She took a cab home one night and struck up a conversation with her driver about he got to be a taxi driver.
“He was so funny, he was hilarious, we had such a good time all the way through my trip and then I turned to him and said I should be a cab driver. He told me I should be,” said Jodi Collins, who at the time was a stay at home mom.
She thought there was a stigma about who drives a cab and she was a put off by the thought of it — for about a minute.
“I looked at him and I looked at his personality and I thought you know what? Maybe this is something I could do,” she said.
That was over a year ago. Now Collins is the owner of two taxi cabs and runs a small staff.
“Prior to being a stay-at-home-mom I was in the service industry for many years but got out of it and I am so happy to be back in it,” explained Collins. “This (cab driving) is a service industry, you have to like people.”
Collins sees her taxi cabs as her own little business on the road and she gets out of it what she puts into it.
“You can dictate how much you want to make per-day, and what you want to do with your business,” she said.
The former bartender likes to drive at night where the tips are higher, the trips are longer and the characters of her clients are more eclectic.
“People get in and are like ‘ahhh, you’re a woman,” yells Collins. “Yes, I am a woman. Here is my autograph.”
There are about six female taxi drivers with Checkmate Cabs in Kelowna, most of whom prefer to drive during the day.
“I think some people think it’s a safety issue being a woman driving around at night, but you are dealing with people. I don’t choose to look at people that way, I don’t go into my job thinking I am going to get hurt today, no one wants that,” she said. “But, I could walk across the street and get hurt. I am not going to live my life in fear.”
The people that you meet and the unpredictability of where your day will go is why Collins enjoys driving a taxi for a living.
“The stories that you hear are inspirational and the people I have met are amazing,” said Collins. “It’s like the bartender or the hair dresser, you get that interaction with people. You hear their stories and you tell them stories, that is the main reason I am in this it’s the people for sure.”
One her favourite and craziest stories is from the first weekend she was behind the wheel in her new job.
She was tidying up after her last passengers left a little bit of a mess, before picking up her next client, when she discovered something unexpected.
“I found toe nail clippings. Not just one, like 10 toe nail clippings,” she laughs. “My next client is showing up and getting in and I gasp. He asked ‘what’, so I told him I just found toe nail clippings. We laughed. Who does this, and why didn’t I hear them clipping their toes?”
Collins says the biggest misconception about taking a cab in Kelowna is not the lack of cars or competition, but the number of adequate and professional drivers.
“We have all these ride share programs coming to B.C. and they are still a cab company – it’s a glorified way to say taxi. But we need to always be on top of the changes in the industry so we can keep up,” she explained. “We are all still passenger transportation, and at the end of the day we are all the same. We are moving with the changes and we just need good drivers that recognize this as a good industry to be in.”
READ MORE: Behind the wheel: Taxi driving as a career
This story is the second of a three part series, titled Behind the wheel, a look at whose driving business in Kelowna.