As every writer should at least once in his life, I’ve been moonlighting as a cab driver. Along with a few extra dollars, there’s the fringe benefit of getting a fresh look at Summit County. I’ve lived here since 1996, but generally don’t stray too far from my daily trade routes to and from the trailhead, the post office or the grocery store.
Driving a taxi is different. You go where you’re needed, not where you feel like going. That means driving along the wandering maze of residential streets just outside Breckenridge, where tilted 70s-era log cabins sit next to McMansions that haven’t been lived in even for a single day since they were built during the housing boom in the early 2000s.
Last week, I also learned where the Breckenridge impound yard is. A tourist from Chicago left his car overnight in a no-parking zone. That resulted in a call to 453-TAXI: “Come and get me NOW, please.”
Our local police force is generally tolerant of tourist shenanigans, so he must have left it blocking a hydrant. Based on our short conversation during the ride, he won’t be back any time soon.
After the obligatory pleasantries, most passengers fall into conversation among themselves, almost as if the driver isn’t there. Like a fly on the wall, you can hear it all.
What do tourists really think of our little mountain paradise? Breckenridge, where I pick up most of my passengers, is overpriced and overrated, but still a nice change from Peoria, according to the snippets from the backseat.
That’s the consensus, and it’s reflected in the tips. Most out-of-towners add a dollar or two, whatever the fare, and try to get away from the cab as fast as they can without making any more eye contact.
It’s the locals who keep the wheels greased. The tattooed gal going from her condo on Ridge Street to her job as a drinks cart driver at the golf course throws me a tenspot, as does the bartender heading into town to work the Sunday brunch shift. Even the town drunk pushes a wad of crumpled dollar bills into my hand after I take him home from the Gold Pan Saloon.
“Gotta keep the mountain love going,” he says before stumbling out of the cab and down his driveway.[ Image by Lucid Nightmare ]