Cabot Honkstein's bus lets him off in front of Life's Not Fare Taxi Company. He's feeling good about today; he spent the afternoon running errands, cleaning up the house, studying for an exam (school is on the weekends), and hitting the gym. He's ready to parlay that productive afternoon into an even more productive night of taxiing.
Looking at his watch, he sees that it's almost 6:00PM—right on time for his twelve-hour overnight shift to begin. It's the third time this week he hasn't been running behind; that might be a new record.
Before driving off the lot, he does some pre-drive checks for his taxi. He has to make sure that the brakes, windshield wipers, lights, and fuel gauge are all in working order before he hits the road. The interior of the taxi must be clean. It won't be by the end of the night, but it should at least start out that way.
It's important to be at least a little presentable. As an "independent contractor" for the company, Cabot is always acutely aware that he must make enough on his shift to cover the lease—and it costs a lot to lease a taxi, over a hundred dollars a shift. No one likes to end their shift knowing they'll need to dig into their own bank account to cover the lease. Especially when the total amount in your account is only in triple digits to begin with.
Finally road-ready, Cabot starts the car and flips on his light. On the corner of the street, a woman is holding onto a shopping bag, and the wind looks like it's about to carry her and the bag away. She doesn't flag him down, but there's nothing wrong with hustling for a dollar.
Cabot pulls up next her. "Need a taxi?"
"Yeah, it's not far. Only a few blocks away," she says.
Cabot sighs. "It's not far" are his least favorite words from a potential fare.
They chat about the weather and the woman's weekend plans, but she only has time to detail through Saturday mid-afternoon before they pull up outside her building.
Cabot hands her a business card in case she needs a taxi the next time she's heading out—establishing a good rapport with passengers is beneficial for business. People typically want to call taxi drivers they can trust. Hopefully this four-block trip has instilled some of that here.
Cabot's passenger hands him a ten-dollar bill for the trip, which includes twenty percent on top of the fare for him to keep. People who don't tip are the bane of Cabot's (and every other taxi driver's) existence. In his opinion, the navigational expertise a taxi driver offers alone is worthy of a tip, and that's without factoring in a timely arrival and professional customer service.
As Cabot hits the road again the weather takes a turn for the worse. This situation can be good or bad for taxi drivers—lots of people stay inside when the weather is bad, so there might be fewer people out and about; but then again, people who do brave the storm are likely to want a cab.
Cabot picks up a businessman who's late for his flight out of town. This is a taxi driver's favorite type of fare; the airport is ten miles away and he gets to charge for tolls and bag handling. If Cabot is able to get there in time for the man's flight, he might even receive a jumbo jet-sized tip.
This passenger isn't a talker. He looks nervously at his watch and stares out the window. Cabot attempts to start a conversation with the man a couple of times, but gives up and turns up the radio instead. It's no skin off his nose—now he won't even have to make polite small talk to earn his tip.
Cabot takes care of another few passengers after dropping the businessman at the airport, and before he knows it the dashboard clock reads 10:00PM. People in his city are usually wandering the streets looking for taxis at this time of night.
Cruising the bar scene is one of the best ways to help pad a taxi driver's wallet—these people are doing the smart thing getting a taxi, as they really shouldn't be driving themselves. Cabot picks up a group of young women celebrating a bridal shower. One of them throws enough confetti in the air to block out the entire back windshield.
He takes a break after dropping them off to clean the back of the taxi and eat his dinner—that is, if you call a five-dollar burrito at quarter to midnight dinner.
Cabot heads over to a nearby neighborhood that has a thriving bar scene. He drives around and picks up passengers, and the night stays fairly busy until the bars shut down at 3:00AM.
The rest of his shift is pretty slow. He listens to an Italian language CD to keep him awake. "Quanto costa?" he says with gusto. It's Cabot's dream to be able to go to Italy someday—though preferably not in the back of a cab.
At 5:30AM, Cabot fills up the taxi with gas and makes his way back to the cab depot. Early mornings are his favorite time of day. The sunrise reflecting off of the towering skyscrapers makes for a beautiful, peaceful landscape.
In this stressful line of work, Cabot takes the peaceful moments when he can get them. Confetti-throwing bachelorettes might make for an entertaining few minutes in an otherwise dreary shift, but Cabot isn't exactly the confetti-throwing type when he's not behind the wheel.