The Road Less Traveled sometimes Leads You Back…


To those who are aware I’ve been working on a particular post… This isn’t it, it’s just a quick diversion from what I’m working on…

As I stated previously in my About I work for both a police department and for AFLAC. I’ve been with the police for 12 years now and continue to do so, however, my status with AFLAC has changed. I have AFLAC insurance and have had it for over 10 years now, I got it through the PD. It’s good insurance for what it does.

For those of you who are unsure what A.F.L.A.C. is, it basically pays you money when you go to a doctor visit (wellness visits) or the hospital, the money is paid directly to you so that you can spend it on expenses either medical or personal. The amount paid is based on type of coverage and type of medical issue. A.F.L.A.C. stands for American Family Life Assurance Company. Which is not affiliated nor connected to American Family Life Insurance Company.

Insurance agents for AFLAC are all independent and have 100% commission based incomes. Which in down economy trying to convince people that they need the insurance when they themselves are struggling to pay their monthly bills is somewhat problematic.

The job the itself wasn’t bad, I enjoyed the people at the office immensely they were friendly, helpful and fun to talk to. The office I was connected to was in the north loop a very nice location near public transportation which made getting around the city quick and easy. In fact I think the morning and evening commutes on the buses and the “Els” were perhaps the most enjoyable. Sure, the evening commutes were a bit crowded but the 6am bus to the train and the morning “El” trips were relatively uncrowded and gave me a chance to enjoy the Chicago loop at the time when things were getting open in anticipation of the busy business day ahead. I also immensely enjoying canvasing being out walking around the city of Chicago going through the various neighborhoods talking to small business owners, seeing the local sites, any big city is a treasure trove of odd and unusual architecture, small relatively unknown memorials to people, places and events past that have slipped from the public eye and become footnotes the communities in which they exist. Even the streets themselves tell a story of the small towns that were absorbed by Chicago .

800px-Austin_Town_Hall

One of the towns annexed by Chicago was the town of Austin once a wealthy subdivision of Cicero Township (now the town of Cicero). Built a copy of the actual Independence Hall as their town hall. The general high-minded attitudes of the Austin residents caused the surrounding towns (Oak Park, Berwyn, River Forest) to propose and get passed the annexation to Chicago despite the objections of Austin residents. (photo courtesy of Wikipedia)

It was during these journeys around the city and surrounding suburbs that I found myself passing the cab company where I used to be a driver. At first I thought I might go in and try to sell them on AFLAC but I had heard that they had downsized the staff that they had from the days when I was an independent driver for them back in the nineties but the prospects for AFLAC were looking slimmer and slimmer  as I made my way through the city streets looking for the all elusive clients that might some day comprise my future financial security. So thought it was time to try using some of my “sphere of influence” contacts. Those are what they call it in sales when you solicit business from friends, family and other people you know.

I’m not sure if was the posts to my blog or the memories of adventures themselves but I found myself staring at the new building and thinking to myself; “It would be a steady income and AFLAC it’s working out.”  but of course that was followed by; “It’s long hours and it’s a rough way to make money.” There’s always been an urge in me to go back to driving. Any driver will tell you that there is definitely an allure to the job, being your own boss, making your own hours and the street-life. Some people never quite shake it, hitting buttons on the cabs computer is in some ways like playing a slot machine you never know what you’re going to get after you push the button. The order can be something short, mundane, or just plain annoying. But, every once and awhile the machine spits out a good trip or one that’s a challenge or at least interesting…

So with all these thoughts milling around in my head I knew I had a decision to make. Leave AFLAC and pursue something new or go back to the crazy world of driving a hack. So think I did, I spent several days with this decision constantly playing in my head as I carefully weighed the pluses and minuses. I finally settled on a compromise, I’d try to sell them AFLAC and if that didn’t work I’d try my hand at going back to driving.

So I scheduled a time to come in and talk to them, but I knew as I walked down Roosevelt road towards the company that my insides were telling me to go back. Comparing each of the jobs AFLAC is sadly a money pit when you first get your start until you make your first sale and even then you don’t start making money until you have 30 or 40 policies written the typical agent’s goal is to hit 300 policies written with the agent managing them and the need to cold call, canvas, and advertise drops to a minimum because of referrals.  Driving a cab though you take home cash everyday, well almost every day.

