Transcript: Taxi Driver Stories | Jun 16, 2021

Steve sits in a room with white walls, a low slanted ceiling and several framed pictures on the walls including one of Walter Cronkite. He's slim, clean-shaven, in his fifties, with short curly brown hair. He's wearing a white shirt and a black tie.

A caption on screen reads "Taxi driver stories. @spaikin, @theagenda."

Steve says TWENTY-FOUR HOURS A DAY, 365 DAYS A YEAR, CAB DRIVERS WEAVE THEIR WAY THROUGH CITY STREETS, THERE AT THE WAVE OF THE HAND TO TAKE YOU HOME, OR OUT, OR WHEREVER. AND THEIR STORIES ARE AS DIFFERENT AND FASCINATING AS THE ROUTES THEY TAKE. WRITER MARCELLO Di CINTIO DETAILS SOME OF THEM IN HIS NEW BOOK. IT'S CALLED, "DRIVEN: THE SECRET LIVES OF TAXI DRIVERS." AND MARCELLO Di CINTIO JOINS US NOW FROM CALGARY, ALBERTA ON THAT.

[SPEAKING IN ITALIAN]

Marcello is in his forties, with short gray hair and a full beard. He's wearing a gray shirt.
A picture of his book appears briefly on screen. The cover is black, featuring a picture of a lit "Taxi" sign.

Marcello says HELLO. HOW ARE YOU.

Steve says I LOVE SAYING YOUR NAME. YOUR NAME IS POETIC. IT'S JUST GREAT.

Marcello says I LOVE HEARING YOU SAY MY NAME.

Steve says I LOVED THIS BOOK. THIS WAS TERRIFIC.

Marcello says THANK YOU.

Steve says IT MAKES TAKING A CAB... YOU KNOW, IT GIVES YOU A WHOLE LOT TO THINK ABOUT THE NEXT TIME YOU HOP INTO A TAXI. BUT THE FIRST LINE OF YOUR BOOK IS SO FASCINATING. YOUR FIRST LINE IS: "I HATE TAKING TAXIS." SO HOW DID YOU GO FROM HATING TAKING TAXIS TO SPENDING SO MUCH TIME WRITING A BOOK ABOUT THEM WITH FRANKLY SUCH CONSIDERABLE AFFECTION AND INTEREST?

The caption changes to "Marcello Di Cintio. Author. 'Driven.'"

Marcello says YES. I SHOULD SAY, I MEAN, YES, I HATE TAKING TAXIS. ALL THE OTHER BOOKS THAT I'VE WRITTEN ARE TRAVEL BOOKS. I'VE TRAVELLED FAR AFIELD, TO AFRICA, THE MIDDLE EAST. AND THOSE KINDS OF TRAVELLING, YOUR TAXI DRIVER IS ALMOST YOUR NEMESIS. THE END OF EVERY TRIP IS A NEGOTIATION, OFTEN A HEATED ONE, OVER THE FARE. SO SPENDING SO MUCH TIME IN TRAVELLING THOSE PARTS OF THE WORLD OR HAVING TO DEAL WITH THOSE ARGUMENTS ALL THE TIME, I KIND OF HAVE THIS... I CALL IT THE POST TAXI STRESS DISORDER. I FEEL THIS PAVLOVIAN ANXIETY. YES. I DON'T HAVE A HUGE AFFECTION FOR DRIVING CAB. BUT, YOU KNOW, I STARTED TO WONDER WHAT I WAS MISSING ON MY TRIPS TO AND FROM THE AIRPORT IN THE CAB... IN THE TAXIS, TO GO ON THESE LONG TRIPS ABROAD. WHAT WERE THE STORIES THAT I WASN'T GETTING THAT WERE JUST IN THE SEAT RIGHT IN FRONT OF ME. YOU KNOW, WHO WERE BEHIND THE EYES I COULD SEE IN THE REAR-VIEW MIRROR. SO I DECIDED... I SPENT A LITTLE MORE THAN A YEAR. INSTEAD OF LEAVING CANADA LIKE I NORMALLY DO, I SPENT THE TIME TRAVELLING AROUND THIS COUNTRY, MEETING WITH DRIVERS AND GETTING THEIR LIFE STORY, GETTING TO HEAR THEIR PERSONAL NARRATIVES, AND I FOUND SOME AMAZING, AMAZING STORIES.

Steve says YES, YOU DID. BUT WHAT DID YOU THINK YOU WERE MISSING OUT ON THAT YOU HADN'T EVEN CONSIDERED DESPITE ALL THOSE TAXI RIDES THAT YOU WERE TAKING THAT PROMPTED YOU TO WRITE THE BOOK ABOUT THEM?

