Caitlyn, cabs, caution

I’ve tried, but I find I just can’t watch “I am Cait”. Her life bears no relation to any other trans* person I know. Most of us do not come from privilege, instead we have to work and fight for everything we have or hope to have. Yet the media seems to have made her a spokesperson for the trans* community. Maybe if she would get out of that bubble she appears to live in I could take her more seriously. For example, she is reported to have said “lower income transwomen are lazy.” I honestly hope that was either misquoted or taken out of context. In my case, I had the good job, the paid-for house, the kids, the pets, the cars and I left it all behind. I spent 12 hours a day driving a taxi trying to make ends meet. I’d hardly call that “lazy”. In my opinion, the media have made her a spokesperson because they want someone with a recognizable name and right now Caitlyn Jenner is that person. A better person would be Jazz Jennings. She is young and the family support she receives is absolutely amazing. As she goes through this process, she is probably doing more for trans* awareness than Caitlin Jenner could ever hope to do.

 
There was a shooting at a night club in Toronto this week in which two people were shot and killed. One of them was a man “known to police” to use their phrase and apparently he shouldn’t have been anywhere near that club on the lakeshore, but rather at his home some 30 miles away under house arrest. The other victim was a young lady who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. She and her friends were trying to get a taxi from the rank outside the club to escape the gunfire. Not one cab would take them because it was only a short run, about $8. The drop in a Toronto taxi is $4.25, so this was obviously only a couple of blocks. As I wrote above, I drove a cab for seven years and never once turned down a fare because it was a short run. The way I looked at it, the run was short, but it was money in my pocket and the fact it wouldn’t take long meant I’d be available again in no time at all. According to the Toronto taxi bylaw, drivers can refuse fares if they deem the destination to be dangerous; the person won’t give them a proper destination address; the person owes them money from a previous ride, or the person is “disruptive” (read “drunk”). I know from talking with friends that Toronto drivers have also been known to refuse fares because the destination is too far. A friend hailed a taxi outside her office one winter night to drive her home to Pickering, a trip of some 20 miles. About half-way there the driver realized how far it was, took her to a nearby coffee shop and left her there saying it was too far. Fortunately for her she had my number and called me. Despite the bad weather, I drove from Pickering and picked her up, so she got home safely. But, had she not had my number, or the number of another cab driver, she’d have been stranded. No, no. You can’t turn down a run because you don’t think it’s worth your while.

 
Aah, summer. Time we shed our winter clothing and wear as little as decently possible to stay cool. We walk out of the house, feeling cool and looking hot, taking in the admiring glances from men we pass. Keep in mind however that not all those looks may be admiration. Some of them could be from men assessing you for other reasons. I’m talking stalkers here. Just because you couldn’t be Beyonce’s body double doesn’t mean someone hasn’t taken an interest in you. I was stalked for over a year. Yeah, me – 5 foot 11, about 185 at the time and trans*. Yet someone decided to make me prey and stalk me. It was frightening and in my case was made worse by the fact my stalker was an EMS supervisor and would use his work vehicle to stalk me. This vehicle carried the same colour scheme as the local ambulances, so whenever I saw an ambulance coming, I’d search for a place to hide not knowing if it was him or an ambulance.

If you see someone who appears to be following you and it isn’t in a place such as a local shopping area, be careful. If you see them twice, it could be coincidence, but three times is probably stalking. My suggestion if this happens, is take their picture. Don’t try to be subtle about it – just hold that phone or camera up in plain sight and snap that shot. If they are indeed stalking you, that action may deter them. Always, always be aware of your surroundings and who is around you. To borrow a line from “Hill Street Blues” – “be careful out there”.

Cat.

Quality’s gone downhill

In every taxi fleet there are two kinds of drivers: there are cab drivers and there are those who just drive a taxi.  Every taxi dispatcher to whom I’ve expressed that knows instinctively what I mean, but if you’re not a taxi dispatcher, I’ll explain it.

Cab drivers are those people you want behind the wheel of any cab you call or hail.  They’re the ones who open the door, turn down the AM/FM, refrain from using their cell phones while you’re in the vehicle and are usually courteous.  They also know the most direct route from where you are to where you want to be.  Now, I think every taxi bylaw in existence has a clause that states the driver is to take the most direct route unless the passenger says otherwise, but I could be wrong.  These are the drivers who will help you with your groceries or luggage as well.  You know – the kind you don’t mind tipping.

Those who “just drive a taxi” are the reverse of that coin.  These are the ones who won’t do anything to help you.  They’ll do the bare minimum that might qualify as customer service. You want the door open – open it yourself.   If you ask, they will begrudgingly open the trunk so you can stow your stuff.  As far as anything else – sorry, that’s not in their job description.  And although they will just sit behind the wheel while you struggle with your burdens, they will grumble about getting a lousy tip.  Sorry guys, tips have to be earned, they don’t come automatically.

