I have seen few if any movies that portrayed hacking as it really is. Actually, if you see a cab drive up, let someone out, and then see that person pay the driver, you've witnessed at least 95% of what it's like to drive a cab. That's it. However, it can have it's rare exciting moments.
The one cab driver you will not likely see is a drunk cab driver. I cannot exaggerate how vigorously this was nipped in the bud. 0 tolerance and we,as drivers, saw no shame or stigma (rat!) attached to informing on a drinking driver.
"Running the meter" was a waste of time for a good, productive, driver. If you made a habit of screwing the customer,that was quickly ascertained and just as quickly punished. The customer was treated by the management as always being right. This ethic was rationalized thusly: We were self insured so legal costs were direct to the company and chargeable to us in the form of rate increases that we paid THEM, the company. We could not afford an army of dissatisfied customers just waiting in the wings ready to exploit an accident or mishap to enact revenge on the stand in court. Virtually everyone in the city liked us and would readily say so.
We were not all losers. Most were misfits, I guess, but we as a community of drivers led very normal lives in houses, trailers, and good apartments. Wives, ex-wives, kids, adopted kids, pets, the whole bit. The gun toting weirdo in "Taxi" would be quickly observed and watched closely.
In that time,we did NOT have to carry anyone who opened the door,whether they called us or not. Most of us owned our cars,so we could not risk it to an idiot's drunken behavior. I never took a really drunk female home without an escort. I would simply refuse. Cleaning vomit outta your cab in a way that would immediately kill the smell was impossible and that condition put you outta work. You paid the co. whether you drove or not.
We had a pay system common enough here in the South. We were not paid anything by the company. We paid THEM at a fixed rate whether we drove or not. Your "vacation" was 2 free weeks. Insurance was about $7,000.00 a year. Radio fees, etc., were about $8,000.00.
The cops liked us. We were a "Known". Chances were that if an incident took place involving a driver and a crime, the driver was the victim. We had a cop tell a small group of us at a stand "I wouldn't do your job without a gun". He was projecting. In 6 years,I only had one attempted robbery.
I never pimped. I knew prostitutes, liked many of them, but never got into that. In a total of about 100 drivers, there were never more than 2 or 3 that were active pimps.
I never bootlegged and didn't know anyone who did. I would not hesitate to purchase and deliver any legal substance or item, though.
In small towns, any car may be a cab. In big cities, cars and vans are bought new for the service. In modest sized towns like Charleston, where the attrition is no more than 10 or so cabs a month, ex police cars are bought at auction. That's why you will see so many Ford Crown Vics. (The fastest cab I had was a '90 Chev Impala, ex highway patrol car. It would smoke the tires off the stand and all the way down the street, no excuses)
There is NO worse customer than a drunk redneck.
The most numerous customer "group", would be single, black, female parents going to or from daycare or the grocery store. The next was tourists.
The money was good but required 70-80 hours of sitting in your car and listening to the Motorola. I used to read or play electronic chess games. I and other drivers would do an occasional "$1000 week" just to put a few extra $$$ in the bank and be helpful on busy weekends. I worked 24 hrs straight from 6AM Fri to 6AM Sat without fail every week. Funny: When Hugo devastated Charleston, our biz exploded. We had been a "private cab" service (1 call a ta time) but suspended the rules to handle the extra traffic. Hugo, a disaster, made me an extra $10,000.00 in about 2 years.
On female drivers: I had to do a 3 day training ride-a-long and my instructor was a guy named Mike. He got a call involving 8 passengers so I had to be put out until Mike could come back and get me. A woman driver named Helen volunteered to pick me up and let me finish the day with her. She informed me that cab driving was safe...for her. But her husband was Jim, a huge guy,who was also "on the air" while she was. I would never reccomend cab driving to a shapely young female. But..for a woman of some sturdiness who wishes to make good money with totally flexible hours, hacking may be your thing.
In summary, I can reccomend cab driving. If you like cars and DRIVING, you can do it. If you like keeping a clean and dependable ride, you have the only equipment you need. In 1986, it cost me about $4,000.00 to start and we can assume it would cost at least twice that much now. BUT...it is an honorable and productive occupation and a good first small business.