The Cab Driver Chronicles
Thomas B Hogan (1879-1957) Originally from Ottawa Illinois. began his career as a groom, caring for horses in the Chicago area in the late 1890’s. while in Chicago he drove a horse drawn cab, until the advent of motorized cabs. one of Chicago’s first cab drivers, rising to the presidency of Chicago’s Yellow Cab Company in 1932.
From the farm to the big city. he worked his way up the ranks as people did back in those days by rolling up their sleeves and working hard. retiring in the late 1950’s.
He witnessed The City of Chicago in the Days of World War I and World War II, The Great Depression, Prohibition and Al Capone.
My Grandfather left this world a few years before I entered into it. He saw enormous change take place in not just Chicago, but the World.
I am proud of his accomplishments. and fascinated by Taxicabs.
His Experiences with the Taxi Cab Industry were quite different from my own. while he worked in it. I just use it as a mode of transportation to get around town.
I always have enjoyed being driven around in cabs. you get in, tell them where you want to go, they take you to your destination, and upon arrival, you pay your fare and exit the cab. that’s how it’s suppose to work. you don’t give them any crap, they won’t give you any. respect them, hopefully they show you the same. but the whole process has changed somewhat over the years. don’t get me wrong. some rides are still very pleasant experiences. and some are not.
So, Please forgive me Grandfather for some of the experiences I am about to share with anyone who may happen to read this.
My earliest memories of riding in a cab was being taken to or from O’Hare airport during the beginning of the Jet Age. I remember thinking it was a cool way to get around as little boy. and just who was that strange silent man up front driving us around?
When I moved from the suburbs to the city to reside my impression of Cab’s and Chicago Cab Drivers continued to interest me. it seemed like a tough gig, dealing with the traffic, the elements and the passengers. I’ve always thought most people who ride in Cab’s discount the man or woman behind the wheel. I’ve witnessed it first hand with those I’ve shared cab’s with. most treat them unfairly. they look down on them. don’t give them respect or any understanding. in just about any business there are good employees who take pride in their work, and the others who are tired or angry or bitter, possibly, this is the only gig they could get. and they hate it. It’s been like that for a long time I imagine?
I’ve had some awesome rides in Cab’s and met some really interesting drivers. I’ve also had to deal with some drivers who just suck big time.
I have been hit by two taxicabs as a pedestrian in my life. once was my fault. the second time? the cabbie tried to run me down for no other reason than he thought my life was worth less than his fare in the backseat. in the first incident I apologized and went on my way. only suffering the indignation of having my left pants leg torn off as I ran for a commuter train.
The second incident I was walking home and crossing a major intersection with the green walk light when a cabbie barreled around a corner, forcing me to literally dive out-of-the-way. the cabbie slammed on his brakes rolled down his window shouting profanities at me. I approached the rolled down passenger window shaken. I asked him if he was aware that he almost killed me? again, more screaming of profanities. when I leaned in the open passenger window to speak with the driver, I glanced at a incredibly scared businesswoman in the backseat. I couldn’t believe this guy just didn’t seem to care.
I’d like to state for the record I’m not exactly sure when his side view mirror got separated from his cab? Possibly it happened during the argument? I do know once he realized it. he exited the cab like it was on fire, grabbing me by the collar and rag-dolling me on the sidewalk. I looked at him, told him in no uncertain terms, “Take Your Hands Off Me!” by this time a large crowd began to gather.
The frightened businesswoman in the backseat had gotten out, shoving money at the cabbie, leaving in a hurry, disappearing down the sidewalk. the enraged cabbie continued to rag-doll me with one arm, screaming that I had to pay for the broken mirror. to which I replied sarcastically, “You Got a Good Case.” at this point the driver released me reaching for his cell phone, informing me he was calling the cops, I said, “You Do That.” a few minutes later one of Chicago’s finest arrived on the scene. he asked us both what happened. It was his story against mine. I believe? I told mine better.
As for the cement headed cabbie? in the end. he got the ticket, a court date, and no money for the busted mirror. I have since been a little more careful when crossing intersections. in a strange twist of fate, I ended up marrying a woman about 7 years later who had been hit by a cab in the city. I don’t believe it was by the same guy that tried to kill me. it wouldn’t surprise me in the least if perhaps you have almost been taken out by an out of control cab in your day? or know someone who has had a close encounter like that of my wife and I?
These were times that I had encounters on foot with Taxicabs.
These instances didn’t sour me on Cab Rides. I still use them whenever I can.
When it comes to tipping the driver. I believe that I over tip. I do this as a way to honor my Grandfather and his memory. I’d like to think he would approve.
My rides are never boring, as a passenger I am always paying attention. eyes are wide open. sharing conversations with countless drivers, Good and Bad, Some really pleasant, Some really uncomfortable. Sometimes, the driver will lecture you like you don’t know squat about life and he has all the answers. I’ve ridden with drivers from Asia, Australia, Africa, Europe, South America and North America. I’ve listened to their dreams, spoken with drivers going to college, many hoping to get a degree to better themselves. some wanting to be doctors or lawyers or architects.
Early one morning on my way to work, I had a driver who was completely out of it. it took me a few blocks to realize this. once he missed the turn, I calmly mentioned it. he seemed not to hear me or care. So there I was, barreling in the opposite direction of my destination. looking at me in the rearview mirror through his glazed googly eyes. I told him he was heading the wrong way. he didn’t seem to comprehend what I was telling him. I finally had enough. “STOP The CAB!” I shouted. that did the trick. he pulled over to the curb, turned around, looking at me and angrily asks, “What’s Your Problem?” I quickly paid the fare and told him I thought he was on something. He went berserk. swearing at me, I exited the cab and he followed. a foot chase down the sidewalk ensued. he gave up after a block.
