Ikimasho!

Asleep at the wheel

taxi driver tokyo japanSometimes I don’t even know what day of the week it is. It’s Monday, isn’t it? Yes, it’s Monday. I remember because I visited my daughter at her house yesterday and we ate grilled mackerel and miso soup. After that I had a drink and went to the taxi rank at 9pm. It’s 4pm on Monday now and I’m still working. How many hours is that? I don’t know. I just keep on going. Our vehicles are built to last. My friend Kubota-san brought his vehicle in for repair the other day. It had 80,000 miles on the clock since his last visit to the rank. 80,000 miles! Just from driving around the inner streets of the 23 wards too. I think he had a fare up to Ibaraki prefecture one time but that’s the furthest he has ever been. He says there are enough fares in Tokyo without having to bother with the inaka. I like the countryside though. It’s sometimes good to get out of the city. Why am I doing this? Well I didn’t mean to have this job. It just happened. I used to work at the Panasonic factory in Chiba but my department got shut down during the recession in 1997. I can’t complain though, many people lost their jobs, not just me. But I was worried. What on earth am I going to do, I thought to myself. Taxiing seemed like the obvious choice in the short term. Short term, ha! Here I am still doing the same thing 15 years later. Becoming a taxi driver isn’t that difficult though. You have to answer a 40-question exam on the city’s layout and have a clean driving record. Then once you pass your exam you join a company, pick up your keys and and start your never ending drive. I work for MK and mainly work around Asakusa and Kita Senju. I work 12-to-20-hour shifts, four or five days a week. I worked 140 hours in one week last year. It nearly killed me. It’s all rules and regulations now. My company can always monitor where I am via GPS and this vehicle even has braking sensors fitted which means I can be fined if they brake too hard. But it’s the smoking ban that has made this job the most difficult I think over the last few years. I’ve lost a lot of my long-distance clients. If they have to sit there for over an hour without smoking, they’ll find another way to get where they’re going, you know? Some light up anyway even though they are not supposed to. Well, I don’t want any trouble, so I tell them once and then let it go. After I’ve dropped them off, I head for the nearest park and wash out the ash tray. Then I run the air conditioner for half an hour. Otherwise the next customer will start complaining.

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