Dances With Words - Nick Wolochatiuk
(Photo : Seaway News)

Along with alcohol, cigarettes, convertibles, drugs and gambling, taxis have not been a big part of my lifestyle.

Whenever I needed a ride, taxis rarely met the need. Street cars, trolley buses and the subway were at my beck and call. At the end of a down-river run in a canoe, taxi service would have been further away than the length of Cornwall’s Pitt Street [almost nine km]!

However, I’ve occasionally had to resort to hailing a taxi. In June of 1967 I was at Montreal’s Expo 67, taking photographs until the wee small hours of the morning [200 am]. Bus services and the Metro were closed. But I had to get back to where my grade seven students and their chaperones were fast asleep. To hail a passing taxi, I extended my arm, my fingers splayed [my hitching thumb was also out, but not dominating]. Silently, I handed the driver a card with the destination address.

It soon became obvious that the francophone cabby was not pleased with the influx of penny-pinching Anglophone tourists. He was appalled at their lack proficiency in French. Thanks to an adequate comprehension gained through high school French courses, I understood every intolerance and rudeness he was spouting. It was obvious he was mistakenly taking me for one of the fellow locals, I remained silent throughout our 30-minute ride.

As I exited the taxi, I handed him my no-tip fare, saying, “If you ever come to visit Toronto, we’ll show you more respect than you have given me.”

I had another negative Quebec taxi experience. I had managed to thumb as far west of Montreal Island as suburban Pointe-Claire, but got stalled there. A passing taxi paused, saying, “No luck, eh! How far you going? I can take you.”



“No thanks” I replied. Fifteen minutes later, I was still thumbing, and he cruised by and solicited again. “Dorion, only ten dollars.” I took up his offer.

At Dorion, I heard his brakes squeal, and, “Vingt dollars, monsieur.” As I exited, I uttered, “You said TEN”, and handed him a ten. The air was blue with the ten-dollar bill he threw back at me – and his invective, which I shall sanitize by quoting him as having said, “You can keep your ! XX*&##!!”

I’ll finish on a positive note. I had just landed at YYT, St. John’s. Newfoundland (‘and Labrador’). It was raining, so I approached a taxi. “Downtown?”

Yes, me boy, but not straight-away. Before I gets all the way there I’m about to deliver these here six bundles of newspapers from away.”

“Fine with me.” En route I got a guided tour of points of interest, and at the end, a recommendation of just the kind of overnight accommodation I needed. As I began opening my wallet, he smiled, saying, “A big welcome to our St. John’s – no charge.”

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