Odyssey International: Masthead
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Taxi!!

January 24th, 2010

TaxiPhotoSM.jpg

Last week I was on the telephone in the office of the home we have rented in Vancouver where we are managing a fleet of Chevy Equinox fuel cell electric vehicles for the 2010 Olympic Games.

When the doorbell rang my wife/business partner went downstairs to answer the door. Out the office window I noticed a taxicab parked out front and wondered what long lost relative might have come knocking looking for a place to hole up for the Games. Or perhaps the cab driver was delivering an invitation to a gala red carpet event where we would feast on exotic foods and rub shoulders with the elite of the elite.

“Do you have some money for the cab?” Lisa called from downstairs. There was a sense of urgency in her voice.

“Money for the taxi? What’s up?” I fished a $20 bill out of my pocket.
“The guy who lives next door’s wife has gone into labour with twins and in their haste to get into the cab, they locked their wallets and keys in the house and have no way to pay for the taxi to the hospital.” Lisa was getting excited.

When I asked if $20 was enough she said the semi delirious father-to-be needed to get back from the hospital too so I bounded down the stairs, told Daddy I was a twin myself and handed him $40. He gave me a hug and assured me he would repay the money as soon as he got home. The thought of asking for collateral, like a watch or an iPod, crossed my mind but I took the high road and wished him the best.

Tears welled in Lisa’s and my eyes, imagining the tiny twins about to enter the world. It was a moment of compassion and I felt privileged to have helped a budding young family in distress. And hey, the cabbie and the temporarily displaced Nova Scotians who saved the day with a $40 loan would be escalated to demigod status as the twins grew up.

As the Yellow Taxi pulled away, I considered the driver. Just another day on the job crawling the streets of Vancouver trying to make a living hoping he would not be delivering tiny twins in the parking lot of some Olympic venue.

I’ve always liked taking taxis, especially in places I’ve never been before. Taxi drivers are usually a good source of information and, although there are plenty of rip-off and scam stories, the cabbies I’ve encountered are mostly ordinary folks trying to make ends meet.

I drove taxi part time in Toronto in 1979 and 1980 when Ken Langley and I were trying to pull sponsorship together for our bid to establish a new around-the-world driving record.

Before hitting the streets, Ken and I attended ‘Cab College’ where we became versed in radio procedures, driver etiquette and ‘the meter’. Once licensed my shifts were from 4:00 p.m. until 4:00 a.m. and after a day of business meetings and researching routes through India and Bulgaria, I found the time relaxing, fun even. There were plenty of people to chat with while earning enough money to court a marketing executive over a lunch of spinach quiche at some up-town eatery while pitching the idea of a couple of Maritimers propelling their product onto the front pages of newspapers around the world.

As Captain of my slant-six powered, well worn, orange and lime green Dodge Coronet, the city was mine. I dressed as Santa on Christmas Eve and gave free rides, got propositioned by a few fine looking ladies and even had the honour of throwing a pair of Chicago pseudo-business tycoons out in a downpour when they insisted I was taking the long way to their destination. Don’t mess with my head, mister!

Lisa and I stood silently in the doorway of our temporary Vancouver home for a few minutes after the Yellow Taxi pulled away. My wife had a motherly smile on her face and I couldn’t help feel like the Good Samaritan. We couldn’t wait for Daddy to come back with stories of the delivery, perhaps a photo of the newborn duo.

But as hours turned into days, Lisa and I wondered if we might have been a little too loose with our emotions and cash. It all came crashing down during a meeting with Erik Dierks, Vice President of Development for the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra.

We were in his office talking about his young children so I told him the story about the taxi and the frantic father-to-be.

“Did he ask for $20 or $40?” Erik asked, pulling up a Crime Stoppers website.

And I couldn’t help foster a sheepish loser’s smile as I read the headline:

“Vancouver Cops Warn of Pregnant Wife Taxi Scam”.

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