What prompts this posting is not one, but two cab rides I took about 24 hours ago.  As I’ve  probably mentioned before, I exist on a small government pension, which is always in my account three banking days before month end.  Frequently I will go out early to a 24 hour supermarket to pick up few things, which is what I did this morning.  I always call the same company for a couple of reasons.  The first being a sometimes misguided loyalty since that was the company I drove with when I started in the taxi industry.  The second is they are the largest fleet in town and usually provide fast service.

As I said, I drove a cab for seven years and yes, I was a cab driver, not a taxi driver. So obviously I not only know my way around I and, I’ll admit perhaps unfairly, judge the service I receive by the kind of service I provided my customers.  I must have been doing something right for although it’s been seven years since I drove, every so often one of my now former customers will say “I wish you still drove”.

The first cab ride, from my home to the supermarket, was a taxi driver.  When he arrived, he stopped about two car lengths from me and expected me to walk to him.  I’m standing at the edge of a curb by the drive in my apartment complex, so there was no reason he couldn’t pull up.  From his later actions, I know why he did it.  Had I in fact walked to the cab, he would have turned the meter on, then gone around the turning circle.  At current rates, that would have added thirty cents to the fare.  I live on a side street, one block from the main thoroughfare.  When there is traffic, such as during the day, it is usually faster and much safer to turn right from my drive and go to the stoplights if you want to go east.  But at four in the morning, in my town, about the only thing on the road are police cars and other cabs.  Most drivers will turn left from the drive and go the other way to a second side street that leads to a stop sign controlled intersection with the thoroughfare.  It’s usually much faster.  This guy of course took the traffic signal route.  These signals are controlled by a sensor under the roadway.  He stopped short, then slowly inched forward.  Another forty cents.  There were emergency vehicles coming the opposite way.  This is a four lane road and the only vehicles are the taxi I’m in and the fire truck.  He pulled over to the curb and stopped.  Not just stopped, but waited until the fire truck had reached the intersection a half-block behind us.  When we arrived at the intersection where the plaza with the supermarket is located, he made to turn onto the north/south route.  Because the plaza was built around existing buildings, the entrance is about 100 yards up the street from the intersection and the internal roadway runs on a diagonal back toward the east/west thoroughfare to a point about 50 yards from the thoroughfare.  Again, a way of running up the meter.  He didn’t seem happy when I told him to proceed straight to the next set of signals and turn there.  By the time he finished his foolishness, what should have been a fare of less than eight dollars cost $9.70.  I usually give the driver ten bucks and that’s just what he got.

And of course, once I finished my shopping and called a cab, I got another taxi driver.  He could see I’ve got my hands full of shopping bags but made no effort to open the side door of the van.  When I got my foodstuffs and myself into the cab, I noticed he had the meter on even before I had the door closed.  I made note of the cab number and later that morning called the owner, whom I know, and told him of this.  He apologized.  On the trip home I was serenaded with loud heavy metal music and for some reason, even though it was 60 degrees out, he had the heater on full blast!  If he’s cold now, what’s he going to do when winter comes?  And of course, all the windows were closed and since it was a van, I couldn’t open the window beside me.  My requests to turn down both radio and heat were ignored.  This driver was priceless.  Between the supermarket and my home there are exactly three traffic lights, one of which is again controlled by a sensor on the cross street.  He managed to hit every single light red.  Once he pulled into the drive at my complex, if I hadn’t told him to stop right there at the entrance, he would have gone around the turning circle which would have meant, considering his stunts with the lights, the fare would have been over ten dollars.  Again, this is a run that usually is less than $8.  And of course, he ignored the fact I had all these groceries to get out of the van.

The reason so many people remember me from the cab is that I would open doors.  I would help with groceries and, although I’ve forgotten it now, knew what speed would see me sail through non-stop because all the lights would be green.  I turned the radio down if someone was in the cab.  Unless is was twenty below, I rarely had the heater on high, the exception being that I was just starting my shift and the cab was freezing.  And I never used my cell phone for personal calls when I had a passenger.  I was always polite and knew where I was going.

Yes, there are still some good drivers out there.  I’ve got the phone numbers for four of them on my cell phone, but I knew they wouldn’t be working at four in the morning, so didn’t call them.  But based on yesterday morning’s experiences, I really have to say that the overall quality of customer service with that cab company has really gone downhill since I drove.

So, if you get a cab and the driver is polite and helpful, tip him well.  If you get a man who “just drives a taxi”, ask for all your change back.

Enjoy your day and remember to hug an artist – we need love (and good taxi service) too.

Cat.