Sometimes when people ask me if I like driving a taxi, I respond, “I’d rather pound my nuts flat with a wooden mallet.” That may be a bit of hyperbole, but not much. This really is a nightmare gig, at least for me. It’s not the hours or the driving or the traffic, it’s the people. This would an awesome job if I were driving around cardboard boxes; I really should put in an application with FedEx. But these wasted idiots just grate on me and grind me down… I am no fan of intrusive government, but I could make a very good case for all adults in the United States being issued Drinking Permits, that can be suspended for 30 or 60 or 90 days by any cop, bartender, cocktail waitress, bouncer, paramedic, or taxi driver, on the spot with a phone app, if you are being a belligerent douchebag. It’s been more than four years now, and I am getting really burnt out.
I have had a few jobs in my life where I picked up heavy shit all day long, and nothing I have ever done wears me out like driving this car. I’m exhausted, all the time. I sleep eight or nine hours, and when my alarm rings to get me out of bed, I could go right back to sleep for four hours more. My days off are sacred, and I often sleep ten or eleven hours on those days. The rule in my house is that Daddy is not to be woken up unless something is burning or bleeding. Anything else can wait. But oftentimes, I have to get up early on my days off anyway, because my wife needs me to pick up my daughter at daycare, or I need to go do something that can only be done in the daylight, like deal with my mechanic or go to the bank or the DMV or the Post Office or some other institution that closes at 5 PM sharp.
Driving a taxi is not so much a job, it is more of a lifestyle, and it is a lifestyle I’m not really suited to. I work ten or eleven hours a day, and I’m a piker, compared to some of the guys in my company. Some of these guys work twelve, thirteen, even fourteen hours a day. I simply can’t do that. After eleven or twelve hours, I am so tired and usually so angry that I am not safe to drive. One guy in my company boasts that he hasn’t taken a day off literally in years. He’s on day shift, so he tends to encounter a lot fewer drunken jackasses and he runs little errands in between passengers and on the way home, but, still… c’mon, man… really? I said to him once, “Don’t you have shit to do? Don’t you need to do laundry or cut your grass or go to the Home Depot or go shopping for something? Don’t you have a wife or girlfriend or Mother-in-law beating your ass to fix something around the house? Don’t you ever think about just “fucking off”, and going fishing or going to the beach for a day? How can you not have a day off in years?”
I have no friends, no social life, no hobbies, no interests, no exercise, no fun, no recreation, no idle time. The last movie I saw in a theatre was The Dark Knight, whatever year that was. I have been out to dinner with my wife precisely three times since my daughter was born, and two of those were for her business. I watch one or two TV shows per season; I DVR Game Of Thrones and Sons Of Anarchy and Justified and True Blood and Archer to watch with my wife on one of my nights off, but my massive cable bill is for the benefit of my wife and child. I see my daughter for eight hours a week, from 5 PM to 9 PM, Mondays and Tuesdays. Somehow, that feels like “visitation”, and I don’t like it. And it really bothers me that I work more hours in ONE DAY than I see her in A WEEK. I see my wife about twelve hours a week, on the same days. I see my extended family, sixty miles away, on Thanksgiving and Christmas, and I write this blog between passengers on my iPad.
This is it. I work, and I sleep. I drink beer for an hour or two after work to decompress and sedate myself before bed, and I get up the next day to do it again.
Don’t get me wrong; I’m grateful for this job, or at least grateful for the income it provides, especially in the Obamaconomy. If I must do this shit to provide for my family, I am so glad that I do it for this company. I really do work for the best taxi company in the area, and I would not make the money I make at any other taxi company in town. My fellow drivers Jay and Karneesh The Mexican and Darren and Mike The Noob are some of the best in the business, at least where I work, and I am proud to be associated with them.
I have often said that driving a taxi is like being a lap dancer… it’s degrading and humiliating and you feel disgusting at the end of the night, but look at all the money you made. So if I must do this, I am thankful to work for the best tittie bar in town.
This is a hostage situation. The only reason I do this is because of my daughter. I can’t just quit and go get some $10 an hour construction job; I make that job’s weekly pay on an average Saturday night. That paycheck won’t cover daycare and a roof overhead.
