SYRACUSE Back in the day, 6 a.m. buses were packed with workers heading for the factories, which then still provided the Salt City with its stability. A sense of community was infectious as those who toiled in different departments traded strategies for accessing bathrooms too distant from work stations to hold it for the time allotted to navigate long hallways. Those boarding at each corner had become so familiar that drivers would hold at a stop waiting for a delayed regular, even sending another rider to knock on a door if the delay went overlong.
Over two generations Samadee watched as the factories closed, the city population declined by 100,000, and the bus routes cut back on time and destination. Still, he rode the buses, saving considerably on the monthly payments, insurance, breakdowns, repairs and stress which accompanied acceptance of the demands of America’s car culture. The saving enabled the luxury of taxi cab rides, for destinations bus lines no longer reached, or when distance between destinations required direct and time certain conveyance, or when a sense of treating himself felt appropriate as reward for a difficult task accomplished.
Coming out of New York City, where the same cab driver might not be encountered twice in a lifetime, Samadee also discovered the comfort of making a phone call for a cab — as opposed to hailing those driving by on Big Apple streets, which, depending on the hailer’s appearance, might not result in a ride. Cab rides in Syracuse, he found, provided the bonus of on-going, if segmented, discussions with John about most recent discoveries of old school R&B, and with Vince and Jacques about politics, especially the politics of the local taxi cab industry.
Last week representatives of that industry gathered at the Atrium in City Hall Commons, drawn by a call to action in response to the latest curve ball thrown at local cab drivers.
Walt Shepperd is a weekly columnist with The Eagle.