My fares also have called me lots of things other than my name. I certainly
don't take offense at the women, usually elderly, who breathe Dear or
Sweetheart or even Kiddo at me. Or the occasional seaman or Australian
tourist who calls me Matey or Cap'n. And long ago I learned to endure the
legions of bluff Saturday night idiots who clamber into my back seat
spewing names like Chief and Boss and Big Guy and Pal and (yuck) Slick.
But call me cabbie and you can hear my teeth grind even after I've
slammed and locked my safety shield.
The movie "Taxi Driver" played the Castro Theater recently, and one night
as it emptied out three men flagged me. One sat up front and informed me,
"We're all cab drivers, too." If he had used the c-word I would have been as
shocked as if I'd glanced up and seen the marquee reading: "Robert De Niro,
Jodie Foster starring in "CABBIE!"
The answer: "Only one person but he was a politician."
Our conversation degenerated: If a politician calls you cabbie, can you call
him Polly? Wanna cracker? If a stockbroker calls you cabbie can you call
her Stocky? Can you call a restaurant hostess Twinkie? Can you call your
fares fairies? I don't think so.
So what should people call cab drivers?
I'm charmed by my very young riders who call me Mister Cab Man, but
that's a bit much to ask of everyone. Bro and Brother? Those I like, but
lately I've been enjoying the switch to "Homes" or "Homie" or my favorite
A few women and perhaps a few too many men have floated Cute and
Handsome in my direction, and, when done right, that can sure perk up a
shift. I'll never forget the drop-dead raven-haired beauty who smiled at me
through pupils resembling tiny black derringers and said, "Hey there,
But if you can't come up with a gem, I'd suggest sticking with Driver
which has accuracy going for it, plus a certain straightforward dignity.
The barhopper who called me cabbie? She gave me 20 bucks for her $14.90
ride, and I got over it.
San Francisco Chronicle, 1996