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Taxi Driver

The Real Poop

Love picking up hitchhikers? Have a face for radio? Like to honk? You might be a natural.

Taxi drivers should know the city like the back of their hands (which they should also know pretty well, since they're staring back at them from the steering wheel all day long). They need to be familiar with every nook and cranny of the area in order to provide quality service to their passengers. The difference of 5% or so in tips can be a biggie. Weaving in and out of lanes, taking back routes to destinations, and driving around—and preferably not through—pedestrians can feel like a video game. In fact, taxi drivers have one of the most dangerous jobs in the United States. They transport passengers at breakneck speeds, sometimes getting into accidents with other cars, pedestrians or guardrails. Also, taxi drivers carry a lot of cash. It would make them think twice about picking up a shifty-eyed individual if they didn't need the fare so badly.

You might want to get the cash up front.

To reduce incidents of theft and offer a convenient payment method for passengers, many drivers now have credit card machines. Some cities are even starting to pass laws that require it. However, processing fees for credit cards have risen to 5 percent, which puts a large dent in their profits. Better than a large dent in their rear bumper (or in their head from being mugged for their cash on hand), but still not ideal.

Money is one of the main reasons people get into driving taxis. Not because they are going to be making an exorbitant amount, but because for most people who end up driving taxis, their other viable options are even less lucrative. This job offers flexibility for students, parents, or those with second jobs. People can work various shifts, which allows them to make money around their other set schedules. No need to cancel the monthly D&D game they host in their mother's basement.

Most taxi drivers lease their cab from a cab company or fleet. The lease includes insurance, communication equipmen, and maintenance on the car. To make money for the day, taxi drivers must make more money than the cost of their lease and gas. What they would really love is to make enough so that they have some left over to pay for a few luxury items, such as food and shelter.

Dispatchers get calls from passengers and relay their pick-up locations to taxi drivers. In addition, drivers may pick up passengers by cruising popular places in town or from a taxi stand. To know where people will need cabs, it is important to know events taking place around town or tourist areas. If the International Bocce Ball Championship is just finishing up downtown, it would be beneficial to know this so they can be there when it lets out and take advantage of the tens of attendees who may require transportation.

You don't have to be a people person to be a taxi driver, but it helps keep you sane. As sane as a taxi driver can be anyway. Drivers meet people from all areas of life. They might drop off a few corporate types going to a black tie affair and then pick up a group of college kids going to a party. (Hm…wonder which one of them accidentally dropped that hundred dollar bill on the back seat….) Many taxi drivers are small talkers. They need something to make the time go by. And where else are they going to meet every type of person living in their town? However, because they will be letting all types into their vehicle, some of them are bound to be undesirables. It's important to be able to quickly assess people’s characters. There may be times when knowing some self-defense moves could come in handy. They just have to be sure to keep one hand on the wheel while they're beating off their attacker with the other.

Passengers do not like waiting in traffic while their fare continues to climb. Of course, the cabbie loves it because the longer you’re in their cab, the more money they’re making, but they also don't want you to get frustrated and ask them to "just drop them off on the next corner," in which case they wind up getting shorted. The best plan is to get you to your destination as quickly as possible, and then hope to make up the difference by being rewarded with a sizeable tip. Ten dollars can sometimes make their day.

So how exactly do they determine how much their passengers owe them in the first place? That's where meters come in. Meters work by calculating the distance and time it takes to go from point A to point B. Fares differ depending on the taxi company, how many people are in the car, if the driver helped you with bags and whether or not you've crossed state lines. Over time, taxi drivers get an idea of how much fares will cost ahead of time. This knowledge is beneficial to have handy when people ask, which they inevitably will.

Fares can be notably higher in certain cities such as D.C., where to call a taxi you have to…call a taxi. There is no waving your hand and hoping someone stops for you. Cabs are only dispatched by the station, so you have to go through them. In other cities, such as NYC, taxis are what are called "medallion"-based; the driver or cab company purchases a medallion that allows their vehicles to stop and pick up passengers without being dispatched to a specific location. Because there is so much constant foot traffic in NYC, companies can make money charging less per trip, while in D.C., they have to up the prices to maximize their profit. Ever wondered why you never see the President flagging a cab? Now you know. (Okay, maybe it also has a little to do with him being driven everywhere.)

For those who don't have any more lucrative options and are looking for driving challenges and adventures, a taxi driving career is a good fit. No two days are exactly the same. You'll get to know every side street in your town and meet a slew of unique characters. Always keep in mind that passengers are entrusting their lives to you, so while it's important to get them to wherever they're going in a timely manner, you also don't want to take too many chances. Taxi drivers should take their jobs as seriously as school bus drivers. You may not have many young‘uns clambering into the back seat of your cab, but you are still transporting precious cargo.