Day Cabbie

San Francisco taxi stories from one of the very rare female drivers

I can't afford this job

I love driving a cab. Other jobs I have had have felt like jobs. They felt like work. They were not fun. But cab driving is fun. It doesn't feel like I'm working. It feels like I'm just driving around, which is something I have always loved to do. It feels like I am just meeting people and hearing their stories, which is also something I have always loved to do.

I had been dispatched to Valencia and 17th. The thought had crossed my mind that the person was going to come out of Good Vibrations but he didn't. He was just standing on the sidewalk with a piece of furniture. After we had heaved the piece of furniture into the back of the van, he rode shotgun.

Around 17th and South Van Ness he asked me "Do you like being a cab driver?"

"Yes, I love it. I would do it full-time but I can't afford to."

"What do you mean?"

"It pays so little that I only do it two days a week. I also have another job which pays much more, and that's how I'm able to afford driving a cab."

"Wow! I have never heard of anything like that before. So you drive a cab just for fun?"

"Yes, pretty much. It's very fun."

"So it's kind of like a hobby. Many people have jobs they don't like so that they can afford their hobbies. You're lucky your hobby pays anything."

I didn't say this to him but realized later: This is not really a hobby. This is more like a calling. I was meant to be a cab driver. But I can't afford it because it pays at a subsistence level.

Others might feel that their calling is to be a rockstar or a painter or an actor. They might not make a living from their calling though because there isn't enough work out there for them, in that particular calling. Some jobs are hard to get.

But cab driving is different. There is plenty of work out there for anybody who wants to drive a cab. On the days I work, I work long hours. But given how much money I, college-educated and having several years of experience in the software industry under my belt, can make in other jobs, there is a certain opportunity cost associated with cab driving. I literally cannot afford to do it full-time.

It makes me wonder how many other people are out there who do jobs they don't like because they can't afford to do the ones they like. How many people out there would love to work at coffee shops but work at investment banks instead? How many people out there would love to be teachers but they can't afford to because it doesn't pay enough to survive in this city?

It's hard for me to get my head around this concept. I grew up thinking that the jobs that are the hardest to get are also the ones that pay the most and are also the ones that are the most fun. Now I am here to tell you: It's not true. I seem to be able to get plenty of jobs that pay well but that are not fun. You know, corporate office jobs, the ones I went to college for so that I would never have to work in retail or at coffee shops again. Now I would love to work in a coffee shop. I would love to be a full-time cab driver. But I can't afford to.

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