God Only Knows
just who ends up in CAR 29... and how? PART I
The city is carved up into 20+ some odd zones. These zones originate downtown in Zone 1 and stretch outwards into the thinner, more spread out parts of the City; stretching as Kingston does, straight out and on into the wilderness. The single digit zones more or less cover the city proper, the “teen” zones cover the western expanses while the zones in the 20s cover the east side of the city, the Armed Forces Base, and mostly more freshly minted subdivisions across the Cataraqui River. The city of Kingston’s post Harris’ amalgamated taxi cab service stretches pretty much from Napanee to Gananoqui and say Battersea to the North.
These zones act more or less as a traditional “taxi stand” might work. Taxi stands, you know, those long lines of empty cabs you used to see idling outside of the landmarks, grocery stores, bus and railways stations in your city. When a taxi drives into one of Kingston's 20+ or so odd zone, they are “lined up”, behind the other cabs already in that zone and receive calls for pick ups in order of arrival. Zones “churn” at different rates at different times on different days. I know there’s a rhythm to this city, I can already begin to feel it, but at this early stage of my next career this rhythm still feels erratic, fickle, often seemingly dependent on nothing more than the color strength and accuracy of the morning’s sunrise…
Each zone has a mix of businesses the odd attraction or special location and a mix of residences. Kingston’s General Hospital and the University are the key features of Zone 6. Zone 13 is all about the Mall and drive by shopping strips. There’s another smaller mall and the central transit bus hub in Zone 8. Like any given city, Kingston’s neighbourhood are indeed demographically divided but mixed up all over each zone. There are enclaves of this over there and a few ramshackled blocks of that over there in each of the zones. Upon saying this however, it’s also easy to say Zone 3 is chock full folks with very little dough and a lot of low income housing while downtown, Zone 1 is home to all the old n’ finery, the “Earl Street Mansions” and lake shore condos. Zone 6 is pretty well to do, Zone 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 and 9 are various shades of whats left of our middle classes, in varying states of disrepair, despair and get me outta here’s. Zone 2? It’s full of zombies, weirdos and well meaning young couples… my house? It’s exactly on the edge of Zones 1 and 2. Like I said, it’s a pretty mixed up lil’ (very) old City.
There’s a little more than an itty bitty skill to “working the zones” other than developing the aforementioned inherent feel for the cities ebbs n’ flows, it’s rhythms vibrations and minute by minute undulations. Auguring your expectations and aligning ‘em with the sunrise you saw from the river’s shore early in the morning, a challange, but a skill… that can be learned? Or a feeling, a twinge n’ twingled sense of what’s going on around you… I suppose that even without much sense at all I seem to be doing OK, pulling good enough numbers to keep my owner happy. At least, he looks happy… well, he hasn’t yelled at me yet as I’ve heard a few drivers say, he might one day. Skill, sense or twinge n’ twingles… The only real choices I have make each day are… “…should I stay or should I go now?” say if I drop a fare off at the train station in Zone 11. AND, if I do decide to “…go now”, the next choice n’ decision… go where?
A drop off at the train station... a good example of “go where?” A Via Rail drop off leaves you in Zone 11, a pretty dead zone with nary a zombie to be seen most of the day on any given day really. When bolting from the train station you’re quickly thrown into Zone 8… an OK zone most of the time, at least during that day. My gut rule remains, “back to the middle”, i.e. when in doubt always head back downtown to Zone 1 as even if you arrive as the 5th, 6th, or 7th cab, you won’t wait too too long to be fairly assigned a far… but… my gut sometimes reminds me that it’s a quicker drive to Zone 3’s lower income neighbourhoods, you know all those good people with no cars…
Who really knows what leads CAR 29 to the zone I’m supposed to be in next to pick up the next best conversation I’ve had that day. There’s a few things I remind myself each time I find myself sitting and waiting in a zone that doesn’t seem to be churning… First, don’t second guess your earlier self too much. That fella you were just a few short minutes ago felt something… wait for it, you never know AND certainly, chasing the churning numbers from zone to zone… Second, you didn’t just miss the call n’ conversation of the century in that other zone, the one you shoulda gone to, nope that call n’ conversation is waiting for you… just on up ahead. Thirdly and most importantly, you get the fares you’re going to get, where n’ when you get them… and remember, always remember… “you’re not doing the driving…” although you’re just making the CAR stop n’ go and making it turn, it's going to go exactly the way it’s meant to go… I may appear to be driving, steering, making things go, but in all likelihood, I'm really just along for the ride.