An Ode to Calvin

As a suburban commuter who doesn’t let the subway schedule dictate my own, I rely on cabs to get me home.

Sometimes, I find it’s the cab driver who dictates whether the ride will be pleasant, or if I’ll be resigning myself to taking a nap in the back seat.

Commuting home from downtown the other night, I decided to catch a cab at the end of the subway line because the rapid transit I usually take home had finished its run for the night.

I plodded up the escalator and made my way along the queue of taxis to the one in front.

Usually, I never expect to get a particularly talkative cabbie. That night, I was in luck.

Calvin had to be one of the nicest cab drivers I’ve ever met. A 38-year-veteran, he’s a lot of things in his time. He even owned a part of the cab company he drives for, but decided to get rid of his share.

As I’m sure is the case with a lot of professions, some people at that stage would just tire of the same job and look forward to getting out. Not Calvin. I think he said he was semi-retired, but he still loves to drive, which is why he’s still in the business.

Even as his line of work seems to be getting more dangerous, he seems to take it in stride. He told me a story about this one passenger he picked up at a police station in the east end.

He was a young guy, Calvin said, whose parents own a popular West Indian restaurant. And the man seemed pretty cordial, very nice. He took him where he needed to go, but then the passenger asked him to wait as he stopped off somewhere, then got back in the cab and told him he needed to go to another destination.

He asked Calvin if he could have a smoke. Normally in a cab that wouldn’t be allowed, but Calvin obliged. It was only a short while before he noticed a change in the passenger’s behaviour. He started getting increasingly agitated, and just started giving Calvin all sorts of erratic directions. Turns out he’d been smoking crack and he was high and crazy.

Things came to a head when the guy lunged over the front seat and grabbed the steering wheel. Calvin managed to regain control of the car, and from what I can remember him telling me, he safely stopped the car and tossed the guy out.

As startled as he was, Calvin took a day off and was back on the road again. He even found the guy again and went to speak to him. For peace of mind, I think he said, and to make sure the guy was all right.

Despite that incident – and all the attacks on cabbies that have happened in recent months -Calvin says he’d never get a protective shield for his taxi. If that’s not unyielding faith in the goodness of complete strangers, I don’t know what is.

So one of these days or nights, if you ever take an East End taxi and happen to get a nice Trinidadian man who wears fingerless driving gloves, don’t ignore him. Have a chat with him – it’ll make your ride that much more worthwhile.

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