I’m not sure I’d trade an angry cabbie for a smelly one. Mr Furious I can deal with. But a Driver who smells like ass? there is no escape. Like in any bad relationship. You need to get out of it, and get out now.
Sometimes in the winter. you feel like you’re riding in a mobile meat locker. “Hey Pal? I’ll give you a couple extra bucks to turn up the heat.” at the end of one ride the driver had to pry his hands off the steering wheel just to collect the fare. then there is the hot summer months when a lot of older cabs have either no air conditioning or poorly working air conditioning. You’ll spot these cabs as they pass you on the street by noting the passengers hanging their heads out the open windows like a dog seeking relief from the heat.
It’s Always embarrassing when I get in a cab and say, “Thank You for stopping Sir.” only to find out my driver is a woman. Apologies Lady. Yes, sometimes my cab driver is the rarest of the species. The Female Driver. I personally love woman drivers. They are Friendly, Polite and Happy! What more can you ask? they always get a good tip from me. Woman drivers? I Wish there were more of them.
Getting into the backseat of a cab you never know what you might find. you might find a pair of sunglasses, an umbrella, a sweater or jacket, I found a pair of women’s panties one time. how I hoped that the fare before mine was an interesting one. sigh….where was I? lots of fast food wrappers are left on the seat or on the floorboard, the occasional cell phone, on the day after Saint Patrick’s Day you might see or smell the remain of some amateurs vomit. really nasty stuff too. I have found over the years a fair amount of Money. I turn all this stuff over to the driver. well? not the fast food wrappers or the vomit. but certainly the articles of clothing and phones and umbrellas. and no? I didn’t keep the panties. I left them on the seat. with regard to the money, I have had spirited debates with people about this. the driver will tell you the property of the cab and all belongings inside are his. even if he is only leasing it for that day or week. I have found up to $20 dollars on a few occasions.
Only once when I was a younger man did I pocket it. everyone’s initial reaction is Finders Keepers! later on I started to side with the driver. it’s certainly not my money. maybe the guy or gal who left it gave the driver a lousy tip? now I hand it over to the driver. I’ve have had more than one person tell me I’m a sucker or chump for doing this. I still look at it like it’s not my money. if I find it laying on the sidewalk? then….it’s finders keepers. but inside his place of business? my humble opinion is? it’s his. good karma to hand it over. I love the look I get from the driver when I do.
One of the problems I find today that exist in Cab’s are all the interior distractions. I am speaking about talking on the phone while driving. it’s gotten a little better with new laws prohibiting talking on the phone. but c’mon? you’re driving, you’re working. it’s ok for the passenger, he doesn’t have his hands on the wheel. I personally believe the passenger shouldn’t have to listen to you talk to your friend or wife on the phone. get off the phone. when the passenger exits? pull over and make your call curbside. this should apply to everyone. not just cab drivers but all drivers. there are enough distractions out there. if I catch you texting? I will request you stop the cab, and get out. and you get stiffed with regard to the tip. you could kill somebody you numbskull.
One distraction I can live with? within reason, is when I get in and the driver is playing his music. I know a lot of you won’t agree. everyone is different, and most I realize want to ride in silence. and I can be like that. it depends on my mood and the time of day. the driver will usually turn it down to be polite when someone gets in. I usually tell them sometimes to turn it back up I want to hear what they are listening to? especially if it sounds interesting. I have been turned on to some very good music during rides over the years. even seeking out and purchasing some music I’ve been turned onto to. many a ride come to a close with me complimenting the driver on his choice of music.
Lastly, I want to talk about the characters I have been witness to over the years. one of my favorites, was a driver who was waving his hand through the windshield. alternating back and forth, pounding his hand on the horn like he was conducting an Orchestra. other characters of interest are the ones who feel the need to decorate the insides of their cabs with colored tiki lights and personal photographs or neon wallpaper. I guess this is normal in other parts of the world? little unusual here stateside.
There was one driver I remember who every inch we went from his Gas Pedal to his Brake. Gas Pedal, Brake, Gas Pedal, Brake, Gas Pedal, Brake! for like 20 blocks. wanted to tell him take some driving lessons. In the end I refrained, while exiting a little sea sick. Then there is the frustrated Race Car Driver. Who won’t let anyone get in front of them, they always have to be out front. all I have to say is buckle up and hang on. 70 MPH in downtown Chicago is just nuts. out to the airport, fine? in rush hour traffic? not so good.
I often wonder who the first guy who came up with the idea of Taxi Cab’s was?
It certainly is an interesting way to get around town. Do me a favor? next time you get in a cab. don’t zone out until you get to the destination, next time, maybe pay attention to the driver, the route he takes, his skill as your driver, maybe, ask him how his day is going? you just might be surprised.
I don’t get to ride in them as much now that I have moved back to the suburbs. when I can, I do. I must admit to you, I miss not taking them as much as I use to. my new commuting mode of transportation has been replaced by the train. as much as I miss all those cab rides? I Miss My Grandfather more. Wish I had gotten the chance to know him. Wish I could have taken just one ride with him. Bet he was an excellent cab driver. With a load of interesting tales.