Sometimes, our jobs can be enlivened by the people we work with. Other times, they seem to get on our last nerve. Jerome Alexander is the ambassador of Fight the New Drug and his mission is to raise awareness on the harmful effects of pornography. In this piece, Alexander, who is also a maxi taxi driver, talks about how he manages to maintain a positive disposition while experiencing a diverse range of commuters and situations on the road.
My name is Jerome Alexander and I am a practising Catholic Christian. I have been self-employed for the last six years, prior to which I worked in the oil and gas sector. I started my own business in transportation offering both public and private services and my daily routine places me in the frontline of interacting with people of all walks of life. As a driver of a maxi taxi, I have encountered many scenarios that tested my faith, from life-threatening situations to the simple task of helping someone cross the street. One way I have allowed my faith to impact those I encounter is very simple, yet very effective, and that is the music I play. My radio station is tuned to an upbeat and interactive gospel station. On many occasions, I noticed the reaction of passengers when I play the gospel station and they compliment or ask what the station is. Many even sing along. I did notice, however, when I play other secular radio stations, I barely get a comment. One morning, the first passenger I picked up was a young man and his daughter. He came into the maxi and sat behind me and said nothing for the entire journey. Upon reaching his destination he said to me “driver, thank you for playing that station this morning. When I came into the maxi I was feeling so down, like I can take my life because things are hard and I don’t know how I going to feed my daughter, but this song spoke to me and I feel encouraged, thank you”.
Another lady entered my maxi from Port of Spain to Curepe and I was surprised when she asked if I had a call card which I am happy I did as I was able to give her. Later that day she sent me the following message:
Messages like this help to motivate me especially on tough days.
One of the constant tests I encounter every day in my job as a maxi taxi driver is the driving of other maxi taxi drivers. Pre-Covid, drivers were very much thoughtless, reckless and aggressive in driving. I have seen with the pandemic that driving has only gotten worse, as many persons have lost their jobs and a few business places have been shut down permanently. The travelling public numbers has dwindled a lot with most people opting for the PTSC buses as a cheaper alternative.
I can recall several incidents where a fellow maxi driver will stop in the middle of the road just to pick up a passenger and block the other maxis behind. I have found that meditation and Christian centring prayer has helped me respond in a calmer way.
Even passengers add their fair share of difficulty to the job. Some will run out of the maxi without paying, others would wait until leaving the maxi to give a $100 bill to receive $95 change without even alerting the driver prior, and of course you have to be always on the look-out for criminal elements posing as passengers. Many maxis have been held up at gunpoint, some have lived to tell the tale, others were not so fortunate.
My morning routine of prayer, worship and study of God’s Word has become an essential part of my day. There are times where I attend Holy Mass at midday at the Cathedral or Sacred Heart in Port of Spain. All help keep me centred throughout the day and focused on living a Christian life whilst on the job.