It didn’t take long during the interview to switch from insurance to driving though I was also being considered to work in dispatch. They were interested to possibly bring me inside because of my time handling calls with the PD and my time dispatching tow trucks for Amoco. So instead of selling them AFLAC I came back as a driver.

I officially started a few days later after I got my Oak Park and Forest Park chauffeur licenses, when I went in to pick up a cab I got a weekly lease car. These days instead of day driving all cars are leased by the week or in half leases, two drivers each have access to the car 12 hours a day.  I hopped in pulled out of the lot and back to work it was.  The car was a Ford Crown Victoria Police Package, cab companies like the old police car for cabs, the heavy-duty suspensions take a beating that standard luxury suspensions normally associated with big sedans can’t match, in fact the luxury suspensions don’t even come close. Along with the improved suspension the cars are also are re-tuned for performance their on-board engine computers contain redesigned chips that deliver substantial power and acceleration again out classing their gentile counter-parts but this advantage comes with serious draw-backs. The first and most notable is the gas mileage, because of the added weight of the re-enforced suspension and performance improvements the cars top out at about 15 mpg though most average in at 10 mpg in the city and city driving is the bread and butter of cab driving. The Chevy Impala I drove with them back in the 90’s was also a police packaged car but I swear it got better gas mileage, then again gas was still in the $2 range per gallon not the $4.25 it is these days…

So there I was the first day back was kind of cathartic, they had me spend a few hours running around with a driver the day before so I could get re-acquainted with the new computers they had installed and upgraded to since my time driving back in the nineties. Basically the operation of the terminals was exactly the same as when I drove last time except now the company knows exactly where you are what speed and direction your going and can download images from the camera inside the car to see what’s going on when the need arises. Most of the drivers also added GPS navigation to the cars as a way get around especially in areas they were unfamiliar with.

 I personally think that maps though harder to use while driving make you a better driver. When you use a map as opposed to gps you also get a perspective on where things are in relation to each other. Gps only tells you where to go unless you take the time to play with its settings then it will show you a map but on a 2×4 inch screen you still don’t see as much as you do with a regular map or map book.

The driver they had me ride with was a nice enough guy and as it turns out had formerly been an agent with Farmers Insurance. Though like me his experience had been less than satisfactory. However, I discovered that Farmer’s though they do offer a draw to new agents (unlike Aflac) if you don’t sell with them they understandably expect to be paid back. So when he left he owed them a tidy sum of money that he eventually did pay back. My “training day”  went well I was able to jump right back in as far as the computer went and I was able to show him a better way to route packages we had picked up by driving to the furthest one away first and working our way back to areas where we normally worked. His gps wanted to do the trip the reverse of what I wanted to do which would have left us way out of the cab companies normal operation areas requiring us to dead-head back all the way to town.

I spent a about a month driving the cab before I got the call to come in from streets and start my new and current job with company as a dispatcher. The guys at the PD were at first amazed that I’d go back to driving, given the activities going on in the areas around us and the fact that the company covers those areas and I’d be on the streets unarmed and without back-up if trouble arose. As I explained to them, I drove for years in areas that most of them wouldn’t go into unarmed and at times when they wouldn’t want to be there even if they were.

I told them about the time back in the 90’s I had a call to Stateway Gardens at 2am on a hot summers night with a couple of hundred people milling about trying to escape 90 degree temperatures. as I pulled up I spotted a Chicago police cruiser and pulled up right behind it while I waited for my passenger. They must have noticed me behind them because as soon I had 407 in park the police started their car and left. Leaving me with large dollar signs on my doors and a bunch of hot sweaty, tired working poor people intermixed with gang bangers, prostitutes, drug addicts, and homeless people. I was there I thought to pick-up a regular rider going back to Oak Park an elderly woman who had family living in the gardens and would frequently cab it down to see them. Instead a young man approached the car and leaning in the open passenger side window asked me; “You here for Smith?” I replied I was and he said; “That’s me” and got into the back of the cab. I looked at him and said; “You don’t look like an elderly woman?” to which he replied; “That’s my auntie, I need to go to 80th and Ellis drop off some keys to my uncle and then we’re coming back here.” I started chuckling; “C’mon man you called me down here for a drug run? I’m sorry, but we aren’t going to 80th and Ellis that would and illegal trip for me to even take you one way and I don’t have the $600.00 dollars they’d fine me if I got caught taking you city to city. I don’t do drug runs, but if you like I’ll take you to Oak Park and maybe you can visit with auntie instead.” “No, you sure you won’t do it I got money” he replied. “Nope, don’t do drug runs under any circumstances, but I will give you some friendly advice. I was already in the loop when I caught your call, but if you keep doing this and the company will stop picking up your aunt here, they don’t like drug runs either. I’m not going say anything cause this wasn’t a far chase for me but some guys will complain about it and you’ll end up having to explain to your aunt why she can’t get a cab home.” “Aw no way my auntie would kick my ass if she knew, cool man thanks.” With that he got out and I put the car in gear and pulled a quick u-turn and got the hell out of there…

