Driving a taxi was the most interesting job I had. I might still be doing it except the influx of Third Worlders has depressed the wages so much you now have to work 60 hours a week and live in two-bedroom apartment with three other people just to make ends meet. And it used to be a middle-class job.
For a while I owned a few taxis that I rented to other drivers. I used to buy them from a guy, Ervin, who owned an airport cab company.
His real last name was Stern, but he had changed it and named himself after the ship that brought him and his family from Hungary after WWII. His father was one of those “Holocaust” survivors. He had been a tank mechanic who had kept escaping to see his family, and every time he did, the Germans would catch him and send him back to work on tanks again. The whole family survived WWII and moved to America.
His father ended up owning an airport cab company, which he bequeathed to Ervin. When I knew Ervin, he was about 65, married with two girls and no sons. My friends and I estimated Ervin was worth at least 10 million dollars.
Ervin did nothing but work in his garage, about 10 hours a day and about six hours on Saturday. Why did he work so much? Because he had a horrible family life.
I met his pudgy wife once. The first words out of her mouth were, “Ervin, wipe the dust off your shoes.” I turned and walked away.
My friends, who had known Ervin a lot longer than I had, told me Ervin and his wife had separate bedrooms, and Ervin went home to his and watched his VCR. No wonder he spent so much time at work with us guys!
One of them, Joe, told me to look in the big box on top of a shelf in the garage. So I did. There were over 100 VCR tapes in it. Joe told me they were all porn films, and Ervin would watch them in the morning on the TV and VCR he had in is office.
So I took one of the tapes home, and sure enough, it was a porn film. And every one of the tapes in the box was unmarked. When I mentioned this to a friend of mine, Ray, he told me one Saturday (all of us hung out there on Saturday) he had showed up early, and walked in on Ervin watching a porn film in his office and flogging his dolphin.
“That’s something I’ll never forget,” he told me. I’m just glad I didn’t see it.
Once, out of curiosity, when Ervin had left for a while. I turned on his TV and VCR, and it started in the middle of one of his films, already in the player.
One of Ervin’s pudgy unattractive two-bagger daughters was married to some pudgy unattractive guy who was barely employed, I think as a bartender. His other daughter, a bit better-looking (a one-bagger), was engaged to a computer dork named, I swear, Nimrod.
Nimrod may have known computers but his social skills were non-existent. It was like he was schizoid or autistic. I had never met anyone as clueless as him when it came to other people. He was also about 5’3” and at 19 had a bad heart that caused him to pass out while sitting on the toilet.
There was an old corrupt drunk, whose name was John. who was in charge of the county taxis. Every year he would come out and put the squeeze on Ervin for a two grand bribe. I saw him once in Ervin’s office and I could tell from Ervin’s body language Ervin was scared of him.
One of the other owners of a cab company, whom Ervin had to deal with, was a 75-year-old woman who had stabbed her husband about 12 times, put a little cut on her arm, hid in the closet, and told the police a homicidal maniac had done it.
And damn if she didn’t get away with it. I met her once and at her age she was wearing mini-skirts and go-go boots (stuck in the ’60s, I guess). I have never seen anything like her before or since.
Ray told me her drivers (including him) would tell her, “Oh baby, you’re looking hot today,” and she would simper and think they were serious.
Ray only had a right hand, having blown the left one off when he was 21, drunk and stoned, and playing with fireworks. His nickname, not surprisingly, was Hook. He told me a cop had arrested him once and had no idea what to do with the cuffs.
As for Ervin, he kept telling the same stories over and over. The most interesting things in his life happened when he was a kid in Hungary, and after he came here when he was 11, apparently all he did was work and make money.
He once told me he saw the Germans blow up a bridge with their own troops on it, to keep it from falling into the hands of the Allies. Once he got here, the most interesting thing he saw was power windows on a car.
This was Ervin’s life! One time Ray and I were discussing him, and I asked him if he would take Ervin’s money if he had to have Ervin’s life, and couldn’t get out of it. He said no. I also said no.
Anyone can be rich. All you have to do is work all the time and not have a life. Then you’ll end up 65 years old, with ten million dollars, and nothing else.
It reminds me of that saying, “What does it profit a man if he gains the world and loses his soul?” It’s true.