There's a huge difference between driving a car that's a taxicab and driving that same car as a personal vehicle ... even tho it's the same car and has the exact same driver!
I own a 2005 Buick LeSabre. It's a beautiful shade of blue. I bought it a few years back when I was driving a taxicab, and it still goes everywhere I go and rests in my garage when I'm at home, altho now it's not so 'visible'.
What do I mean by that? Well, let's see if I can come up with a couple of good examples for you so you know what I'm talking about. Outside of the 'obvious', where all of the lettering, numbering, decals and stickers have been removed from both the inside and outside of the car - including the windows - and the cruise light at the top has disappeared, the first thing that comes to my mind is turn signals.
When I use them now - and I always use them, of course, doesn't everybody? - it seems to me as tho people are either in a hurry to pull out in front of me or, if I'm on the freeway, speed up so I can't get over. Those two things almost never happened when my car was a taxicab. I've tried to imagine why that might have been, and the only answers I can logically come up with are that - in the first instance, they were pretty sure I'd come right up on their behinds and treat them to a great blast of my horn if they pulled out - and in the second instance, they figured I was coming over anyway so they gave me room.
Impossible things are sometimes expected of taxicabs. Probably the best example I can think of here is when we have high water and flooding conditions exist in parts of the city. As a cab driver, you make it your business to quickly learn which areas are prone to flooding and therefore avoid. You can't make any money if your car is in the shop because you carelessly subjected it to high water and flooded it out.
[Well! Hmmph!! I have just concluded a several hour search that I began yesterday for a post that I thought SURE I had already done on driving while flooding conditions existed here in Houston. It's not here. Either that, or it's mis-labeled, which is certainly a possibility.]
Let me get right to the point (without going into great detail of what I thought I'd already published) and say that many times - it was my experience as a taxicab driver - people expected incredible things from my car just because it was a taxicab.
This one time in particular I was over near Sharpstown Mall on the SW side of town. (That area had been absolutely impossible to get to earlier in the day.) I'd picked up a fellow from IAH who wanted to go to a hotel in that area. I told him that I didn't think I'd be able to get him there, that the area had been heavily flooded all day. "That's OK," he said. "Just get me as close as you can. If I can see the hotel, I can walk there." What a reasonable man!
And so I told him I'd see what I could do. Well, the closer we got the more it became evident that his feet were going to get wet. We got within a couple of blocks of the place, actually, which was better than I'd thought we'd do. The last I saw of him he was walking barefoot in water up over his thighs, suitcase precariously perched on top of his head.
No sooner had I let him out of the car than this other fellow came slogging up to me, wanting me to drive him home. He lived just a few blocks 'over that way', he said as he pointed towards what appeared to be nothing but water. "Sir," I began, "that doesn't look passable to me."
"Sure, it is!" he insisted. "I tried to drive there myself just a few minutes ago, but I accidentally flooded my car out." That admission gave me a ton of confidence, doncha know! I asked, "Where's your car now?"
He pointed to this humongous van, which was sitting in what looked like at least two feet of water. It was all I could do to keep from laughing. What did he think my taxicab was, a boat?? (And no, I didn't take him.)
[It is now Tuesday, the 17th. Speaking of humongous, we have had a pretty good-sized change in the weather. I ALmost turned the heat on last night, but then decided not to. I was nice and cozy and snuggly warm under my blankets, and right now I am nice and warm wearing one of the world's most comfy robes ever ... it was given to me for Christmas last year by my family. Thank you again, wonderful family!
I had a semi-crisis recently when I couldn't find it, but then I finally did - under a pile of stuff at the foot of my bed. (I've told you before what my house looks like, haven't I? Well, it doesn't look nearly as bad now as it did a few months ago, but still! One of my sincerest wishes is that I am able to get everything sorted through and the 'junk' thrown out before I kick the bucket. Not that I'm planning to expire any time soon, but you never know, right?)
Anyhoo, I'm going to try and get back to what originally prompted the idea for this post, which was Steven's comment on my last one, to wit: "It's kind of hard to look the other way when all that's going on around you, isn't it."]
As a taxicab driver, I was at all times fully cognizant of what was going on around me - a matter of defense and self-preservation, as you might imagine - and that awareness has (most of the time) carried over to this day.
And just because I was driving a taxicab and was so keenly aware of what has happening, I was often called upon to be a witness. Thank goodness that - at least most often - the police officer on the scene would interview me first, take my statement and info verbatim and then let me go. (He/she knew that time was money to me.)
One instance that stands out vividly in my mind is when I was sitting at a stop sign at Tirrell and Allen Parkway. I was an eyewitness to a really stupid accident, where one vehicle ran into another that clearly had the right-of-way. I wouldn't have thought much about it except that the guilty party immediately exited his vehicle and began verbally assaulting the victim, who - as it turned out - spoke almost no English and seemed to be in an apologetic mode.
VERY quickly, I exited my car (after first getting on the horn with my dispatcher) and went over to the scene. I said, "Sir?" to the guilty party, "Please don't go anywhere. I have your license number. I saw the whole thing and the police are on their way." (Which, of course, was an outrageous lie. I hadn't had time to call the police yet.)
I was furious! How dare a native English-speaking (albeit American English) person try to take advantage of one more timid than he? How dare he?!? I flagged down the first police car I saw (lots of them cruise up and down Allen Parkway, thank goodness!), gave my statement and left.
I'll leave you today with a funny story ... at least, I think it's funny!
I was sitting at a red light at the corner of Wilcrest and Harwin. I was heading north. Probably on my way to Randall's again. Heard that name before, right? I was in the left lane. Had left the right lane open for any who wanted to make a right turn after first stopping at the light.
Right next to me, not making a right turn as it turned out, was a city cop. We waited for the light to turn green. It did, but neither of us was able to move because vehicles going east on Harwin were still making left turns - illegally, of course - long after their left turn signal light had turned red. It wasn't just one or two of the bad guys, either. It was a bunch!
I rolled down the passenger side window and said to the cop, "Well? Have you decided which one you're going to nail yet? I'll be your witness. Go ahead and pick one."
After his eyeballs stopped rolling around inside the back of his head, he took off and got one of those suckers. (I don't remember whether or not I was able to get through on the green light. I mean, those foulers were flagrant!)