Thursday, August 5, 2010

My Illustrious Career...Part Twenty-five

I had just been released from my job of trying to sell income tax
services to local businesses in the San Fernando Valley.

I realized then, half-way through 1993, at the tender age of
37, that computers were becoming more and more common, and since
I had always been an 'electronic gadget' sort of person, it might
not be a bad idea to start learning something about them.

I started going to a trade school to learn about computers and
electronics. I was still living in the high desert...Palmdale,
California, and the school was located in the Valley, I believe
it was Van Nuys.

It was going to be nine months of classes, five days a week, and
the hours were 8:00 AM to 2:00 PM. I would have to find me a job
where I could hopefully work early afternoon to late at night, so
I could at least be at home with my bride at night.

First, I thought I would try driving a taxi, since I was a pretty
experienced driver. They ran in twelve hour shifts, so they said
I could start working the 3:00 PM to 3:00 AM shift. I wasn't real
sure how I was going to be able to fit SLEEPING into this
schedule, but I'm sure it wasn't going to be 5 days a week. It
might have been only 3 or 4 days a week, which I thought I could
handle if it was Saturday, Sunday, Monday and maybe Tuesday.

I started in the middle of my shift for the first night, and it was
not very comforting. The very first fare that I picked up was in
the middle of the night, around 1:00 AM, and I was instructed to take
him up to a remote and dark location in Topanga Canyon.

Starting from the Valley, Topanga Canyon Road runs south and goes
through some pretty remote mountains towards the ocean between
Malibu and Santa Monica. As we pressed on through the dark and
twisty road, my mind was running overtime going through various
scenarios where he would try to rob or kill me...this was a real
fear that I had, and I couldn't believe I was going through this

It all worked out, however, and we got to his destination, he paid me,
and I was on my way.

There was another time where I picked up a very elderly man so
I could drive him to 7-Eleven where he would go to use the ATM.
Normally, fares were calculated by a combination of miles driven
and time elapsed. I know these things are probably all modern and
computerized today, but back then, it was still the old-fashioned
mechanical meter box where you had to grab this big lever and
pull it down to start counting.

The meter was running when we got to 7-Eleven, and the elderly
gentleman asked me to wait for him, and to keep the meter running,
like we would be required to do. And then I watched, as the old
sir began to slowly shuffle over to the store at about the same
speed as the growth rate of bamboo.

It took him several minutes to make his way to the door, and I
painfully watched the meter click off twenty cents every fifteen
seconds. Now, I am not afraid to take money from fares for
legitimate services, but there was no way I was going to watch
this man get charged 80 cents a minute while I was sitting in my air-
conditioned car waiting for him, especially in light of the fact
that there was really no telling how long he would actually be IN
the store.

I had to reach up and crank off the meter until he came out, and
when he was within a few feet of the car on his way back I turned it
back on. I bet with the computerized gizmos today, I wouldn't have been
allowed to do that.

(I don't recall that I took this as 'stealing' money from the company, I
think I made up the difference myself, it was only a few dollars, I could
afford that).

I worked this job for a couple weeks, and made decent money from tips (at
least, compared to what I was used to making so far in my life).
But the cabs were not maintained very well, and a few times I
had breakdowns. I would have to radio in my location and wait for
someone to come pick me up and bring me back to the depot. This would
be a wasted money made, and no sleep either.

Since I was going to my trade school during the daytime, I knew that
if I could pick up a more comfortable job to work in the late afternoons,
knowing it would only be temporary, I decided to try to hook up again
with the answering service I had worked at a few years back...800-Direct.

This worked out just fine for me...I went to school from eight in the
morning till two in the afternoon, then worked at 800-Direct from 3:00 PM
till around midnight. I was able to spend most of the night at home with
my bride, and didn't have to get up again until 6:00 AM.

I think I was starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel!

Peace be with you.


  1. Woowww...Joe, so much work you've ever done...
    even be a taxi driver with a needle in a horrible first experience ...fear of being robbed and killed...?? it's must be unforgetable...
    Thanks for sharing your experience.
    I'll waiting for the next story of your illustrious career.

  2. My dad also drove a taxi when he was in Dental school and said it provided some interesting stories. I have always thought it would be scary to drive a taxi...never sure who you were picking up and where they were going. but I am sure you can meet some very interesting people this way. I know the Topanga road so I know what you thinking. Question...did your wife ever wonder why it was you could not settle down into one job? Did she ever want that from you? Just curious.

  3. I think taxi driving would be a tough gig. I'd like you to answer Dr. Soosie's questions since they are about the same as mine!

  4. Well, here are the answers to Dr. S's questions:
    My bride would have been upset with me if I just laid around on my ass between jobs, rather than going out and looking for the next one. I think she knew what she was getting into when she married me, because while I had that stable gig at the liquor distributor place when we met and got married, I was up front with her, telling her that the steady job I had at the time was an anomaly.
    As long as I was working at SOMETHING, she had patience with me. The funny part is, even up until this day, she doesn't have any idea what I went through in the years before she met me...when I am finished compiling all this I will let her read it (she doesn't read my blog).
    I used to tell her jokingly that I had about a hundred jobs in my life, and we laughed. It wasn't until I wrote all this down that I realized it was not very much of an exageration!

  5. Joe, you are amazing! Instead of laying around or "not being able to find a job," you always wanted to be working. Cheers to you for that.

    Back in the day...Topanga Canyon was one of our hangouts. Lot's of "hippie-ish" places used to be there.