Taxi strike brings back memories for shuttle driver

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(Host) Last week’s two-day strike by New York City cab drivers brought back memories for Margaret Jackson of Shelburne.

She spent two decades driving cab in New York and went through one cabbie strike. For the past 15 years, she’s driven shuttle buses on the University of Vermont campus.

Recently, VPR’s Ross Sneyd hopped on the bus and heard her story between bus stops.

(Sound of a bus idling, brakes squealing, door opening)

(Jackson) "I drove cab for 20 years in Manhattan."

(Sneyd) Margaret Jackson has spent most of her adult life behind the wheel of some kind of vehicle – a cab, a bus, a van.

She’s had all kinds of experiences.

(Jackson) "A guy left a gun in my cab once. I called him back. I said, `Hey you left something in my cab.’ He looked at me funny, picked up his gun and left. It was a Saturday night special. It wasn’t for any good purpose, I’ll tell you that."

(Sneyd) She’s had all kind of jobs during her 73 years.

(Jackson) "In my checkered past I was an undercover detective briefly, when I first went to New York. I’ve had a lot of different jobs. I did restaurant work. I worked for the post office a few times. I was a printer at NYU in New York – worked in the subbasement. You had to go upstairs to the basement. I was a professional classical horn player."

(Sneyd) Musical work fit perfectly with cab driving. Jackson says she could skip the cabs when she had a gig and then go back to driving when she didn’t have performances.

(Passenger) "Thanks, Margaret."

(Sneyd) About 20 years ago, she decided to settle in Vermont because she had family in the state and had visited often.

She landed a job with a transit company in Burlington that operated cabs, a van shuttle service from the airport, and limousines.

She moved to UVM shuttles five years later.

She likes the pace. The buses average about ten miles an hour on their continuous loops around campus and surrounding neighborhoods.

(Jackson) "I’m not quite as adventuresome as I was a few years ago. I mean to be driving for Morf Transit and to be driving to Mirabel Airport in a blizzard is not my thing anymore. I’ve done that. And it was interesting. It was white knuckle at times. But this suits me right now."

(Sneyd) It suits her so much that, at 73, she’s not eying retirement for a couple of years.

(Jackson) "I still like it. My grandfather drove horse and buggy till he was 85. I don’t think I’ll go till I’m 85. But I still like it and it works for me."

(Sneyd) But her driving career has been very different from anything her grandfather could have imagined.

(Jackson) "I actually drove for that company in the West Village, Dover, which is the one… Remember that TV show, Taxi?’ That’s the one. That’s the one they patterned it after. It looked exactly like that. I could point out my locker when they showed the garage there."

(Sneyd) For VPR News, I’m Ross Sneyd.

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