Independent Lens

FULL EPISODE

Why Cab Driving in Jamaica Is a Tough Job | Ep. 3

With help and inspiration from experienced Jamaican taxi drivers Dean and Stacy (one of the first female drivers they've met in Kingston) the Brodie brothers explore the possibilities of running a taxi service on their own. Will their venture be successful? Maybe, maybe not, but they have a good time getting behind the wheel to both fantasize and learn why shuttling people around Jamaica is hard.

AIRED: September 21, 2020 | 0:11:57
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TRANSCRIPT

-My kind of car kinda gives me an edge on the road.

The kind of taxi operation I do is straight charter.

It's both business and personal.

If I am going to a party, I use it the same way.

Sometimes, you have people eat and drop in it,

and they form insects

so I put up some signs -- "No eating, no drinking."

People comment on it like,

"ride cool, have a lot of space, comfort wise.

Surround sound, AC feels good" -- all of that.

You know, just to make sure you have a relaxed trip.

Don't care how far you are going.

♪♪

-We're Ron and Don Brodie, first-generation Jamericans.

When we were little, our parents would bring us to Jamaica

to learn about our heritage.

-You think this one is good? -Yeah!

-Now we're back to navigate our own route,

with help from local drivers along the way.

This is "Driver Radio: Jamaica."

♪♪

-How many different sounds do you have in your phone?

-A lot!

♪♪

-Jamaicans take pride in self-reliance.

Over 20,000 independent-operator licenses were issued in 2017.

We wanted to link with a few drivers

and explore what it might take to get our own services

up and running.

♪♪

-Business is good you know, because for me now,

I have a lot of passengers.

So I try to help everybody in the best way possible.

If someone comes in and says "You know a good taxi man?"

And they kinda pass my number on.

So, like, one person knows me,

then it turns to two, three, four, and goes on.

-Staying savvy and keeping his ride crisp helps Dean stand out.

In a nation like this one, it's not easy.

-Anything you do, you have to have a cut off point.

[ Whistle blows ]

-Sunday's my football day.

That's my only form of exercise.

♪♪

Sometimes people call me when I'm off the road.

Sometimes I'm even close to the pick up,

but I end up sending somebody else.

♪♪

[ Dogs barking ]

♪♪

-Whoa!

Hey Ron, take a look at this.

-What do we have here?

What? Is that for sale?

-Looks like it's got all we need!

-Looks like an old taxi, man.

-If it needs some work,

do you think we could get something like this running?

-A lemon? That's a non-starter.

Feeling inspired, we radioed for a car

to take us window shopping at a near-by auto park.

-My name is Stacy-Ann Lattie, and I'm in the taxi business.

-We wanna go to a car dealership and check out some cars

if you don't mind. -Okay.

I'm a people person.

That gives me my clientele.

That builds my clientele.

I just always loved driving.

-You're one of the first female drivers we've ever met.

What made you pick us up?

-You know you would more rather travel

with a female than a male.

I never really had that feeling like, "Oh, Jesus,

these guys make me feel scared."

You know?

Being a passenger,

I've never experienced that before.

Sometimes they come in and they don't have a conversation.

They just sit right through the journey, and that's it.

The streets are rough here,

but it does not stop you from driving a taxi.

-Look at that, Dean.

What is he doing to your soccer field?

-Oh, he's messing up our field.

But he's not supposed to do that,

because the guys nearly ruined their feet the other day.

-Oh, no. -Yeah, dig up the field.

-These people are mad out here, you know.

We have to bring them anyway.

We have to bring the good, the bad, the ugly.

We have to bring everybody.

♪♪

-Don and I were just wondering.

We've been doing so much research

into the taxi-driving profession.

And we saw a car for sale.

We had this wild idea that we could maybe

drive taxis ourselves.

-I honestly wouldn't recommend buying that car.

As I said, you're trying to build your clientele, you know.

So you have to deal with comfort.

♪♪

-Whoa, dude. Look at this car, man!

-Yo, this is exactly what we were talking about.

[ Laughs ]

-Look at all the Mario trim dude!

-This was it --

The car we dreamt of as kids.

-Wow, would you look at that?!

-Body drop kit, performance exhaust system,

animated trim.

This car screams "Look at me!"

-My bad, we were just checking it out.

-Reality 1. Dreams -- still searching.

-The phone volume is low.

That's when somebody calls me now,

I can just press the button on the earphones and answer them.

-So you are not listening to music.

-No, I am not listening to any music.

Yeah, I am going to wash the car now.

-Do you own this car or is this yours

or do you drive this for somebody?

-No, I'm driving for someone.

-In this business, driving and owning

don't often come hand in hand.

