Who’d want to be a taxi driver?

Weekend Witness - - Opinion - By KYLE AL­LAN

I F I had to name a ca­reer that re­quires the most skilled in­di­vid­u­als, I would choose the taxi busi­ness. Any­body who has ever rid­den in a taxi, or been at a taxi rank, will know that this ca­reer com­petes with any other vo­ca­tion in terms of the ded­i­ca­tion, con­cen­tra­tion, courage and good-old Bruce Lee Way of Dragon reflexes needed, mixed with soul­ful kwaito beats.

The hon­oured few who drive taxis and trans­port our na­tion’s crit­i­cal masses are not to be seen as losers — peo­ple who couldn’t be­come ef­fi­cient parts of the cor­po­rate world or failed to buy their way into cer­tain types of em- ploy­ment.

Rather, they are a se­lect few, on a par with the valiant men who took on the Ger­man luft­waffe in the Bat­tle of Bri­tain in 1940, aided by radar and good code-break­ing.

In our present case, our drivers have a builtin radar for sur­vival and ma­noeu­vring around our cities’ jammed streets. Life is a war zone. A good taxi rank is an ex­cit­ing ex­am­ple of grass-roots cap­i­tal­ism, mixed with some reg­u­la­tions, bent and bro­ken here and there, in the spirit of free en­ter­prise. Com­pe­ti­tion is tough.

The weak­ling on the stock ex­change will not sur­vive.

The other day, I went to board a taxi with a po­et­ess friend who qual­i­fies in men’s eyes as a gen­uine in­tokazi, as well as be­ing an im­bongikazi.

We had ri­val con­duc­tors guide us hither and thither un­til the one with the most tenac­ity gained our pa­tron­age. This is both busi­ness and plea­sure. No cheese-boy ac­coun­tant with seven As would ever sur­vive the in­stant cal­cu­la­tions and savvy re­quired to bal­ance a taxi’s econ­omy.

Peo­ple are get­ting out all over the place. This per­son is paying R12 for Mpol­weni. This one Um­swathi. This one Mh­lalane. This one by the cross­roads. This one has a R200 note to pay her R7 fare. “Do I look like a bank lady?” In­stant cal­cu­la­tions are re­quired, like­wise in all spheres of the driv­ing. How much brak­ing is needed, ver­sus how much speed?

BE­ING A TAXI DRIVER EN­TAILS DED­I­CA­TION, CON­CEN­TRA­TION, COURAGE AND THE BRUCE LEE WAY OF DRAGON REFLEXES

Oc­ca­sion­ally, one must cal­cu­late the odds of an­other ve­hi­cle coming over the blind rise at more than 100 km/h, or the size of the an­gle that is re­quired to squeeze through peak traf­fic. Pas­sen­gers squeal about a lack of air con­di­tion­ing, but taxi drivers must put up with it all day. No won­der they of­ten come across as an­gry peo­ple. On the whole, com­pared to many sec­tors in the coun­try, the taxi busi­ness is pretty well run.

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