In a way, taxi driving is quite seductive on a certain level. As long as you don’t drive like a fool and get tickets and accidents, don’t rip off the customers or the company, don’t make enemies of your other drivers or seriously piss off management, and IF you can deal with these un-fucking-believable people, you can make good money and have a job for life. I call them “lifers”… no matter what their skills or background, this is the end of their resume, and they will never do anything else. Some very smart and very talented people get seduced by that money and security… I know a guy that reads Plato and Socrates in his car, not on an iPad, from two-inch thick books, late thirties or early forties, quirky but brilliant, and I doubt he will ever do anything else. He’s a lifer, and most of the guys in my company are lifers as well.
I like and respect every single man in my company, but I don’t want to be a lifer. I will do this job until I am 90 years old, if that is what it takes to provide for my family, but I really want out of this car.
My last job was actually pretty cool. I ran into a guy that wanted me to build a five or eight page “online brochure” website for his agricultural business, with a prominent “Call toll-free for more information” blurb on each page. After looking at their products and their business, I flew across ten or twelve states to meet the owner and his senior staff, and gave a presentation on why that instead of paying me $300 or $500 bucks for this website, they should put me on the payroll as their marketing director, and I blew them away with my presentation. I recognized that their customers all lived in rural areas, and generally had to drive a long way to obtain their products from a retailer. Their only other alternative was a fairly lengthy phone call to the main plant to place their order and arrange to have their product shipped to them, something that consumed a tremendous amount of telephone time for both the customer and the company’s staff. The addition of a website with a shopping cart and multiple shipping options took their business to the next level, and over six or seven years, their sales quadrupled. I took over all their logo and label design, ad layout, and the creation of all their brochures, sales sheets, and other support materials. And lemme tell ya, these guys needed my help, because nobody in this shop had the requisite skills to make a compelling “Lost Pet” poster for a missing cat.
So for years, I made a good living in salary and performance bonuses by rolling out of bed at the crack of noon, making a cup of coffee, and sitting down to my computer in my pajamas and laying out next month’s national print ads in CMYK. I talked to my boss on the phone once or twice a week most of the time, I set my own hours, and as long as I met my deadlines and sales kept going up, I was golden, or so I thought. But it all unraveled when I caught the owner of the company red-handed trying to steal from me, and when I say steal, I mean a project that would have made by my conservative estimate $10 or $20k per month. I can’t forget that and let it slide, and I quit, a year after the economy went to shit in 2009. Nobody was hiring anywhere, and at the time, I felt lucky to land a job at Jack’s Taxi.
What I would like to do is get back to that marketing job, but working for my wife. I’m not a boastful man, and if I say I can do something, it’s only because I know I can. With my skills and background, I could make my wife’s real estate business HUGE, if I just had the time to blog for her, to design ads and brochures for her, to do her marketing full-time from home. I also have 20 years experience in portrait and commercial photography, and with a few cameras and lenses and some time to study and practice, I could become a competent and maybe even an above-average architectural and interior photographer, working exclusively for my wife’s ever more upscale clientele. If I could do that, I might even have something people call a “social life”, and maybe even some “spare time”…
And if I had some spare time, I would probably devote more time to writing.
I’ve wanted to be a writer since I was a teenager. When I was in school, writing book reports and essays and term papers were always the most enjoyable assignments. 800 out of 800 on the SAT Written and Verbal, so bring on the essay questions on the final exam, bitchezzz…! But back in those days, we had these things called “typewriters” with no “delete” key, and you could spend six months or a year pounding out a manuscript, and publishers would send it back unread… it was incredibly difficult for a new writer to break through, and being a practical man, I chose the path of
least lesser resistance, and went into photography instead. But now with e-publishing and self-publishing, anyone can write about anything, and put it up online and see who salutes.
So I have started to write Taxicab Depressions: The Book. I have notes on my iPad about nearly fifty stories I haven’t had time to write down and put up here on the blog. Of course, that means probably even more infrequent posting on a blog that has sporadic posting at best. I regret that, but I have to do this… I have to try. If it sells beyond my wildest expectations and I make half a year’s salary, or maybe a year’s salary, that’s the cushion I need to jump out of the car and throw myself into building my wife’s business.
And if I had just fifteen or twenty peaceful, rested, and mostly uninterrupted hours in a week to write, I bet I could produce some salable stuff. You know what I think I would be really fuggin’ good at?