-So the owner actually likes the car.

-When he saw it for the first time,

he was kinda wondering if it's still his vehicle.

[ Laughs ] Yes.

We have to have a certain way

to make the passengers attracted to the vehicle.

Drawn to it, you understand?

So we try to put a little graffiti on it.

The windows are always up so they are going to say -

"Okay, this is one of the vehicles

that always has AC on,

so I will travel with this one."

It's fast. It a 2.4 liter.

♪♪

It has a setting where it has a couple cameras on it.

Anyone walks around the vehicle, it shows you.

This here -- DVD right here.

Just to keep passengers comfortable

while we're trying to load the vehicle.

-Hello! -You doing okay?

-You have to have many personalities as a taxi man.

-Passengers come in the car, if they are having a bad day,

you have to counsel them and be jovial.

-Some time you have to follow people to the bank,

pick up large sums.

You have to play like a security role.

So as a taxi man, you have to have a good vehicle,

you have good hygiene.

You have to be a security.

You have to be everything, you know.

♪♪

-Alright, we're on our way. -Ready to roll.

-Drivers have their regulars.

But, unlike 'back seat culture' in the U.S.,

you're never just along for a ride.

♪♪

-My line of work is very competitive

when it comes to taxi, because you have to be sharp

and looking out for the passengers,

get them in your vehicle and stuff, you understand?

5,000 more vehicles out there

with drivers who try and compete against you

to load their vehicle

while you're trying to load your vehicle also.

It's kinda rough.

♪♪

-Hi, good morning! How can I assist you today?

-We want to check out an AD wagon.

-Okay, no problem.

Can you come this section please?

-Nissan produced the first AD wagon in October of 1982.

-Uh, something that can hold a couple of people, you know.

-Now, in Kingston, it's a challenge to cross the road

without being bounced by one in oncoming traffic.

♪♪

[ Horn honks ]

-That's perfect, boss.

-That's good. -Alright, stop!

-Okay, so this is the 2013 Nissan AD wagon.

It's very durable, very economical in gas.

It's a 5-seater, windows are automatic,

you don't have to be winding, winding, winding.

Plenty of space.

And it's only 1,030,000 dollars.

-Oh, wow. -[ Laughs ]

-That's a little sticker shock.

-Whoa, this all sounds way too expensive.

-We hadn't even considered the color of the car

or the cool decor.

♪♪

-The famous Marcus.

-I went to a party last night. -Yeah.

-You know Boom Sunday's? -Yeah, man. Yeah.

-Yeah, so I go to Boom Sunday's, and at some point these bikes

start driving through the middle of the party.

-Oh! -Then this white BMW pulls up.

It's Popcaan, you know.

-Okie! -Them stop right there.

Like a mini concert, start.

-A lie!

-Sometimes drivers come out here,

and all they make for the day

is just money to put back gas in the car

and to pay the owner --

nothing in their pocket going home.

When you are driving for somebody,

you basically have to come out every day.

If you even take a day to relax and say you are not coming out,

you have to come another day and make-up for that day.

Which you driving for yourself,

you come out when you feel like it.

It's better driving for yourself.

♪♪

♪♪

-My car is insured as PPV redplate and all of that.

To do it the legal way,

you gotta go through like the transport authority,

get the proper markings.

And, like, if I get in an accident,

all of the passengers are covered.

With the taxi now, they are very strict.

You can't have a big sound system in your car

or stuff like that.

You gotta dress a certain way.

No sleeveless, no slippers -- stuff like that.

-What?!

Yo, I haven't even seen the lines and everything.

-Yeah. -The car looks fresh.

-Since the last time we met, remember I told you

I was gonna put the details on the car

and stuff like the strips

and the taxi sign and all of that

to make it more official, authorized.

-One and ready.

One more rider, and we're hitting the road.

-[ Laughs ]

-Day in, day out.

No one wants to be a slave to the system.

Nothing can stop you when you love what you do.

-Everybody coming into the business

because it's a good business.

Make sure it's something you really want to get into.

Make sure it is something you love.

So you can't just come out and drive taxi like that.

You have sure this is what you want

because it's not an easy job.

-After all the research and advice,

we wanted Dean's take on what it might look like

if Ron and I were to drive taxis in Jamaica.

-What's the best way for Don and I

to get into the taxi business?

-Ohh.

-You can't see me behind the wheel, Dean?

♪♪

-Nah! Can't see.

[ Both laugh ]

-Driving taxis is not an easy job.

A lot goes into the profession,

and one would need to be serious before getting on the road.

One day there will be a Twin charter.

Until then, we'll leave it up to the professionals.

♪♪

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