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It only took 75 hours per week to earn a living driving Taxi in Thunder Bay in 1985

Don Taylor wrote “Stories from the Road” based upon favourite stories told around the campfire with family and friends. Photo: Don Taylor

by Don Taylor, excerpted from “Stories from the Road” used with permission

The Roach’s Taxi owner and I weren’t what you’d call friends, but we did share a mutual respect. When we were short staffed, he knew he could count on me to put in extra hours. I certainly did put them in.

There were times I’d work a twenty-one-hour day, go home, sleep for six or seven hours, then get back in the car again. My boss learned to see the signs I was burning out long before I did. More than once, after two or three weeks of burning the candle from both ends (as well as in the middle), some stupid little thing would set me off.

I’d storm into his office, tear a strip off him, telling him, in no uncertain terms, what he could do with his company, his cars, along with which ever dispatcher had just pushed me over the edge. My tirade would last ten or fifteen minutes, during which time he would just turn in his chair to face me, intertwine his fingers, and rock gently. I’d storm out of the office trailing smoke from my ears, muttering a string of expletives that would make a sailor blush, and go golfing for a week to clear my head.

About a week later, he’d call asking if I was ready to return to work. I’d humbly reply “Yes” along with an apology. He’d laugh it off, telling me it wasn’t a big deal. He knew the blow-up was coming. He’d just sit through it (I don’t even know if he was listening or not). He knew that if I had a week to play golf and decompress, I’d be ready to go again.

We eventually normalized my schedule to a seventy-four-and-a-half-hour work week. Instead of the seven in the morning until eight in the evening I was currently working, my new schedule was from seven a.m. to six p.m., Monday to Thursday. On Friday I was in the car by eight in the morning, driving until half-past-two Saturday morning. After a few hours’ sleep, I was on duty for another twelve-hour shift. This time I started at two-thirty in the afternoon, ending at half-past-two Sunday morning. I was then off the clock until Monday morning, when the routine started all over again. This schedule lasted until I found an opportunity to pursue another passion of mine, music.

Sometime in 1986, a friend of mine called told me his band was looking for a drummer. They played country, country-rock, and oldies-rock. I had been playing drums recreationally since I was a teen. I jumped at the opportunity. Off I went to an audition, where we ran through three songs. The only one I recall was Kenny Roger’s Lucille. The only reason I remember that, was because of the time signature (a time signature tells the musician what beats and notes to play). Lucille was a 3/4 whereas most songs are 4/4. For a musician, the unusual time signatures can be difficult to play. To challenge me, they threw me a more difficult song. This however, was not a problem. Because I could also sing (or more accurately, caterwaul in key), I got the job.

Our band played in a few local bars as well as some of the Canadian Legions in the city. Then we headed out on the road for a brief spell. My boss at Roach’s was kind enough to give me a leave of absence for a few weeks to pursue this venture. We were gone about a month playing bars in Saskatchewan and Manitoba. There were some ups and downs. Our adventures included me almost killing (literally) our bassist in a laundromat. We were doing laundry some place in Saskatchewan, and he said “I bet I could fit in that dryer.” I told him I’d give him $10 if he could squeeze himself in there. He did squeeze into the dryer, and I immediately closed the door, inserted a quarter, and turned it on. I only let him tumble twice before I opened the door to let him out. He wasn’t very impressed, but eventually saw the humour in it. He also had the scare of his life when one of his evening “conquests” left before he woke up, but not before writing “Welcome to the world of AIDS” on the mirror in lipstick. Turned out to be a false alarm, but it didn’t stop him from chasing waitresses, bar patrons, or any other suitable female he spotted.

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“Stories from the Road” by Don Taylor is available in hard copy, paperback and downloadable electronic file at Friesen Press.