EnglishBloopers Home Page


Disclaimer: The stories that follow are an interweaving of both fact and fiction. The knowledge of what actually took place lies with the author alone.

Taxi Tales: Table of Contents

Chapter 1: Welfare Wednesday
Chapter 2: Cops and Crops
Chapter 3: High Track, Low Track
Chapter 4: Gay Encounters


Well, I don't think I'm going to drive cab anymore, so it's time to put down in writing my adventures as a taxi driver. Of course my three years behind the wheel weren't all adventure. There were long periods of boredom and ennui. But a story isn't a story if it's not captivating, so these memoirs will focus on the highlights.

Starting in the summer of 1992, I began working for MacLure's Taxi, located at 1510 West 3rd Avenue, Vancouver, Canada. The office and parking lot was situated directly beneath an off-ramp of the Granville Bridge—hardly prime real estate, but a good place for a taxi company (one of our rivals, Black Top Cabs, lies under the Granville Bridge on the other side of the water).

MacLure's. A fine, traditional-sounding Scottish name. But the name bore little resemblance to the reality. By the time I began work at MacLure's, the majority of the taxis were owned by East Indians from Punjab, and a lot of the drivers were Punjabi as well. So besides the name, there was next to nothing Scottish about the company.

The sequences that follow are not in order. I will write them as they occur to me, whenever a memory is freshly triggered. The memories are flowing rapidly these days.

Chapter 1: Welfare Wednesday

Ah, Welfare Wednesday. The name is a story in itself. In B.C., Welfare Wednesday was the last Wednesday of the month, on which the government handed out welfare checks to the indigent and downtrodden. And how, we might ask, did the indigent and downtrodden spend their money? Well, a lot of them simply liquored, drugged, and taxied it up!

I was still a green cabbie at this point. I'm cruising down the 1300 block of Granville Street at about 5:00 in the afternoon. When I get to the old Nelson Hotel (since sold and renamed), I come to a stop at the red light. Without warning, a panic-striken native Indian woman yanks open a rear door, leaps in my car and shouts, "Go!"

"Wow! Just like in the movies!" I think. Before I have time to react, though, I see a burly native Indian man charging towards the cab. His face is a rictus of determined anger. He lunges for the door. I hit the power locks—thank God for those. But now he's holding onto the door. Then he gets his upper torso on the back of the cab. All the while, the woman is screaming "Go! Go! Go!" So I punch the accel, and it happens just like it does in the cartoons—you know, when Coyote looks down and suddenly realizes he's been running in mid-air, and then...the pal falls vertically onto the asphalt. I was all the way down the block in no time. I didn't look back.

By the time I started working, I was told that Welfare Wednesdays weren't really as wild as they had used to be, and by the time I stopped working, they were hardly different from regular Wednesdays. Was this due to the government's tightening of its purse strings? Something to research.

Chapter 2: Cops and Crops

Cops come and try to snatch my crops.
—Cypress Hill

It was a cool night in October. My ocean-blue Chevy Caprice floated down the 100 Block of West Hastings Street, downtown Vancouver. The moon shone brightly. As it happened, it was another Welfare Wednesday. What was in store for me?

Two rough-looking characters hail me and I pull over and let them in. While I'll refrain from calling them bums, they sported shaggy, overgrown beards and were coarsely dressed in drab-colored trousers and overcoats. Certainly, they were far removed from my world.

What happened next only happened once in my entire cab-driving career. As soon as they settled into the back seat, they were lights out, dead to the world. They hadn't told me their destination, but even if they had, I probably wouldn't have headed there because it was doubtful if I would have gotten paid or not.

"Hey guys, wake up!" I protested a few times—to no effect. Then I pulled over and mulled over what to do. I wasn't going to reach over and shake them, because that would be—"Wait! Is that a cop car I see approaching?"

Ain't this great? Here were the cops just when you needed them. They were saving me a trip to the police station (which was, admittedly, only a few blocks away). In a state of nervousness and tension, I crossed the yellow line and moved onto the other side of the road, right front of the slow-cruising cop car. I was acting without thinking. I wasn't in a panic, but the anxiety was having an effect on me.

The cops took it well, though. They probably knew I was in trouble. The police car rolled to a stop. A male and female police officer got out and ambled over to me. As soon as I explained the problem, the cops went to work. They opened the rear door and roused the two gentlemen from their slumber. Seemingly intoxicated, the two moaned and groaned a little, but did nothing else while the cops frisked them.

