There are a lot of ways for a person to get from one place to another. Walking, running, biking, driving, flying, swimming, and so on.
For a guy living in Ottawa, my trip to Newfoundland and Labrador opened my eyes to a new way to travel. Calling the cab.
Luckily, the local newspaper I have been interning with pays for the drives as long as it’s work related, but without that I probably would have taken the buses and missed out on this difference entirely. Buses have their own difference, but none that blow me away so much as the St. John’s, N.L. cab drivers.
In Ottawa, I cabbed plenty of times either to the bars or clubs, the casino, home or groceries. I cabbed all times of the day when buses weren’t an option. And the experiences were less than enjoyable.
Cabbies in Ottawa almost always have a Bluetooth hooked up and in their ear, and a majority of them are talking to someone nowhere near the cab in a language I haven’t put the time in to learn so I can’t really learn anything about the driver by listening. Sure, they’ll say a few words if you talk with them, but I’ve only had experience a select few that would actually hold a conversation with their passenger.
My first thought was, “is it me?” Because that’s just how I think.
Then I flew to St. John’s, N.L. and called my first cab.
“How ya doin’?” asked the cabby. When I asked him if I could use his name for my blog he said he’d rather not, so cabby will be his name.
Already I’m surprised, here’s a guy that pulls up and the moment I open the door he’s starting a conversation.
I tell him I’m doing good and give him the address I want him to take me to.
“Sure thing. You’re not from around here, are you?” he asked.
So, of course I’m thinking, OK, I got a talkative cabby. We spent the rest of the $20 cab drive talking about where I’m from, what I’m doing here and what I plan on doing, and talking about him and his life story.
But as I took more cabs, I found more cabbies liking a conversation.
And the best part, the drivers aren’t crazy. In Ottawa, my first couple times in the cab had me with my hand clutching the suicide bar over my head in the backseat.
This by no way is me saying Newfounlanders are good drivers. They are, they’re just crazy on the road in their own way. The general outlook on life is, ‘no rush’. And that says it all.
“You meet some interesting people on this job,” said the cabby.
And he was right. On both sides. I’ve met a cabby that told me he spent 30 years as a journalist. There have been a bunch of retired old guys just looking for something to keep them busy and have extra money in their pocket. And then there was the drivers who are sick of their job and want something new. They all have stories. Some even have stories about people they’ve driven.
“The trick,” another cabby told me, “is to stay away from the night shift around George Street. It’s good pay but you don’t always have a good time.”
I learned so much about where I should go while in Newfoundland, things I should see, stuff I should do. I knew only my brother while I’ve been in Newfoundland and he’s a student so he knows mostly things involving George Street. So the cabbies are the ones who saved me from six weeks of boredom in my internship with the Telegram.
I’m not sure what cab drivers are like in other provinces, but I feel like trying them out even if I don’t have to because here in Newfoundland it’s all so different from Ottawa. Whether the change is because of the strong patriotism Newfoundlanders have for their province or because the province is separated from Ontario by land and Ocean, the change is good.