Sunday, 1 February 2004

Cab-In Fever

And now a word about cab drivers.

I’ve spoken ad nauseum about bus drivers and the wonderful world of the Metrobus system here, but what about the wily and elusive Taxi Driver?

Well, right of the bat, I can tell you that they are neither wily, nor elusive, as there are more cab companies servicing the St.John’s area than I have ever seen in all my life! Let’s see, we have Avalon Taxi, Bugden’s Taxi, Co-Op Taxi, Cy’s Taxi, Goulds Taxi, Gullivers City Wide Taxi, Jiffy Cabs, King’s Bridge Cabs, Molloy Clarence Taxi, Newfoundcabs, North West Taxi (the one I usually use), Thoms Taxi, Tickle Taxi, Town Cabs, Valley Cabs, and then there are a plethora of other cab and transportation companies that will drive you “around the bay” to smaller communities. Now, this is not to say that in the Lower Mainland, a major urban sprawl, we do not have our share of cab companies. But there in comparison, there seems to be only a couple of companies per service area, and that’s that. Then again, the Lower Mainland, as said major urban sprawl, boasts a more elaborate bus and transit system, making it easier for those without cars, or those who chose to not use their cars, to get around. In St.John’s, the Metrobus definitely gets me where I need to go, but is not as convenient for out of way places. The hours are also much shortened for bus riders here, and cabs are an essential part of a “night on the town.” And though, like all of St.John’s driving experiences, the ride is one of knuckle-whitening intensity, I feel generally safe and comfortable putting my life into the back of a pine-scented taxi-cab.

And a second word about cab drivers. Now, I know many (though not all) will expect me to mention the general Race/Ethnicity of cab drivers at large. Okay, this is a rather harsh stereotype, and a part of me cringes as I write this, but it is somewhat essential in offering a glimpse into the multicultural aspects of St.John’s. I have yet to have a non-white cab driver personnel take me, and my once-a-month bundle of grocery bags, home. In New Westminster, I had a grand total of two white cab drivers. Now is this interesting or relevant? Well, one of my cabbies here told me that he had moved to St.John’s from Toronto because Toronto was “too ethnic” for him. While he enjoyed the variety of food and culture on one level in the big city, he did not feel comfortable as the minority in “his own country” on another. Now, I can hear the moans and squeaks and squawks as the Venus depicts St.John’s as a racist, bigoted, one-dimensional place. THIS IS NOT SO! St.John’s is, of course, the ultimate port city (being nothin’ but island!) and many people here pride themselves on their multicultural heritage. But it is still a predominately white Irish/English/French based community. There are many people here from the Caribbean, Portugal, many African countries, China, Japan, India and Islam, as well as people from Inuit, Native and Métis communities. However, you can add up all of these groups, and not touch the number of whiteys in the province, including my own Germanic/Ukrainian untanned hide. There are even a large number of people in my building who did not even know that St.John’s has the only Mosque and Hindu temple in Newfoundland, and were unaware of two (tasty looking!) Indian restaurants in the downtown area.

So, what does this say about the original question of cab drivers…well, admittedly, not a hell of a lot. I was always impressed with my taxi riding experiences at home, and I am equally impressed with my taxi riding experiences in St.John’s. I have been lucky enough to only have one or two “bad” taxi experiences in my life. This may have something to do with the fact that I turn a blind eye to running yellow lights, don’t sweat any cabbie cursing fellow drivers, and regardless of the International Guide to Tipping always tip my driver. I have had wonderful conversations with many drivers, and have learned a great deal about the place I was in because of their experiences. I have had almost every cab driver give me his personal card. All cab drivers here carry your groceries to the door, and most of my cab drivers back home did the same thing for me (though not all, as it is not typically the norm there). And let me tell you-when it is below zero, the wind is whipping frozen pieces of ice (tiny knives?) into your face, and your hands are slightly frost-bitten from holding onto grocery bags, the devil himself could come smoking up in a red, flame-painted Cab/Hearse and I’d get in and snuggle into the warm ashes on the back seat!

As an end note, one of the funniest things I’ve heard since I’ve been here was an elderly women calling out to a man walking towards the Sobey’s grocery store as she was boarding a Metrobus at the bus loop:“Don’t forgets to buy milk, and don’t you go spending money on a cab home, you lazy bastard!”


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