Marcello says I WAS MISSING EVERYTHING. I'M SURE LIKE MOST PEOPLE, I GET INTO THE BACK OF THE CAB, I BLURT OUT MY DESTINATION, AND THEN I STARE AT MY PHONE FOR THE ENTIRE JOURNEY, RIGHT? IS THE TAXI IS SUCH A UNIQUE AND STRANGE PLACE, IF YOU THINK ABOUT IT. WHERE ELSE ARE YOU IN SUCH CLOSE PROXIMITY WITH A STRANGER FOR SO LONG AND ENGAGE SO LITTLE, RIGHT? THERE'S VERY LITTLE ENGAGEMENT THAT HAPPENS BETWEEN THE DRIVER AND THE PASSENGER. I MEAN, IT'S TRUE THAT MOST OF THE DRIVERS IN CANADA COME FROM SOMEWHERE ELSE. YOU KNOW, I DIDN'T NEED TO TRAVEL OUTSIDE OF MY BORDERS TO HEAR AMAZING STORIES FROM FARAWAY PLACES. THOSE STORIES EXIST ALL AROUND US.

Steve says WELL, LET'S GO BACK BECAUSE THE TAXI INDUSTRY DOES GO A LONG WAY BACK IN CANADA. MAYBE... I DON'T KNOW, GIVE US A FEW DETAILS HERE. HOW FAR BACK DOES IT GO?

The caption changes to "Marcello Di Cintio, @DiCintio."

Marcello says THE HISTORY THAT I FOUND WAS THE FIRST... FIRST TAXI COMPANY IN UPPER CANADA WAS FOUNDED IN 1836 BY A COUPLE FROM KENTUCKY, LUCY AND THORNTON BLACKBURN. NOW, I IMAGINE IF YOU WERE IN UPPER CANADA, IF YOU WERE IN TORONTO AT THE TIME, YOU GET INTO THIS HORSE-DRAWN CAB, YOU BLURT OUT YOUR DESTINATION JUST AS WE DO HERE. INSTEAD OF LOOKING AT A CELL PHONE, YOU LOOK AT THE DAY'S NEWSPAPER. AND YOU DON'T PAY MUCH ATTENTION TO WHO IT IS THAT'S DRIVING THIS CAB, WHOSE HANDS ARE ON THE REINS. BUT LUCY AND THORNTON HAD AN INCREDIBLE STORY. THEY WERE SLAVES IN KENTUCKY, ESCAPED SLAVERY, CROSSED THE OHIO RIVER AND MADE IT TO DETROIT WHERE THEY LIVED FOR TWO YEARS BEFORE BEING RECAPTURED. BOTH OF THEM ESCAPED PRISON AND CROSSED THE BORDER INTO CANADA. THEIR FORMER OWNERS SUED CANADA FOR EXTRADITION. THIS WAS THEIR PROPERTY THEY WANTED BACK. AND CANADA REFUSED. AND THE BLACKBURN CASE WAS ONE OF THE PRECEDENTS THAT STARTED THE UNDERGROUND RAILROAD IN MOTION. AND SO IMAGINE SITTING IN THIS TAXI, YOU KNOW, WITH THORNTON ON THE ROOF WITH HIS HANDS ON THE REINS, AND NOT REALIZING THIS INCREDIBLE LIFE STORY OF THE MAN DRIVING YOU AROUND. AND THAT'S EXACTLY THE SORT OF THING I WAS LOOKING FOR TOO. I WANTED TO KNOW WHERE THESE MEN AND SOME WOMEN CAME FROM. WHAT WERE THEIR CHILDHOODS LIKE? WHAT DID THEY DO BEFORE ENDING UP IN THE DRIVER'S SEAT? THAT WAS MY MAIN FOCUS. I WAS LESS INTERESTED IN TAXI DRIVING THAN THE TAXI DRIVERS.

Steve says AND AT WHAT POINT DID IT BECOME A PRETTY GOOD WAY TO MAKE A LIVING IN THIS COUNTRY?

