We will always have the vivid memories of our favorite summer jobs. We leave these jobs and move on, never giving them a second thought. Sometimes, these memories pop up. We sit back with a pleasant smile, asking ourselves, “Did I really do that?”
Probably, now, for most of us, it would be unimaginable, or at best, an impossible task to do again. That was the way it was driving a taxi cab.
In the fall of that year, I returned to my summer job driving a taxi cab for the last time. There was one thing I could count on: Being assigned to the same cab, No. 2. And of course, my name was still “No. 2.” I was never addressed by my formal name.
I resumed substituting for the permanent cabby who took the weekends off. As usual, he would leave his cap on the front seat. I wore it and sat at my location on Main Street waiting for an assignment.
Blasting on the radio, “Two!”
“Two here,” I responded.
“Go across the tracks and pick up a fare at 136 5th St.”
There were many stories about events that took place in this part of town. In my hometown, this area was known for Saturday night fish fries, gaiety, musical noise and juke boxes in every house. I was there in 10 minutes and in for a surprise of the day.
Arriving in the early part of the morning, rolling up in front of the house, getting out smiling, I did my usual courteous maneuvers. A gentleman stepped out wearing the latest style in clothing – a gray, pinstriped zoot suit with a key chain nearly reaching the floor, matched with a white, wide-brimmed, flat-top hat. His bright teeth showed under his thinly trimmed moustache. On his arm was his lady. I thought they were going to some morning social.
Stepping into the back seat, “25 8th St.,” he said.
I had expected the destination to be over in the main part of town, Main Street. Instead, it was just a couple of streets away. Had it been me and my lady, we would have walked the distance. I wondered what all the fancy dressing, like they were going out on the town to some lively spot, was all about.
After delivering my fare, I called in expecting to return to my location on Main Street. But that was not to be the case.
“Two!” my radio blasted. “Pick up another fare at 220 5th St.”
For the remainder of the day until sundown, the assignments were delivering fares from one street to another or from their house to just a few houses down the street. The aroma of fish frying and merry-making became more intense as the late evening approached. Occasionally, there were sounds of police sirens.
On some assignments, as many as six partying fares would crowd into the backseat, joking, laughing and singing. It made no difference to me as long as the assignments, and especially tips, kept coming.
I made more money in tips that day than any other. But most of all, I was learning more about this area of my hometown. All the rumors had been confirmed – it was a world I never knew, and it was entertainment at its best. And as a matter of fact, I enjoyed the day.
Finally, late in the evening, I called into the dispatcher for another assignment.
“Come on in, Two.”
This was my last assignment as a cabby. It was nearly quitting time for me when I returned to my location on Main Street.
I don’t remember much more, other than being reported several times to the dispatcher for speeding around town. Yet, I was never given any type of citation from the police department.
I put a lot of effort into being the best I could be as a good cab driver. I was courteous to my customers and did everything but lay my coat down for my fares to walk on as they climbed into the back seat. It all paid off.
My only disappointment was that I never got an assignment to pick up a fare on the other end of town, where I lived.
Bond lives in Richmond Hill. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.