Professional Taxi Driver


Daddy was a “professional taxi driver,” with a brass license button and a chauffeur’s cap. When he was off duty, the Yellow Checker sat in front of our Baltimore row house and no one ever dared take his parking spot. The way he dressed and talked about his job made my two sisters and me proud. We were proud like maybe someone else was proud of their daddy who was a surgeon at the Johns Hopkins.

Every Saturday morning, after he read the Sun and drank two cups of coffee, daddy washed the Checker Marathon. That car was a thing to behold, school bus yellow with a row of black and white checkers from front to back. It was kind of bulky looking and daddy said, it was built like a Sherman Tank and that sounded pretty tough to me. The chrome grill, between the two sets of dual headlights had a wide, turned down at the corners, grimace, that gave it a determined, tough guy look. In the years when I was growing up I don’t remember it having a dent or a scratch!

That car was his office and the key our family’s financial security and he made sure we knew it. After he had it all shined up, we all went up to the Lexington Market for lunch and to stock up on groceries. Did we all pile into the Marathon? No way, we didn’t even think about it. We took the bus up there and lugged those bags back home, again, on the bus! I never did ride in that car. He did allow me to sit in it a few times and I admired the taximeter. I sat behind the wheel and imagined I was a taxi driver and it seemed like a goal that I could only hope for.

We had a family game we played sometimes. We unfolded a city map on the kitchen table and called out obscure little street names. Daddy would give us the location by naming the streets he would take to get there from our house on West Lombard. I tell you, it was pretty darn impressive! One time I made up a street name to trick him, but he knew right away! He just said, “You won’t find that street in Baldymore son, you can’t fool a professional taxi driver!”

He had some stories. He picked up Babe Ruth over on The Block, one night. He was leaving a burlesque club with another guy. It was one o’clock in the morning and they were headed to the Belvedere. He wrote his autograph on a scrap piece of paper. I still have it somewhere.

I know you’re probably thinking, taxi driving is not a great job, but like any other job, it’s what you make of it! For my dad, it was something special, at least that’s the way he presented it to me and that made me real proud of him.

I sell real estate and I have difficulty thinking of it as anything special! To me, it’s just a job. I do get lucky sometimes, like when I showed a property to Johnny Unitas, but that was long after he was a famous quarterback. I didn’t bother asking for an autograph.

05/29/2018 © Don Lehman