Marcello says AH, THAT'S INTERESTING. I THINK THE TAXI INDUSTRY HAS ALWAYS BEEN A PLACE WHERE PEOPLE WHO... IT'S WORK THAT WAS RELATIVELY EASY TO FIND. IT ALLOWED YOU TO BE INDEPENDENT. IT ALLOWED YOU TO WORK LATE NIGHTS IF YOU WANTED TO OR DURING THE DAYS IF YOU WANTED TO. A LOT OF THE CABBIES THAT I MET, NONE OF THEM EVER INTENDED TO DRIVE CAB. IN FACT ONE OF THEM SAID TO ME: NO MOTHER EVER GAVE BIRTH TO A TAXI DRIVER. AND SO IT ENDED UP FOR A LOT OF THESE... AGAIN, MOSTLY MEN... AN INDUSTRY OF DEFAULT. AND IT'S ALWAYS BEEN THAT WAY. IT'S KIND OF LIKE LOST SOULS ENDED UP BEHIND THE CAB. SOME OF THESE WONDERFUL OLD, DECADES' OLD KIND OF STUDIES OF CAB DRIVERS. AND THERE WAS A LOT OF PEOPLE WHO WERE KIND OF SOCIETY'S LOST FOLKS. IN THE '80s, IT STOPPED... IT BECAME... THE '70s AND '80s, IT BECAME A PLACE WHERE NEW CANADIANS COULD FIND WORK. A NEW CANADIAN COMES AND PERHAPS HIS OR HER CREDENTIALS ARE NOT RECOGNIZED BY CANADA.Zv THEY CAN FIND WORK DRIVING CAB. THEY KNOW HOW TO DRIVE. THEY CAN FIND WORK DRIVING CAB. IT ALLOWS THEM TO MAYBE BE IN SCHOOL ON THEIR OFF-DRIVING HOURS. IT ALLOWS THEM TO BE FLEXIBLE WITH THEIR CHILDREN AND OTHER JOBS. OFTEN THEY'RE WORKING TWO OR THREE DIFFERENT JOBS. SO IT USED TO BE A MUCH MORE FLEXIBLE AND LUCRATIVE JOB THAN IT IS NOW. WE CAN TALK ABOUT THAT, IF YOU LIKE. BUT BACK IN THE DAY, IT WAS A RELIABLE SOURCE OF INCOME FOR NEW CANADIANS.

Steve says WELL, YOU'VE PARTIALLY ANSWERED THIS QUESTION BUT I DON'T THINK ENTIRELY BECAUSE I KNOW WHEN I WAS A KID, MARCELLO, EVERY CAB YOU GOT INTO WAS DRIVEN BY SOMEBODY WHO WAS BORN IN CANADA. NOW WHEN YOU GET IN A CAB, I'M NOT SURE THERE ARE ANY TAXIS THAT ARE DRIVEN BY SOMEBODY WHO HAS BEEN BORN IN CANADA. IT SOUNDS LIKE YOU'RE SAYING IT WAS THE 1980s WHERE THAT CHANGED, AND WHY DID IT CHANGE?

Marcello says IMMIGRATION POLICY CHANGED IN CANADA. IMMIGRATION POLICIES CHANGED IN CANADA AND ALSO WORLD EVENTS LED TO IT. WARS IN THE MIDDLE EAST AND AFRICA, COUPS... YOU KNOW, THESE SORTS OF THINGS THAT PEOPLE FLED DANGER IN THEIR HOMELANDS AND ENDED UP IN CANADA. SOME OF THEM AS REFUGEES, SOME OF THEM AS REGULAR IMMIGRANTS. THAT'S WHEN THAT SHIFT STARTED TO HAPPEN. BUT YOU'RE RIGHT. THE MAJORITY OF CAB DRIVERS IN CANADA ARE BORN ELSEWHERE, ESPECIALLY IN THE MAJOR CITIES. SOME 80 percent OF DRIVERS IN BIG CITIES, OR SOMEWHERE AROUND THERE, ARE FROM SOMEWHERE ELSE.

Steve says AND I THINK, LIKE YOU, EVERY TIME I GET INTO A CAB, I ACTUALLY DON'T STICK MY NOSE INTO MY PHONE. I DO LIKE TO ENGAGE WITH THE DRIVER BECAUSE, IT'S TRUE, THEY'VE ALL GOT AMAZING BACKSTORIES, AND YOU HAVE... I MEAN, YOU'VE NAILED IT IN THIS BOOK. PEOPLE WHO COME OUT OF WAR ZONES, WHO COME OUT OF OPPRESSIVE REGIMES, AND I JUST WANT TO TALK TO YOU ABOUT SOME OF THE EXAMPLES YOU GIVE. MOHAMED MOJALIL.

