I had many summer jobs while growing up but none that could conjure up as many lasting memories as my summer job driving a taxicab.
Although it was in the fall of that year, it was just a matter of picking up where I left off in the summer, but with one difference: I no longer was that green, wet-behind-the-ears cabby, having made my introduction into the profession during the earlier part of the summer.
Reporting for duty on a Friday morning and having some basic training in the profession, the dispatcher assigned me to the same cab as before, a substitute on the weekends for cab No. 2. The other cabbies probably still did not know my real name. Actually, I liked it that way; it was a more comfortable feeling.
As usual, the permanent driver left his hat on the seat under the steering wheel. I wondered if he knew I was to be his substitute again, and if his name also was “Two.”
That radio feature was still there, but I did not use it again, having learned a lesson. This time, I was a seasoned, salty cabby like the rest of them. Cab No. 2 was a 1952 Plymouth.
As usual, the other cabbies encouraged me not to spend the rest of my life as a cabby.
Sitting on Main Street waiting for an assignment, my radio suddenly blasted with an assignment to pick up a fare waiting at Sears Roebuck on the lower end of Main Street.
Being just a couple of blocks up the street from Sears, I was there in five minutes. A well-dressed, middle-aged, stately looking lady walked out when she saw me parking in front of her home.
I hardly had time to do my usual courtesy movements, hopping out, tipping my hat, smiling and running around to whisk open the back door.
I specifically remember the dialogue:
“Elm Street, please, and be quick about it,” she snapped, stepping into the backseat.
“Two! Going to Elm Street,” I said to the dispatcher, keying the mike.
“Go, Two!” came the response from the dispatcher.
I never knew the existence of Elm Street until becoming a cabby. My fare lived about halfway down the street.
Elm Street is the steepest street in my hometown. It overlooks the town and leads straight down to the river, which is about 50 feet below the end of the street.
On each side of the street are houses where the rooftops resemble a giant staircase. At the end of the street, about eight houses further down from where she lived, there was a large black and yellow, crosshatched sign across the street: “Danger! Road ends!”
“219, please,” she said.
Making my entrance at the street, I had to reach desperately to the left of the steering wheel, pulling as hard as possible on the emergency handbrake, still looking down that street.
“Why are you bending over the steering wheel like that?” the lady asked.
“I’m trying to pick up something on the floor, ma’am,” I said, sweat beads popping out all over my face.
I managed to get the cab slowed down some, letting the wheels rub against the curb and then turning the wheels and rolling up on the sidewalk, coming to a stop in front of her house.
“My goodness, young man, don’t you know how to drive?”
“I’m sorry, ma’am. I should have been more careful.”
Getting out quickly and helping my fare out, she went hastily into her house, cracked open the blinds and watched me.
Keying my mike, “This is Two. I’m over on Elm Street. I stepped on the brake pedal and it went all the way to the floor board.”
About 30 minutes later, a wrecker arrived and towed my cab away. As I looked from the window of the wrecker, that lady was still at her window peeping through the blinds.
Bond lives in Richmond Hill and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.