There has been a lot of heat coming down on cab drivers in Toronto lately. Some people are calling for stricter regulations on taxi drivers and saying that too many of them are reckless, dangerous and possible threats to society. But driving a cab anywhere is a tough break, and specifically in Toronto where competition is fierce, a lot of cab drivers are vastly overqualified, and the taxi system is failing. We decided to go and talk to cab drivers to try and get their side of the story and find out what they’ve got to put up with. Apparently they had a few horror stories of their own. Here’s a collection of a few they shared with us.
Getting Choked by a Seatbelt
Sometimes we get drunk people and we drive them home safely, but sometimes they get violent when they drink too much. One time a passenger tried to choke me with my seat belt. The guy wanted to go to Lawrence and Warden from downtown. I said, “Brother where are you going?” I asked if he was going to fall asleep so I could put the address in my GPS, so we could get there safely. He said, “No, no, I’m not going to fall asleep.” When we started getting closer to that area of town, I asked again for the address but the passenger wouldn’t give it. I said, “I can’t keep driving—you have to tell me where you’re going or I’m going to have to go to the police.” The passenger then grabbed the driver’s seatbelt and started choking me and said, “Motherfucker, drive!” I pulled the car over, pushed the seat belt open, and tried to get out of the car, because I don’t care, he has no right to choke me. When I opened the door, he ran away.
Smashing into a Tree
I picked up two guys from a club and they asked to go to Waterloo. They said their limo left without them. When I got off the highway they asked me to take a different street and I could see that it was not safe. No light or anything, and I’m alone, and two guys are sitting in the back. The fare was up to $60 dollars and one of the guy’s credit cards was declined. It was a little bit scary for me because it’s a far from downtown. I asked them to leave something in the car [for collateral], while they went home to get money and right away, they grabbed my neck, and I have a machine here, and one guy grabbed the machine and banged me on the head. And then I took my leg off the brake pedal. I smashed into a tree, and wrecked my car. I’m lucky they didn’t kill me.
Two Girls Going Nuts in the Backseat
When I just started driving about three and a half years ago, there was a fight in my car, two girls were fighting each other. They got kicked out of XS nightclub, the bouncer put them in the car so I didn't know what to do. I pretty much just started my job. The girls needed to go to Scarborough. I was driving on the Gardiner DVP and I freaked out. They were fighting and there was blood everywhere. One had a high heel and was punching the other girl with her high heel. They opened the door while I was driving on the highway. Their hair was all over the car and finally one of them came in the front and the other one ran away. The girl who stayed in the car was threatening to break my GPS. Police were called but told me they were going to take awhile unless there were weapons involved. I got out, and as soon as I got out she ran away. She got inside the building and locked the door. I waited outside the building for an hour and police never came and then my shift was over. It cost me 45 dollars.
Being Used As Getaway Car in A Bank Robbery
I happened to drive for a gun robbery. I was stopped by a man at Oakwood and St.Clair. He asked me to wait because he had two friends coming. I said OK. Then two guys got in, they came in three to five minutes later, and they asked me to drive them to Yonge and Wellesley. So I drive to Yonge and Wellesley. They looked like high school students. Two of them had knapsacks and one boy was holding a bag with all the cash inside [which I didn't know at the time]. So I drove up Mount Pleasant, and turned onto Wellesley. Everything was clear, even though it was rush hour, and I wondering, "What's going on?" As I continued I saw fifteen policemen with guns aimed at my car. They came on the loudspeaker and said, "One by one get out of the car." I was terrified. Looking back, [the passengers] did seem kind of nervous but I had no idea that they all had guns on them at the time!
Death Threats Over $10
Once I was heading down Bay Street on a Saturday evening, there were four cars lined up and I was the last one, so I decided to go. Then a person flagged me down.I picked up the customer, and then another driver followed me and pulled up beside me and yelled, “Don’t take money from that customer or I will come and fuck your mother!” It’s like he was totally nuts. Some cab drivers are crazy, they want to kill people for ten dollars. Some drivers are so tough, they don’t care, they want to scoop the customer and they will cause an accident because of it. Cab drivers are doing these things because they want to make money. This guy was almost going to kill me for one customer.
Drinking and Driving
There was a cab driver that was found to be drinking and driving. He was in front of the Air Canada Centre, stumbling around, and they found out he was drinking the alcohol in his car. He was taking his breaks at bars. This guy was drinking during work and got caught because he came out of a bar, made a U-Turn in the road and was swerving, so he got caught by police. I couldn’t believe it.
Illustrations by Alex Sheriff.
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