Marcello says AT A WRITER YOU'RE NOT SUPPOSED TO HAVE FAVOURITES BUT MO WAS ONE OF THE FAVOURITE DRIVERS I GOT TO MEET WHEN WRITING THIS BOOK. MO WAS A WRESTLER AND A SOLDIER IN IRAQ. HE FOUGHT TWO WARS FOR SADDAM HUSSEIN AND ALSO SERVED TIME IN AN IRAQI PRISON FOR ASSAULTING A SUPERIOR OFFICER. BEFORE HE DECIDED HE WANTED TO BE AN ARTIST OF ALL THINGS. YOU IMAGINE MO, THIS BIG BRUISING IRAQI GUY AND HE WANTED TO BE AN ARTIST. AND HE EVENTUALLY ENDED UP IN HALIFAX WHERE HE WENT TO ART SCHOOL. IT DIDN'T GO WELL FOR HIM. BUT ALSO MO SUFFERS FROM TREMENDOUS PTSD FROM HIS TIME ON THE BATTLEFIELDS IN IRAQ. AND HE BROUGHT THAT WITH HIM TOO. SO HE'S A GUY WHO IS BIG AND BOASTFUL. HE REFERS TO HIMSELF AS KIND OF A PEACOCK. AT THE SAME TIME, HE'S A DAMAGED GUY. YOU KNOW, I DON'T THINK I'VE MET ANOTHER HUMAN BEING, MUCH LESS ANOTHER DRIVER IN THIS BOOK, WHO IS... HIS SELF AWARENESS ABOUT HIS OWN FAILINGS AND HIS OWN MISTAKES HE'S MADE IN HIS LIFE. HERE IS A GUY WHO HAS BEEN THROUGH A LOT. HERE'S A GUY WHO HAS ENDURED VIOLENCE. AND HERE'S A GUY WHO HAS PROPAGATED VIOLENCE AND HE'S INCREDIBLY OPEN ABOUT IT. HE'S WARM AT TIMES. HE'S BRISTLY AT OTHER TIMES. AND HE'S LIVED A KIND OF INCREDIBLE MULTI-LAYERED LIFE THAT WAS JUST A JOY TO BE ABLE TO HEAR ABOUT. I LOVED THE TIME I SPENT WITH MO IN HALIFAX.

Steve says ONE OF THE OTHER DRIVERS YOU PROFILED WENT ON TO BECOME A PROMINENT NOVELIST, AND I HOPE I'M SAYING THE NAME CORRECTLY, RAOUIHAJJ. TELL US ABOUT HIM.

Marcello says HE GREW UP IN CIVIL WAR BERUIT. FINALLY LEFT THE VIOLENCE AND WAR IN CHAOS WHEN HE WAS 19 YEARS OLD. WHEN THAT EXPLOSION HAPPENED IN BERUIT LAST YEAR, IT WIPED OUT WHAT USED TO BE HIS NEIGHBOURHOOD. HE ENDED UP IN THE STATES FOR A LITTLE WHILE AND THEN IN CANADA. HE WANTED TO BE A PHOTOGRAPHER. HE WANTED TO BE LIKE A FINE ARTS PHOTOGRAPHER. AND HE DECIDED TO GET HIS MFA. HE FELT THE ONLY WAY HE COULD AFFORD AN MFA WAS TO FIND A JOB THAT ALLOWED HIM TO GO TO SCHOOL DURING THE DAY AND WORK AT NIGHT AND THE TAXI INDUSTRY IN MONTREAL WAS PERFECT FOR HIM. SO HE STARTED TO DRIVE CAB IN MONTREAL. HE ADMITS HE WAS A LOUSY CAB DRIVER. HE HAD POOR NIGHT VISION. AND HE HAD A TERRIBLE SENSE OF DIRECTION. BUT NONETHELESS, HE DROVE CAB IN MONTREAL. AND WHILE HE WAS DRIVING CAB, HE WROTE HIS FIRST NOVEL. AND IT BECAME... IN FACT A, THE DUBLIN PRIZE. IT WAS THE LARGEST LITERARY PRIZE IN THE WORLD. AND HE WROTE THAT BOOK WHILE DRIVING CAB. IN FACT, WHEN THE BOOK FIRST CAME OUT, HE TRIED SELLING COPIES TO HIS PASSENGERS. IF HE WASN'T A VERY GOOD DRIVER, HE WASN'T A VERY GOOD SALESMAN EITHER. HE DIDN'T NEED TO BE. HE'S ONE OF CANADA'S MOST CELEBRATED AUTHORS. AND HIS STORY IS UNIQUE IN THE BOOK BECAUSE THE INTERESTING PART OF HIS STORY IS HOW HE STOPPED DRIVING CAB, WHAT HAPPENED AFTERWARDS. FOR THE BULK OF THE DRIVERS IN MY BOOK, IT'S WHO THEY WERE BEFORE. WHAT WERE THEIR LIVES BEFORE THEY ENDED UP BEHIND THE WHEEL?

Steve says MM-HMM. NOW, I WANT TO CIRCLE BACK TO SOMETHING YOU SAID A FEW MOMENTS AGO, AND THAT IS, YOU DESCRIBED THE PROFESSION AS MOSTLY MALE BUT SOME FEMALE. BUT THE FACT OF THE MATTER IS IT'S ALMOST ENTIRELY MALE. I CAN'T REMEMBER THE LAST TIME I GOT INTO A CAB AND SAW THERE WAS A WOMAN BEHIND THE WHEEL. WHY IS THIS PROFESSION SO MALE?

