How Do You Stay Alert on a Long Shift?

01/31/2007 12:00 AM |

We actually fell asleep three times trying to write this intro. Of course, we wrote this at 3:35pm, the very heart of the dreaded mid-afternoon doldrums. So, if we can’t even stay awake during a measly eight-hour shift, how do the cabbies manage to do it for twelve?
   

Kader
Where I hailed him: Midtown East
Where he hails from: Pakistan
Years as a cabbie: 7
Previous profession: Waiter
The dayshift isn’t too hard because of all the traffic and people, and that keeps you alert. At night I drink coffee. You don’t want to take a nap or stop driving because every minute you aren’t driving you lose money — and you’ve got to pay the rent on the car. So, coffee… and the radio.
   
Raphael
Where I hailed him: West Village
Where he hails from: Trinidad & Tobago
Years as a cabbie: 5
Previous profession:  Livery cab driver
Coffee, No Doze… whatever it takes. You can’t fall asleep on this job. I don’t take the pills too often, but sometimes it’s the only thing that works. When my daughter was a baby, it was even tougher. She’d keep me awake at night and I’d start work pretty tired. It’s better now. Mainly, I just drink some coffee and I’m fine. Talking to people like you helps. It can get really boring in here some days.    
   
Arif
Where I hailed him: Chelsea
Where he hails from: Pakistan
Years as a cabbie: 2
Previous profession: Student
Sometimes I am working for longer than 12 hours. I need my sleep! But I need my money too! I stop in for tea every two hours. That helps. Sometimes I try to pull over to a place where taxis are allowed to park and close my eyes, just for 15 minutes. It’s stressful, you know?

Yevgheny
Where I hailed him:
  Upper East Side

Where he hails from:
  Russia

Years as a cabbie:
10

Previous profession:
Engineer
I turn the radio on, I turn it off, I turn it on, and off. The difference is good for staying awake. If I leave it on the whole time, it makes me sleepy. If I’m feeling good I listen to classical music. If I’m feeling sleepy — I never listen to classical. I listen to the news when I’m tired — for something harsh. At the end of 12 hours, it’s always the news. 1010 WINS… CBS 880… Things like that.

Malik
Where I hailed him: Gramercy
Where he hails from: Pakistan
Years as a cabbie: 10

Previous profession:
Odd jobs
Every day I try to take lunch at a different restaurant. I take about an hour and try to relax. And then after lunch I take one cup of tea. I never take a nap or anything, I just take one cup of tea and rest for an hour during lunch. Sometimes if I am feeling sleepy I’ll take another cup of tea later. Tea — always tea — that’s what I drink during my shift.

Felipe
Where I hailed him: East Village
Where he hails from: Ecuador
Years as a cabbie: 15
Previous profession: Painter
I think for everybody it is different. Like me, for example: I own this car, so I can take a break if I want to. Sometimes I’ll take two or three hours in the middle of the day — do some errands. But, anyway, no one actually drives the full 12-hour shift. The shift is five to five, but really everyone drives about nine hours. Nothing is happening in the morning until seven or so, so they get the car, they have breakfast, and then they get out on the streets after an hour or two — then at the end of the day, they have to fill up the tank, get back to the garage — so the real shift people work is more like seven to four.