will cab drivers save our economy?

I was up in Seattle for business this week, and had the pleasure of taking a number of cab rides. With that naturally come conversations with cab drivers. And let me tell you, Seattle has the friendliest and most interesting cab drivers in the world – followed by Portland and Missoula (well, there really are only two). Los Angeles…not so much.

Most cab drivers work a pretty insane amount of hours. Especially when gas prices are high, it takes them a number of hours to recoup their costs (cab lease, fuel, etc) before they actually start earning money every day. It is not uncommon for a cab driver to work twelve hours a day, six days per week.  So naturally, I have tremendous respect for cab drivers, which was only heightened these past few weeks.

A couple of weeks ago I was in Missoula where I met Mick. Mick was a former UPS driver who got sick of seeing all the gas guzzling cabs out there. Hence he started his own cab company, called Green Taxi. Mick his wife and staff chauffeur people around in their gas-saving Toyota Prius. Mick is helping save our environment and creates jobs while he’s at it. If you need a cab in Missoula, Green Taxi is the way to go.

On Thursday, I met some friends for dinner in Seattle’s Fremont District. On my way home, my cab driver’s name was Eugene who was originally from Kenia. Eugene drove his cab every day from six at night until three in the morning. Then he sleeps for three hours and work in his own grocery store from nine in the morning until three in the afternoon, after which he’d go home, nap and was back in his cab just a few hours later. Eugene was excited about starting his own grocery store and told me stories of how he’d go kill and slaughter a goat just so his customers would get the freshest meat possible. He didn’t mind the long hours, as he wasn’t able to hire anybody yet for his grocery store. But as Eugene said, no sacrifice…no success.

Yesterday, a gentleman named Freddie drove me to the airport. Freddie drove cabs ten hours a day, seven days a week. He would do this for six months out of the year, and spend the other six months living his own semi truck which he’d drive all across the country. He used to work for a different trucking company, and used the money he made from that and driving cabs to buy his own semi truck. Next year, Freddie is planning to buy another truck, hire to drivers and then just manage the operations. In the meantime,  he will give up his apartment, put a few things into storage and then live out of his truck for the next six months.

While these three examples are probably only a small slice of the overall cab driver universe, I really can’t think of any other industry that displays such a high ratio of and ambition for entrepreneurship.