Marcello says I'M SURE THERE ARE LOTS OF REASONS FOR THAT. I MEAN, IT'S SOMETHING THAT... WHENEVER WOMEN ARE IN THE BUSINESS, AND I FOUND A GREAT STORY ABOUT A GROUP OF WOMEN IN PARIS, YOU KNOW, WORLD WAR I ERA PARIS WHO STARTED DRIVING CAB AND THEY WERE A SENSATION. IT WAS A NOVELTY THAT THESE WOMEN WERE DRIVING TAXIS. I THINK OBVIOUSLY TAXI DRIVING IS A DANGEROUS PROFESSION, ESPECIALLY FOR WOMEN, ESPECIALLY DRIVING AT NIGHT. IT'S ALWAYS BEEN THIS KIND OF MALE PRESERVE OF WORK. YET EXCEPTIONALLY FEW WOMEN DRIVE. I TALKED TO THE MANAGER OF BECK TAXI, WHICH IS THE LARGEST TAXI COMPANY IN TORONTO AND PROBABLY THE LARGEST IN NORTH AMERICA. AND THE MANAGER SAID THAT SHE CAN ONLY RECALL SOMETHING LIKE 15 WOMEN EVER WORKING FOR BECK. AND SO, YEAH, IT'S ALWAYS BEEN KIND OF A MALE JOB.

Steve says AND YET YOU DID PROFILE THIS RIDE SERVICE THAT PARTICULARLY SPECIALIZES FOR INDIGENOUS WOMEN. I THINK IT'S IQUIS SAFE RIDES. WHAT'S THE BACKGROUND ABOUT WHY THAT STARTED OUT?

Marcello says IN MY BOOK ALL THE DRIVERS THAT I MET ARE THE HEROES OF THE STORY. ALL THE TAXI DRIVERS. NOT SO MUCH IN WINNIPEG. THE TRADITIONAL TAXI DRIVERS HAVE A TERRIBLE TRADITION FOR TREATING WOMEN, PARTICULARLY INDIGENOUS WOMEN, POORLY IN THE TAXIS. SO A GROUP OF WOMEN DECIDED TO COUNTER THIS PROBLEM. THEY STARTED THEIR OWN RIDE SERVICE CALLED EQUI SAFE RIDES. WHAT IT IS IS WOMEN WHO HAVE A VEHICLE AND HAVE SOME TIME TO VOLUNTEER, OFFER TO BE DRIVERS, AND THEY DRIVE ONLY OTHER WOMEN AROUND. AND SO OTHER WOMEN CAN SIGN UP TO BE PART OF THIS COMMUNITY, REALLY, OF DRIVERS AND PASSENGERS. AND SO WHEN THEY NEED A RIDE, THEY POST IT ON THIS DEDICATED FACEBOOK PAGE, AND IF A VOLUNTEER IS AVAILABLE, THEY RESPOND, AND THEY DRIVE THEM AROUND. IT'S A CHARITY, I SUPPOSE. THE PASSENGERS WILL GIVE A DONATION TO THE DRIVER. BUT IT WAS ABLE TO KIND OF CIRCUMVENT WHAT WAS GOING ON WITH THE REGULAR INDUSTRY. NOW, LET ME BE CLEAR. I WAS NOT... I REACHED OUT TO WINNIPEG TAXI DRIVERS TO ASK THEM ABOUT EQUI AND ABOUT THE REPUTATION AND NO ONE WOULD SPEAK TO ME. SO I WANT TO MAKE SURE THAT IT'S CLEAR. I DID DO MY BEST TO TALK TO THOSE DRIVERS BUT THEY DIDN'T WANT TO TALK TO ME. INSTEAD WHAT'S HAPPENED IS THIS REALLY WONDERFUL COMMUNITY HAS FORMED BETWEEN WOMEN IN WINNIPEG, HUNDREDS OF THEM, DRIVERS AND PASSENGERS WHO HAVE GOTTEN TO KNOW EACH OTHER, FRIENDSHIPS DEVELOPED, THERE'S RELATIONSHIPS BETWEEN EVERYBODY. IT'S REALLY QUITE A BEAUTIFUL THING.

Steve says I HAVE TO SAY YOU'RE NOTHING IF NOT BLUNT ABOUT SOME OF THE STUFF THAT TAKES PLACE IN THE BACK OF A TAXI CAB AND A LOT OF IT IS SEX AND A LOT OF IT IS GROSS, AND YOU DON'T SPARE US A LOT OF THE DETAILS. NOW, LET'S TALK ABOUT... THERE'S A STORY ABOUT A WOMAN NAMED TAMMY MARIE. ON THE ONE HAND... ON THE ONE HAND, IT IS A SAD AND TRAGIC TALE. ON THE OTHER HAND, HER EFFORTS TO GET HER LIFE TOGETHER ARE REALLY QUITE INSPIRING AT A CERTAIN POINT. TELL US HER STORY, IF YOU WOULD?

