult time holding tools he needed for repairs, and his feet were numb by midway through the shift. Two assistant mechanics quit rather than deal with the indignity.

The garage staff--office, dispatchers and mechanics--all share a single restroom, a dank, dark cubby that is a converted closet. Like the garage, there's no heat, the floor's constantly wet, and there's no door, but privacy isn't much of an issue because there's no light, either.

Unless it's a safety issue, defects in cars go unrepaired for weeks. This includes seat belts, horns, interior lights, radios--the kinds of things that are really necessities when driving a cab. Drivers who hit potholes and are unlucky enough to blow a tire can expect to be charged for the replacement tire. Same goes for minor damage not covered by the owner's insurance.

Ironically, driver's--including myself--put up with it all. The alternative would be going out to find a "real" job.

Time to get some sleep.


  1. Keep on writing - this stuff is great

  2. i hear you loud and clear. our garages here in new york are the same damn story.

  3. You make me understand my boyfriend better-he hardly has time to spend with me given the slow market.