James Jamison, taxi driver 

'Nightlife, it's out there'

click to enlarge James Jamison drives the No. 1 taxi for Express Cab Company

Jonathan Boncek

James Jamison drives the No. 1 taxi for Express Cab Company

In each installment of the Working Life series, a local worker describes what his or her job is like. The stories are taken directly from interviews and told in first person with minimal or no editing of the subjects' natural speech patterns.

I had a friend that was driving for Safety Cab Company, and I used to hang out with him, ride around with him, and he taught me the game. In about 2002, I decided I'd give it a go, and I came to Express, and I've been with Express since 2002.

When I first come in, I sign out my cab, get my keys, see where my gas is at, and if I need gas, I go and get gas. Basically I wait on the first call to come out and try to be the closest cab. I just want to go where the money's at. It could be downtown, West Ashley, Mt. Pleasant, James Island, Summerville, you name it, I'm gone. I'm just all over.

You've got your rude people; you've just got to know how to talk to them. You've got your good people. I try to interact with everybody, so that way my ride will be good, and we get along well in the cab and keep everybody smiling as I go along on the ride. Most of the time I'm pretty good at it. I'll ask them if they're having a good day: "You having a bad day, sir or ma'am?" And from then on, I just try to give them a conversation, get to know them just like they want to know their driver.

They do give you a map, and you have to learn that map. You have a zone, you have to learn your zones. Other than that, I'm pretty good at what I do because this is my home. I know this area. Going to a big city, you don't know nobody in that city. Here, I know a lot of people. By the time you get in my cab, time you go, I know you. Pretty much I would say here is better than me being in New York or something, because it takes a lot to know people, and in Charleston, I know a lot of people.

Your driving record speaks for you, and when you've got a good driving record, it's not hard, but if you don't have a good driving record, it's very hard to get into cab driving. So I mean, you've got to be an A-1 driver because you've got people's lives that you have to take care of and make sure you can get them where they need to be safely.

A lot of people wouldn't know that it's dangerous. At nighttime, we don't go on dark roads. If it's one way in, we don't go on it. We try to get that customer as close as possible, but those dark roads, those are the dangerous spots to a cab driver. Most of the time, we try to stay off those dead-end streets. That's the dangerous part of this job. But I don't never be afraid, and you know why? I believe in God, and He shadows me and keeps me covered all the time.

Nightlife is — well, you know, I had a young lady I picked up, she was in the backseat, I think she had too much to drink, and she was taking her clothes off, and I was like, "Ma'am, ma'am, ma'am, ma'am, you can't do that in the cab. You can't do that." One time before, I had a guy who he wanted me to actually ride around and try to find him a woman. So the nightlife is what it is, you know? Like they say, I can give you some true cab confessions. I could give it to you. Nightlife, it's out there.

I used to work the night shift, but I interact with a lot of kids. I work at the Park and Recreation with the kids when I get off. So, you know, I found myself working through the middle of the night and during that morning, I'm beat. So I said it's going to have to be one way or the other. Now I just work daytime, and that helps me out a lot to be with the kids. I'd rather work during the morning, so in the afternoon when I leave Express, I go to Hampton Park and I work with the kids. I've been working with the kids now for about 16, 17 years. I have 11- and 12-year-old, 10- and nine-year-old recreation. I help teach football, baseball, basketball, and we help them with their homework and stuff like that, so my time after Express is my loyalties to the kids.

Uber? I'll put it like this: Just jumping in a car with anybody, not a good thing. Even though it's a company, when you really don't know a number on a car, it's a bad thing. You see what I'm saying? With us, you have a number. You know you're getting in an Express cab. Right now, Uber is charging outrageous prices. I had a lady that has one of my cards, she calls me from time to time, she was using Uber to go out to Summerville, they were charging her $75, sometimes $80 from downtown to Summerville, and one day I happened to be coming along, and she asked me and she said, "I'm tired of paying them that kind of money." So she said, "What's your price to go to Summerville?" Our price to Summerville is $35, you know, and she jumped in my cab, she said she was done with Uber.

The best story I like to tell is I met a young lady, I picked her up at nighttime, and actually I saw her and her husband were arguing, and they were going through it, and he literally put her out the car and left her on the side of the road. And she got in the cab, and as we proceeded to where she needed to go, we talked, and by the time she got out of my cab, she was like, "I am feeling so good now. I really, really, really think I'm gonna file for divorce." I was able to talk to her and comfort her and got her where she needed to be. She called me the next day and she thanked me so much.


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