Marcello says SURE. IF I MAY STEP BACK A LITTLE BIT. THERE IS THIS KIND OF CLICHE ABOUT WHAT I CALL THE TAXI NOIRE, SEX, DRUGS, AND MISBEHAVIOUR IN THE BACK OF A CAB. WHEN I TALKED TO THE DRIVERS, A LOT OF THEM THOUGHT THOSE WERE THE STORIES I WANTED TO HEAR. FOR THE MOST PART I DIDN'T. THOSE ARE THE STORIES THAT ARE PERVASIVE IN OUR POP CULTURE ALREADY. I WAS REALLY LOOKING MORE AT THE BACKGROUND AND SOME OF THE LIFE STORIES OF THESE DRIVERS MORE THAN THAT. HOWEVER, TAMMY. TAMMY MARIE. TAMMY MARIE WAS A SEX WORKER IN CALGARY AND SHE WAS A STREET-LEVEL WORKER AND SHE WAS A DRUG ADDICT. YOU KNOW, SHE TALKED TO ME ABOUT HOW, FOR HER WHOLE LIFE, HER WHOLE CAREER AS A SEX WORKER, TAXI DRIVERS WERE HER GUARDIAN ANGELS. THEY WERE THE ONES THAT COULD OCCUPY THE SAME NOCTURNAL ENVIRONMENT THAT SHE DID. THEY WERE THE ONES THAT SHE COULD TRUST TO TAKE HER AWAY FROM TERRIBLE SITUATIONS. AND SO SHE HAD THIS REMARKABLE RELATIONSHIP WITH THE DRIVERS, ONE IN PARTICULAR, THIS GENTLEMAN NAMED SAM, WHO SHE NEVER GOT TO KNOW HIS LAST NAME. HE WAS HER RELIABLE DRIVER FOR SEVERAL YEARS. WHEN SHE STARTED TO SWITCH FROM SOFTER TO HARDER DRUGS AND THEN EVEN HARDER DRUGS, IT WAS SAM WHO CONVINCED HER THAT SHE NEEDED HELP. IT WAS SAM WHO PICKED HER UP FROM HER RECOVERY CENTRE ON HER WEEKENDS, YOU KNOW, BETWEEN RECOVERY. YOU KNOW, HE MAY HAVE SAVED HER LIFE.

Steve says WELL, IT WAS ALSO SAM, THOUGH, IF I REMEMBER THIS CORRECTLY, UPON WHOM SHE WAS PERFORMING SEXUAL SERVICES, EVEN THOUGH SHE WAS A MINOR AT THE TIME. SO HOW DO WE SQUARE THAT CIRCLE?

Marcello says I DON'T. YOU KNOW, AND I ASKED TAMMY ABOUT THAT. YES, HERE'S A MAN WHO WAS A GROWN MAN, AN ADULT. YOU WERE A TEENAGER. HE WAS YOUR GUARDIAN ANGEL, AS YOU SAY. AT THE SAME TIME HE WAS PAYING FOR SEX WITH A MINOR. SHE SAID TO ME SHE DID NOT SEE THAT AS EXPLOITATION. AND I GUESS WE HAVE TO SEE TAMMY'S WORLD FROM HER OWN EYES WHERE, IN THE ENVIRONMENT WHERE SHE OPERATED, THE ENVIRONMENT WHERE SHE WORKED. THERE WAS SO MANY OTHER DANGERS, OF EXPLOITATION AND ABUSE, FROM POLICE OFFICERS OFTEN, FROM HER CLIENTS, THAT THIS CONSENSUAL RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN HER AND HER DRIVER TO HER DID NOT SEEM LIKE EXPLOITATION. OF COURSE, THE LAW DISAGREES. BUT FROM HER POINT OF VIEW, SAM WAS A HERO FOR HER.

Steve says OKAY. I DO WANT YOU TO TELL US ABOUT HOW DANGEROUS A PROFESSION THIS CAN BE, AND YOU DO HAVE ONE STORY IN THE BOOK ABOUT A CAB DRIVER WHO REALLY... OH, MY GOODNESS. I MEAN... WELL, OKAY. YOU TELL THE STORY. I WON'T SPOIL IT. BUT HE'S BEEN THROUGH THE WRINGER, THIS POOR GUY.

