Life at 40 kilometers per hour. A taxi driver’s blog. Part 1.

Background

You never wake up at the age of 10 and decide for yourself, “Hey! I’m going to be a taxi driver one day!” It is always seen as a last resort or last minute decision after all avenues are exhausted. However, when the realization hits that some money is better than no money, you have to swallow your pride and dive in head first. Because as the saying goes, no money, no honey. And that is very hard to deal with. Never in a million years would I have entertained the notion that I would become an inva taxi driver and actually be pleased about it. But even more, to be happy and proud of delivering a great service to many satisfied customers. I sell safety and efficiency, but more importantly, I sell smiles.

Time Stands Still

The world slows down when you are behind the wheel of a taxi. You see life at 40 kilometers per hour.  You see things on or near the road and within traffic that you have never noticed before. You tend to scan people and places and other vehicles at traffic lights. Maybe you spot someone you know so you can text them later. “Hey! I saw you crossing Mansku near Mäkkäri at 1115 today!” Maybe you see that person next to you trying to not be so noticeable writing a text or talking into the phone. The world really slows down and time stands still. You see people at crosswalks, businessmen barking into their phones while driving – true menaces to society, and dogs trying to find places to pee. You notice businesses and lunch places that you never realized existed. You look for signs in license plates as if the numbers you see can give you next Saturday’s Lotto numbers. One can dream, right?

It Takes a Toll

Taxi driving takes a toll on body and soul. Your body was not built to be sitting down behind a wheel for 9-12 hours straight. The first few weeks of these long shifts are hard to get used to. You hope not to drink too much coffee for fear that you will have to stop at a restroom every hour. You quickly know where all the good restrooms are located and they are not ever at a gas station. The best restrooms can be found at hospitals, clinics, and elderly services buildings. It takes all your energy to stay seated for such a long time and to focus your mind constantly because your life and your passengers’ lives depends on it. Hopefully there are times when you can exit the vehicle and stretch. Your soul takes a toll as well. You come to know many of your customers by name. You take them to their doctor appointments or transfer them to other hospitals. Moreover, as an inva taxi driver you realize that if you can make them smile just once or perhaps give them a safe and pleasant journey that hopefully the rest of their day will go well. You just have that hope. You hope that you made a small impression on them.

Lady and the Tram

I once witnessed an astonishing moment that was unfortunately an example of what I call an act of avoidance. I was stopped directly behind a tram at Kaivopuisto on Tehtaankatu and I noticed an elderly lady carrying several bags and desperately having trouble getting through the last door and onto the tram. There were three pedestrians walking towards her, watching her having trouble. To my amazement they all walked past her without lending a hand, without offering any help at all. Once I saw this sad episode of non-contact, I immediately jumped out of my car and rushed to hold the tram door open. I took her bags and offered my hand as she used me to balance herself up the steps. I could not believe that people would just watch someone obviously having trouble but were too busy to stop and help. Their minds were elsewhere unfortunately. Even the cigarette smoking man standing nearby who witnessed the entire course of events did not move a muscle to help.

Words of Wisdom

On the road, there is always someone watching you. When you least expect it, someone can see what you are doing. Be careful out there.