So here I am back to work at the cab company. It’s good, the regular paychecks certainly don’t hurt and I still work for the police around my current schedule. Now I just have to figure out how to get back to school, I had to take a hiatus when I started with AFLAC and still haven’t been able to arrange time to go back, but I will. After all a guy has to have a little fun…

Will I be incorporating new stories in with stories from my time as a driver? Perhaps, but not until I run out of those stories…

Cab 121 retouched

“Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more.” Shakespeare’s, Henry V, Act III, 1598

About MartyW47

Attending Triton College. Studying Emergency Services Management & Criminal Justice. Currently employed @ MPPD & Aflac. After 30 years out of school I'm back in College and having a Blast!
This entry was posted in General Thoughts, Life in all it's glorious facets and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to The Road Less Traveled sometimes Leads You Back…

  1. reocochran says:

    I did NOT see this ending coming! Also, thank you for telling a completely interesting story that covered the whole story. I sometimes read blogs where I have a lot of questions due to holes or gaps in their time sequence and I want to know more but don’t have the time to write back and forth! I am so surprised nothing bad happened to you with the drug running “aunt pick up” story, either! I am excited but where will you get the energy to do this again? Love the photograph and background, too. Your riding bus to the El into Chicago, reminds me of when I was 12 or 13 years old, my parents used to let me ride a bus from a west Cleveland suburb (Bay Village) to the Cleveland Airport, then get on the Rapid Transit to tool around, window shop and ride the elevator up and down the Tower! While my current girlfriend that lived in Buckeye Valley School district (met in Delaware, Oh) was allowed to ride up and down her lane on the farm!! Many exciting more stories for you to tell, bring forth more memories too, I bet, Marty!

    • MartyW47 says:

      Thank you Robin! Public transit is enjoyable when buses and trains aren’t too busy are fun when they’re not too crowded and when your a kid it gives you greater mobility thats for sure. When I was a kid myself and friends rode the buses and trains all over place from Indiana, the old South Shore branch (also known as the vomit comet, unofficially of course. ;)) to the northern Chicago suburbs (the Skokie Swift and the Evanston Express), airports, and Chinatown. The return to the company has brought back a lot of memories. sadly though all the drivers I’ve talked about in my cab posts to date have retired, moved on to other jobs or passed away. Though, there are a few left from those days that remembered me and some of the people in the office remembered me as well. and a couple of the dispatchers are still around too. One of whom told me they remembered me for my “legendary” customer service, was a pleasant surprise!

  2. Cab Driver Confessions…? I see lots of material in your future!!

    • MartyW47 says:

      Thanks Karen! I do have a lot of memories from back in those days… The ones that I’ve already written about are but a few, more will put into words soon… 🙂

  3. Yay maps! Hate gps. Good luck on the road Marty.

    • MartyW47 says:

      Thanks Mimi! But I’m actually working inside now…. I did drive for about a month but have since moved into the office.. where I’m now responsible for 60 cabs not just one… 🙂

  4. Let me get this straight: You work for the police; got recently hired by the cab company; and you are planning to send yourself back to school. My dear Martin, how will you be able to find time for sleep then? 🙂
    Seriously, I feel happy that you have found the road to a better job path. It’s like a new beginning which we all crave for from time to time. What truly matters is whether you love your work that you go to everyday of your life. If you are being fairly compensated as well, much better. You made the wise decision of quitting AFLAC – and you have stayed safer getting off the streets, too, now that you have shifted to office work. Things seem to be looking brighter ahead, I believe.
    I hope you will always find time to write for us, your readers, here.

    Wishing you well,
    Marj

    • MartyW47 says:

      Of course I will keep writing Marj! Yes the compensation is good, and I do like the job. I’ll have to slow down the number of classes I’m taking but that’s OK. I like the whole taking classes experience…

Please feel free to reply to anything posted here! I'm always happy for feedback good or bad... Thanks!

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s