Marcello says ALEX IN EDMONTON. YES. ALEX... AGAIN, ANOTHER GREAT STORY. ALEX AND HIS FAMILY ESCAPED FROM CHECK CZECHOSLOVAKIA. AND ALEX'S GET RICH SLOW SCHEME WAS TO TRAIN HIS DAUGHTER, EVA, TO BECOME A CHAMPIONSHIP TENNIS PLAYER. THAT'S WHERE HE THOUGHT HE WAS GOING TO MAKE HIS FORTUNE. THAT DIDN'T WORK OUT QUITE WELL. IN FACT, HE WAS ESTRANGED FROM EVA FOR MANY, MANY YEARS UNTIL A FEW YEARS BACK, ALEX WAS DRIVING SOMEONE IN HIS CAB. THE GENTLEMAN... ALEX DESCRIBED IT AS HE SAW A FLASH OF METAL AND QUICKLY DODGED IT AND IT WAS... THE GENTLEMAN IN THE BACK SEAT HAD PULLED A HUNTING KNIFE OUT OF HIS BACK AND WAS TRYING TO STAB ALEX IN THE NECK. WHAT ENDED UP HAPPENING WAS THIS FIGHT INSIDE OF THE CAB BETWEEN THIS MAN WITH A KNIFE AND ALEX, WHO TOOK WOUNDS TO HIS RIBS AND RIGHT UNDERNEATH HIS CHIN. HE CAME CLOSE TO SLASHING HIS THROAT. BUT WHAT THE ASSAILANT DIDN'T REALIZE BEFORE HE ATTACKED ALEX IS ALEX HAS A BLACK BELT IN THIS OBSCURE KARATE STYLE AND WAS ACTUALLY TRAINED IN HOW TO DISARM AN ASSAILANT. WHY THIS IS GUY TRYING TO STAB ALEX, ALEX IS HEAD-BUTTING AND KICKING HIM AND SUBDUING THIS GUY WHO JUMPED IN THE BACK, JUMPED INTO THE FRONT SEAT, AND EVENTUALLY KIND OF THIS CROWD OF PEOPLE GATHER AROUND AND THEY SEPARATED THEM OUT AND ALEX WAS BROUGHT TO THE HOSPITAL AND THEY SEWED UP THE WOUNDS ON HIS HANDS AND HIS NECK AND HIS RIBS. THE ASSAILANT ALMOST BIT... LIKE, HE HAD BITE MARKS ON ALEX'S ARM. BUT HE SURVIVED. THAT WAS PART OF THE REASON... I'M NOT GOING TO SAY IT WAS THE WHOLE REASON... PART OF THE REASON HIM AND HIS LONG ESTRANGED DAUGHTER KIND OF RECONCILED. WHEN I TALKED TO HER SHE SAID, YEAH, I ALMOST LOST MY DAD AND SHE DIDN'T WANT TO BE AWAY FROM HIM ANYMORE. AND THIS VERY CLOSE-TO-DEATH EXPERIENCE THAT ALEX SUFFERED KIND OF BROUGHT HIS FAMILY TOGETHER AGAIN.

Steve says DO YOU KNOW IF HE'S STILL DRIVING?

Marcello says GOOD QUESTION. I DON'T KNOW IF HE'S STILL DRIVING. LAST TIME I CHECKED, HE WAS STILL DRIVING. HE DOESN'T PLAY TENNIS MUCH ANYMORE. HE GOT A KNIFE WOUND IN THE HAND THAT MADE HIS RACQUET GRIP WEAKER. HE'S A GUY, HE USED TO WIN MEDALS INTERNATIONALLY IN KIND OF SENIOR... OR MASTERS TENNIS TOURNAMENTS. I'M NOT SURE HOW MUCH TENNIS HE PLAYS NOW. IN SPITE OF EVERYTHING THIS GUY HAS GONE THROUGH, YOU WILL NOT MEET A MORE CHARMING, HAPPY, VIVACIOUS HUMAN BEING ON THE PLANET. IT WAS FUNNY THAT WHEN THE EDMONTON JOURNAL REPORTED ON HIS ASSAULT, THEY CALLED HIM AN ELDERLY CAB DRIVER. YOU WOULD NEVER, IF YOU EVER MET ALEX, YOU WOULD NOT CONSIDER HIM AN ELDERLY ANYTHING, EVEN THOUGH HE'S ALMOST 70. THAT GUY IS A GAZELLE.

Steve says LET ME ASK YOU ABOUT DANGER OF ANOTHER KIND. AS THE PANDEMIC WAS TAKING HOLD, THERE NO DOUBT WERE PEOPLE WHO ARE CoVID-19, HOPPING INTO TAXIS. THEY DIDN'T KNOW THEN TO WEAR MASKS. WHAT DO YOU THINK THE IMPACT IS THAT CoVID-19 HAD ON THIS PROFESSION?