Stop laughing. I mean it. I’m thinking of stuff a lot of kids don’t know, stuff like the meaning of the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights, spelled out in a way that kids eight to sixteen could grasp. I can still sing at least three or four songs from “Schoolhouse Rock”… stuff like that sticks in a young mind, if well executed. Of course I would never infringe on a copyright, but I could write “Schoolhouse Rock” and “Rush Revere” styled work six times a year on various historical events and lessons, geared for young minds and fun to read.
Or maybe I could start a political blog, and post insane screeds like The Pig Trap and Stop Being Black and Let’s Advance The Discussion twice a week… but that doesn’t really sound like a money-maker, it sounds more like a good way of making myself a target for an IRS colonoscopy every other year, no matter who the President is.
Or maybe I could write a novel… I have an idea for a novel that oddly enough, revolves around a taxi driver and a very unusual passenger… part Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver, part Michael Mann’s Collateral, with a heavy dose of David Lynch’s Blue Velvet. Too easy… I could pull that off in a month.
I read and personally approve every comment posted on my site. I thank everyone that gives me positive feedback, and I even post comments that are “neutral” or “negative”… but I have never actually had a negative comment. That really surprises me, given the tenor of some of my political posts and the long reach of the liberal outrageously outrageous outrage manufacturing machine. I’m not censoring a bunch of “you suck!” comments and keeping you from seeing them. My blog is what it is… you like it, or you do not. Everybody that makes the effort to comment on it seems to like it.
Many of my readers have praised my writing, and I get that a lot in my car, when I pick up someone who has read Taxicab Depressions. One of the stories I have for the book is “My First Fan”, a guy that got in my car one night and asked if I had ever heard of this crazy-ass taxi blog he had been reading recently. When I told him it was mine, he didn’t believe me, and started quizzing me about my own blog, asking me questions about Roadkill, where my wife is from, the weed dealer that lost his phone, etc. He was wasted and positively astonished he was riding with me. He said, “Man, you should write a book.”
I hear the five word sentence, “You should write a book,” three times a week, minimum.
And then he followed it up with this:
You’re obviously meant to write.Please continue with more!
In case you don’t know who Chris Muir is, he is a political cartoonist and the author and producer of Day By Day, a right-leaning cartoon that lampoons the corruption and chicanery that we call our Federal government these days, and he does it with a razor wit, much sharper than mine. A very good writer once wrote, “Brevity is the soul of wit,” and while I am off on these crazy, rambling rants, Mr. Muir is confined to making his point in three or four dozen words.
Love the work, Mr. Muir.
I have enjoyed his stuff for years, at least since 2011, though I confess I only visit his site maybe once a month… my internet time is limited, but he’s been in my bookmarks for a long, long time. But here’s a guy that seems to have found his voice, found a way to channel his art and writing into something that is meaningful, and he is encouraging me to write more. His opinion carries a lot more weight than some wasted idiot in the back seat of my car who thinks I can tell a funny taxi story; he at least seems to be making a living at his art, and I am going to at least try to follow his counsel.
So, I’m doing this. Taxicab Depressions: The Book is coming.
Expected publication date: I haven’t got a clue. But I have to try.
Tonight I spent a little time writing about a guy that puked right behind me, and later finding a chunk of macaroni in my hair when I got home. Yes, that happened.
I don’t know how long this will take, but I have to try.
Which brings me to the other thing I have to mention here… I have said many times that I don’t write this blog for money; Taxicab Depressions is a shameful display of naked vanity, not fit for polite company, and a relatively inexpensive way to blow off some steam and do something that feels “creative’, in an otherwise dull life with very limited spare time. But I have added a PayPal Tip Jar with this post… people have said more than once that I should do this over the years, and I resisted doing that, though I’m not really sure why. But any contributions that come via this PayPal thing aren’t going to buy me beer or an oil change. Anything donated to Taxicab Depressions will go to buying me out of this car and letting me have the time to REALLY write.
You can also help by giving me links on your blogs, in discussion forums, Facebook posts, and Twitter. Any help is deeply appreciated.
A while back I said that if I were being paid fifty bucks a post, I would do this daily. I thought about doing just that, seeing if people would pay me a bounty for a post here, but that feels wrong, and one thing about marketing I know for certain is, “Thou shalt not over-promise and under-deliver”. If thirty people hit me up for that tomorrow, I would spend months catching up. I promised a book, and I am a man of my word, so a book is coming… even if it sucks, it is coming. I have called myself out.
I can’t promise when, but it is coming. I have to try.
For my daughter, I have to try. That’s just who I am.