As a marketing ploy I decided to drive a taxi in Scottsdale and surrounding areas in an effort to spread the word that my book was going on sale. (You can buy it here.) As I had written, the bank account was struggling and the book release was delayed. After my taxi revelation post came out, I received a few comments and questions from friends and family which can be summarized in one interrogatory, “Are you crazy?”
That is debatable but the experience of driving a taxi for two months certainly was insane. While book promotion will always sneak its way into this series of posts, the tales of being a cabbie can stand on their own.
I applied online and was given an interview where I was asked, “Why do you want to be a taxi driver?” The answer wasn’t, “because I want to sell a million books.” Instead, I said, and this is true, “I’ve always wanted to be a taxi driver.” I always thought it would be fun to drive a cab and thought it would be a great study of anthropology. Furthermore, who wouldn’t want to be behind the wheel and cart off drunk idiots throughout the Valley. With a pristine driving record, immaculate criminal record, and a clean drug test, I was ready to begin training.
I arrived bright and early to Taxicab Academy and took my seat in front of a functional taxi meter and dispatch machine. Taxi meters have always intrigued me. Can taxi drivers manipulate how fast the meter runs? Can a taxi driver turn off the meter? Does the passenger really have to pay the amount on the taxi meter if the taxi gets lost because he would owe this amount to the cab company? How much do taxi drivers get paid? Do I have to tip?
Before any of these questions could be answered, we had to learn how to turn the meter on and off and how to accept a call from dispatch. Managing the dispatch machine while looking for flags (taxi lingo for fares that come off the street) took skill.
After a day in the classroom, I was ready for my training day.