Marcello says IT'S INTERESTING. THIS BOOK WAS FINISHED BEFORE THE PANDEMIC STARTED. AND SO I ACTUALLY WENT BACK AND ADDED... I CALLED IT MY PANDEMIC POSTSCRIPT, WHERE I WENT BACK TO TALK TO THE DRIVERS I PREVIOUSLY INTERVIEWED AND FIND OUT HOW THINGS WERE GOING FOR THEM DURING CoVID. AND NOT WELL. YES, ABSOLUTELY. YOU THINK ABOUT THE CLOSE PROXIMITY OF STRANGERS IN A TAXI CAB. IT EXAGGERATES THE DANGER OF WHAT CAN HAPPEN. I DON'T THINK THEY KNOW THE NUMBERS FOR SURE, BUT AT LEAST A DOZEN CANADIAN TAXI DRIVERS HAVE DIED FROM CoVID. AND WHO KNOWS HOW MANY HAVE BEEN INFECTED? SOME OF THE COMPANIES HAVE DONE THEIR BEST TO PUT SCREENS, YOU KNOW, BETWEEN THE FRONT AND BACK SEATS THAT THEY DIDN'T HAVE BEFORE. I TALKED TO A DRIVER IN CRANBROOK, AND HIS TAXI MANAGER HUNG, YOU KNOW, SHOWER CURTAINS THAT THEY BOUGHT AT THE LOCAL CANADIAN TIRE, HOME DEPOT, BETWEEN THE FRONT AND BACK SEATS AS SOME SORT OF PREVENTATIVE MEASURE. BUT THESE DRIVERS, THEY'RE PUTTING THEMSELVES AT CONSIDERABLE RISK, RIGHT? NOT ONLY ARE THEY IN THIS CLOSE CONTACT, IN CLOSE SPACE WITH STRANGERS, THEY'RE ALSO DRIVING PEOPLE TO AND FROM THEIR TESTING SITES. THEY'RE DRIVING PEOPLE TO AND FROM THEIR DOCTOR'S APPOINTMENT. AND LET'S FACE IT, PEOPLE WHO ARE BREAKING THE RULES AND ARE DOING INDOOR GATHERINGS AND HAVING HOUSE PARTIES, WHEN THEY'RE DONE, YOU KNOW, WHEN THEY'RE DONE THEIR PARTIES, WHEN THEY'RE DONE THEY'RE PASSING CoVID ALL AROUND THAT GROUP, THEY CALL A CAB TO TAKE THEM HOME. SO THE DRIVERS ARE AT THE FRONT LINE OF THE WORST KINDS OF BEHAVIOUR DURING THE PAST YEAR, YOU KNOW? AND I THINK WE NEED TO REALIZE IN THIS COUNTRY THAT WHAT... I THINK WE NEED TO REALIZE THAT, THAT FROM THE VERY BEGINNING THE DRIVERS HAVE BEEN THERE FOR US. YOU KNOW, WE DIDN'T BANG OUR POTS FOR THE DRIVERS LAST YEAR, RIGHT? MAYBE WE SHOULD HAVE. MAYBE WE SHOULD REALIZE THE RISKS THAT THEY'VE TAKEN TO CONTINUE DOING THEIR JOBS.

Steve says MARCELLO, IN OUR LAST MINUTE HERE, I JUST WONDER WHETHER OR NOT YOU'VE HEARD BACK FROM ANY OF THE PEOPLE THAT YOU CHRONICLED AND WHETHER OR NOT THEY ARE PLEASED OR CONCERNED OR WHAT ABOUT THE FACT THAT YOU HAVE TOLD THEIR STORIES THE WAY YOU'VE TOLD THEM?

Marcello says I HEARD FROM QUITE A FEW AND MOST OF THEM ARE VERY PLEASED. NO, ALL OF THEM WHO HAVE GOTTEN BACK TO ME ARE VERY PLEASED. AND WE TALKED ABOUT MO EARLIER. WE CAN END WITH MO. I WAS A LITTLE BIT WORRIED ABOUT MO. LIKE I MENTIONED, MO IS THIS... MO CONTAINS MULTITUDES. HE'S THIS KIND AND GENTLE GUY BUT HE'S ALSO KIND OF A BEAST AND HE'S KIND OF ARROGANT. AND I REALLY WANTED TO PAINT A PICTURE OF MO THAT KIND OF CAPTURED ALL THOSE LAYERS TO HIM. I'M NOT SURE HE WOULD LIKE IT OR NOT. BUT, OH, MY GOODNESS, MO WAS THRILLED. AND IT SEEMED LIKE HE QUITE ENJOYED KIND OF THE WARTS-AND-ALL PORTRAYAL THAT I HAD OF HIM IN THE BOOK. YOU KNOW, I DON'T WRITE BOOKS TO MAKE FRIENDS WITH MY SOURCES. AT THE SAME TIME, I WOULD HATE IF THEY FELT THAT THEY WERE MISREPRESENTED. AND THINGS ABOUT THE DRIVERS THAT I DID WRITE ABOUT WHO HAVE GOTTEN BACK TO ME HAVE ENJOYED THEIR PORTRAYALS.

The caption changes to "Producer: Colin Ellis, @ColinEllis81."

Steve says I SURE DID. THIS WAS A GREAT BOOK TO READ: "DRIVEN: THE SECRET LIVES OF TAXI DRIVERS." MARCELLO Di CINTIO, WELL DONE. WE ARE SO GRATEFUL YOU SPARED SOME TIME FOR US ON TVO TONIGHT. THANK YOU.

Marcello says OH, IT WAS MY PLEASURE. THANK YOU.

Watch: Taxi Driver Stories