Sunday, November 9, 2008

A rookie ear

I was a rookie once. It's hard to imagine, for me or anybody else, but 20 years ago I was an innocent, smiling cab driver who had visions of helping nice grandmotherly little old ladies to the door everytime. If it was a choice between me making an extra 5 bucks and helping that little old lady to the door, I passed up the 5 bucks.

The first assault on that innocence will come from the dispatchers. You'll sometimes hear them say to a new driver, "You handle the radio very well, have you driven a cab before?"

Dispatchers talk really fast, you won't be able to understand a word they say for the first 2 or 3 weeks when it's busy. The smart thing to do, is not even try. Work a few Saturday and Sunday day shifts, to begin to get an ear for it. If the dispatcher on those initial days is a nice guy, he'll even tell you what you're doing wrong and patiently tell you not to do it like you're doing it and tell you what you should have said. If it's not very busy, the dispatcher can 'follow you around', that is remember what you're doing, and ask you for bids. A bid is when you ask for a call.

The first time I ever attempted a weekday, I was near St. Mary's, and there was a call at the 5 points going almost right to the office. So, I asked for it. I was empty, dead heading to the office, it fit right in with what I was doing. I probably asked for it something like this, "60 at Park and Emerald, needing to check in. Does that 1100 Vilas going to 500 S. Dickenson fit with me?" The guy on the radio was not a nice guy, it was Louie.

Louie came back with, "60 that's not how we bid. Try it again, and do it right this time."

So, I tried some varaitions of the first attempt, and he came back with progressively impatient replys. I tried about 4 times and gave up. I drove past the call, and drove straight to the office and checked in. I was sitting there doing my envelope when Roy Boy came in and offered appology for Louie. I wasn't real happy about driving past money, but I told him I'd make money inspite of the dispatcher.

The drivers room after a recent Saturday night 3p-3a, prepairing to drop my envelope.

The guy who'd taken me on my training was Bobby. Instead of teaching me how to bid, he'd bid on all the calls, and then sent me running into the companies to pick up the deliveries. Bobby kept the money on those shifts, and got paid for training a greenhorn driver. They have since changed the system, the trainee keeps the money, and the trainer simply gets paid. Showing the greenhorn how to use the radio, is required.

There are a lot of things that will tick off a dispatcher. Lying to the dispatcher will be remembered for months, perhaps years, and if you're a rookie, you might not even realize you're lying. Inappropriate bids, from too far away, or asking for something you think fits but he doesn't think fits, will be remembered for days, perhaps weeks, again, a rookie isn't doing it intentionally. This said, we have people who lie constantly, do inappropriate stuff constantly, and everybody knows it, but they're not rookies. Sleazy isn't tolerated in rookies. It's not easy being sleazy, you need to have mastered all the skills to do it and get away with it.

After you reach the point where you can hear what the guys saying, you still have to listen to all of it. You won't be able to listen selectively, that comes after about 2 years. How long it will take to know what's appropriate varies with the kinds of shifts you drive.

1 comment:

In_spired said...

You're not as young as I thought when I first started reading your blog!!

You have a book going here. You should publish it. I'll buy the first copy!!