Life in the driver’s seat
Cab drivers are the urban world’s Pony Express. They’re part legend and part practical, but they’re never in sight for long. What little is known of cab drivers is learned in brief conversations between airports and hotels. Scott Taylor has been driving a cab for 13 years in between stints in the financial world and the acting profession. His novel The Pit (www.scottbooks.com) is inspired by his experience nearly 20 years ago as a driver working the Sacramento airport.
Who drives cabs?
The No. 1 thing is you’ve got to be at least 24 for insurance purposes, you can’t have more than two points on your driving record, and you’ve got to pass a drug test. Based on my experience out at the airport, I don’t think having a criminal record will keep you out; I suppose if you were a registered child molester, it wouldn’t be a very good idea to hire you as a cab driver. And you’ve got to know the city pretty well.
Do you know Sacramento like the back of your hand?
There’s seldom a day that I don’t have to look at a map. As well as I know Sacramento, if I’m picking someone up at a residence on a street I’ve never heard of, I’ve got to look it up. It helps that I’ve lived here for about 30 years, but I didn’t know Sacramento until I drove a cab.
What does it cost you to run a cab?
My expenses are eight to nine hundred dollars a week, and I get what’s left over. I’ve done this long enough, and I’m good enough, and I have enough regular business that I make a good living. In fact, I make a better living than I did as a stockbroker. I work a lot of hours, at least 65 or 70 hours a week. But I can literally work whenever I want to. I have complete control over when I work and who I pick up. I can even go home and take a break. So, I piece together a long schedule, but I have time with my family.
Cab driving is considered a dangerous profession. What’s it really like out there?
I got robbed the first month I drove a Yellow Cab. The $30 I lost, having one guy choke me while the other guy held a gun to my head, was a small price to pay.
I’ve never heard of anybody getting killed in Sacramento. They do get shot, stabbed and so on. I make sure to tell people I don’t carry lots of cash. Mostly, I just don’t put myself in that situation.
Does anything illegal ever happen in cabs?
I’ve never had someone just jump in and want time to do something overtly illegal. Having a gun pulled on me once was enough. I do my very best to make sure it doesn’t happen again.
I picked up two guys who had just gotten out of Folsom prison. They were some wild-eyed biker-lookin’ guys. First, they wanted to go get some heroin. Then they wanted to be taken somewhere else. They were talking on and on about who would get sent back to prison first. I took them someplace, and they went in, they stayed for a while, and they came back out. And I took them someplace else, and I was sure they did some drugs while they were in there.
What about the bright side of life? Do good things happen in cabs?
My wife and I met in a Yellow Cab. I got a call almost to Rio Linda, and it got canceled. I was all the way out there, and I got another call, so I go over, and this woman comes out. She’s got on a long black coat, sunglasses, stitches in her chin and glass in her forehead. She’s been in a car accident. I was taking her over to West Sac to look at her car, get some stuff out of it. She had lost her job recently, her boyfriend had left her, and she was a mess. We got there, and she started crying. I had to climb through the roof to get some things out for her because that was the only way in. There was something about her that I really liked. So I said, ‘Maybe I could give you my phone number, and in a couple of weeks, if you’re feeling better, maybe we could go out.’ I went home one night from work, and there was a message on my machine, and it was her.
Do you get to serve the rich and famous?
One time I was called to pick up someone called “Waton” by the dispatcher. When I got there, it was [basketball star] Bill Walton. He had to fold in half and sit sideways in the back seat. He wanted to go to the Tower Theatre. He gave me a nice tip and his picks for the playoffs.
Many years ago, when the state Democratic convention was in town, I gave a ride to Edmund G. Brown and Jerry Brown and [Representative] Maxine Waters.
Has it all been worth it?
I like driving a cab better than anything I’ve ever done. The only thing I’d give it up for is music, theater or writing.