I Drove a Cab from Hell and Lived to Write about It

Ken West
Post Card Stories
Published in
5 min readSep 7, 2019


We were driving over the Mystic River Bridge, when the woman directly behind me reached over the seat and put her hands over my eyes!

Photo by Jonathan Riley on Unsplash

Author’s note: Unlike other post card stories, this one costed me a fortune in postage and too many post cards. Also, unlike other post card stories, hell… This one is true!

You learn a lot when driving a cab.

Sometimes you wish you hadn’t.

I drove a Yellow Cab on weekends in the city.

The taxi company was down the street from our apartment.

We had recently moved to Somerville, Massachusetts.

Back then people called it “Slumerville” or “the poor person’s Cambridge.” (Today, it costs a small fortune to live there.)

We needed money, so I decided to drive a cab.

Problem was, I didn’t know my way around yet.

I knew the way to the Airport and places in Boston.

But within “Slumerville,” I didn’t have a clue.

Fortunately, a fellow cab driver told me that there were three parallel streets in the city — Broadway, Highland Avenue, and Somerville Avenue.

If you knew them, you could find your way around town.

Back then, driving a cab was a way that college students paid their bills.

One driver I knew was a Ph.D. student who drove to make ends meet.

I told him about my angst at not knowing my way around.

He gave me some good advice.

“You just pay your dues,” he said.

In other words, accept the discomfort as part of the process of learning.

He was right.

But I wasn’t fond of this job.

The Yellow Cabs at that time didn’t have a plastic or glass partition separating passengers from the driver.

Horror stories were told of drivers who were robbed, beaten, and sometimes even shot dead.

Since I only drove on the weekend, it was hard to psyche myself up each Saturday morning.

But I did.

I learned some things:

The Best Tippers:

They were the ones least able to afford a tip.

Little old ladies on limited income were the best tippers.

I hated to accept a big tip for a three-minute ride to the grocery store, but they always insisted.

Also, those considered “low class” were good tippers.

The Drunks:

I learned to be careful accepting tips from a drunk.

I had my share of inebriated individuals.

Sometimes you couldn’t understand them.

The smell of booze exuded from their pores.

The big problem, however, was when they gave you a tip.

I heard horror stories of drunks coming back the next day when they were sober, claiming that they were cheated or robbed by the cab driver.

The Crazies:

I learned my most important lesson: Some people are crazy!

A man claiming to be the brother of the cab company owner came out of the office.

It was Saturday and I had just come in to get my cab for the day.

He came over to me and said he had to go to the VA Medical Center in Bedford, Massachusetts.

It seemed urgent.

So, we headed out.

We were on Broadway and were about to pass a bar.

“Stop here,” he said. “I’ll buy you a drink.”

I declined.

Wouldn’t be making any money drinking at a local gin mill.

We passed three more bars.

Each time he tried to get me to stop.

Like an idiot, I stopped at the last one.

I now needed a drink!

He seemed to know everyone at the bar.

Two beers and a shot of whiskey later (for him) and one beer for me, I told him that we had to go.

We drove on.

When the guy talked it was hard to hear him.

He talked strangely, mumbling his words.

I turned to look in his direction to better hear him.

“Don’t look at me!” he hissed.

He gave me directions for a shortcut he knew to get to the Medical Center.

It wasn’t much of a shortcut.

And each time I turned to hear him a little better, he continued to become more agitated.

“I told you — don’t look at me!” he said.

An eternity later, we got near his destination.

I thought the guy probably had a serious condition that had to be looked at (probably in the mental ward).

But I was wrong.

Instead of driving into the medical center, he told me to take a left turn.

In less than five minutes we approached the “Patriot Golf Course.”

That was his real destination, not the VA Medical Center.

I let him off.

He asked me if I wanted to play 9-holes.

“Thanks, but I got to get back,” I said.

I was so glad to be rid of that character.

Yet, the worst was yet to come.

It was now late afternoon.

I was back in Somerville when I got a call to pick up someone at the Charlestown projects.

At that time, it was a dangerous place for a cab driver.

Had been lots of trouble there in the past, including a few murders.

But I went.

Needed the money.

Two scantily dressed women were waiting for me in front of their building.

They wanted to go to the “combat zone” — Boston’s infamous “adult entertainment district.”

They were either strippers, prostitutes, or wannabees. I never found out.

But they were already “high” on something, either alcohol, drugs, or both.

They were laughing and having a good time in my cab.

As we drove over the huge Mystic River Bridge, the woman directly behind me reached over the seat and put her hands over my eyes!

“Stop it,” I yelled. “You’ll get us all killed.”

She and her friend thought that was hilarious.

She did it again.

I swerved over to one of the few breakdown lanes on the bridge, screeching on the brakes.

“Get out!” I shouted at them. “Get the hell out of my cab!”

They didn’t move but were suddenly quiet and still.

Apparently, they got the message.

They were well-behaved for the rest of the trip.

When we got to the Combat Zone, they had me stop in front of the XXX-Rated “Pussycat Lounge.”

“Do you want to come in?” they asked.

I politely declined and headed back to Somerville, glad I was still alive.

It was on that drive home when I decided that driving a cab was not the best side job for me, even on weekends.

A week later I got a part-time job as a security guard for the midnight shift.

But that’s a story for another time.



Ken West
Post Card Stories

Write, Publish, Monetize.