Bingo! Here we go! The male cop wordlessly produced an ounce bag of marijuana from the pocket of one of my gruff-looking fares.

The part that came next I like the best. Male Cop nonchalantly places the plastic bag of pot in his pocket, and the law-enforcement duo then send the pair of unfortunates on their way, to walk off their purple haze. As the cops get in their car to drive off, Female Cop tells a very thankful me, "Next time you need help, don't drive right towards us because you blinded us with your lights." "Got it," I murmured gratefully, and got back in the saddle.

The cops drove away.

Now I have the feeling that maybe, just maybe, that bag of pot did not make it back into the evidence room.

Oh, to be a cop!

Chapter 3: High Track, Low Track

It was a clear Vancouver August night. The city glowed and hummed in the cool summer air. It was a beautiful night, a great night to be on the road. And it was an exceptionally busy Friday night. Most of all, perhaps, for the working girls.

I pick up two men, one white and the other black, in the 1000 block of Richards Street, ground zero for "High Track," or where the expensive ladies strolled the streets. Tonight, however, the street was virtually bereft of courtesans. As I said, they were busy.

It turned out that the black gentleman was searching for flesh, but had had no luck. The reason was that "these girls all have black pimps, and they [the pimps] won't let them [the girls] hitch up with black dudes." That was an interesting piece of information; I hadn't know that. I proceeded to file it away in the part of my brain that keeps track of debauchery.

So High Track was out. We gently motored away, down to the corner of 1st Avenue and Quebec Street, not far from the kid-oriented Science World. This area was respectable businesses by day, red-light district by night. As we turned the corner, we were struck by the silence. The strip was deserted. Not a strutter in sight. My customer was at this time starting to get distraught. All he wanted to do was get laid, but the fates seemed to be against him. "I know a place where you can definitely find a girl," I suggested, "but the quality is not what you get downtown." "That's all right, let's head there," came the reply.

And so we headed north to Low Track, the epicentre of which was Main & Hastings. This area has one of the highest-concentrated rates of HIV infection in North America, due to the fact that so many of the down-and-out people there had shared tainted needles. A lot of the women were in a bad way, and willing to sell themselves for as little as $20 to $30. They only thought as far ahead as their next hit. Many of them were known by the local population to be HIV infected.

We turned onto Hastings street, heading East, and I scanned the sidewalk for streetwalkers. After a few blocks of not seeing anything, I turned left and then left again, pulling into a back alley parallel to Hastings. This was one of my usual routines when looking for fares—duck into the alley, circle around, and then cruise the main drag again. As we drove slowly down the lane, we came to a stop at the center. A large white van was blocking our passage. As we waited for the van to clear away, a working girl stepped out of the back of the van, closed the doors, and the van pulled away. It was obvious she had just finished servicing someone, perhaps even in the van.

I was disgusted, but my fare was avid. "Let's talk to her," he blurted eagerly. I rolled down the window and asked her to get in the car. Long-legged and smiling, she did so without hesitation. My gentlemen fare was beaming. At long last he had found his poontang! We headed off to his downtown hotel.

Riding shotgun, the dirty-blonde prostitute was very amiable and instantly struck up a conversation with my black fare, telling him where she was from and making good small talk. White fare had all along remained quiet, his face radiating agreeable acquiescence. Glancing at blondie's leg, I noticed a scabrous mass on her exposed left knee. I couldn't help myself: "What happened to your knee?" "Oh, I had a kind of cancer, but they got rid of it and now it's fine." My disgust amplified, I caught a look of my fare's face in the rearview mirror. Still beaming.

And ten minutes later, his face was still beaming as he disembarked at the entranceway to his $250-a-night suite at the Hyatt Hotel, a $30 (the going rate, but she probably squeezed more out of him) working girl under his right arm, me paid up and tipped, and his sidekick acquiescing white pal in tow, muttering cheerful nothings.

I drove off and plied the streets for the next fare that the wheel of fate would dish out to me.

Chapter 4: Gay Encounters

This chapter of Taxi Tales is in video format. Click on the image below to start video (QuickTime required).

© Copyright English Bloopers, Inc. 2003-2007. All rights reserved.