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  • Writer's pictureDamian Brzeski

The story of a taxi in Gdańsk - how I became a taxi driver

Updated: Nov 9, 2023

I am a native of Gdansk from a good vintage - because Chernobyl. ;)

Maybe not so young anymore, but definitely not old. A few years have passed and this world has changed a bit before my eyes.

I remember when my parents were little pyrtek, I used to visit their friends for evenings with beer and vodka. Of course, they drank vodka, I only drank Coke and played with the local Internet - Teletext.

Those were the times when the radio came for good, but not the one that played music - only Radio Taxi.

For a good few years, when my mother and I went shopping in the Manhattan area, there were Hallo Taxi taxis, and by ordering City Plus, you could win a golden elephant.

Shortly before the fall of communism, the following were created: Chronos Taxi, MPT, Milano Escort or Taxi Plus, but also unsinkable: Komfort Taxi, Dajan, Super Hallo.

Who would have thought that this little bubble that cut cream tubes sold from the shack on ul. Klonowa - one day it will be gold.

taxi in Gdańsk in the 90s
Gdańsk taxis in the 1990s

The 1990s - a wild time of prosperity with exploding Mercedes and nascent businesses. In the taxi, it was the time when the slow changes that continue to this day began. Some companies died, others merged. The days of berets are slowly coming to an end. Freelancers will still have something to do for a long time, but in fact, in the 90s, changes on the market began, leading to what we have today.

early 2000s in a taxi in Gdańsk
Early 2000s at a taxi stand

The 2000s - this is City Plus Neptune, Super Hallo, Hallo Taxi, Dajan, Komfort - it was the time when the Gdańsk market was fully mature. So mature that the biggest ones were punished for price-fixing. America as you look, only instead of sharks from Wall Street - we have Kashubians from Gdynia.

The market was developing at an express pace and the number of customers was growing faster than taxi drivers - then the city came up with a brilliant idea that if it is so good, it will be even better when access to the profession opens. After all, what could possibly go wrong?

And from the clerk's perspective, theoretically everything was fine. There is so much work that companies do not keep up with the orders, so the number of drivers must be increased so that the city resident does not have to wait for the passage. But at the same time, it would be nice to keep the reins in the form of regulated prices, regulations, etc. And thus the baby was thrown out with the bathwater...

Instead of the profession, a lot of upstarts came in, aiming only to earn money as quickly as possible and go further in their own direction; even more retired policemen or random people.

As in the past, you could say a lot of bad things about a taxi, but working in a taxi was a real profession, not just an occupation, job or a way to get rich quickly.

Just before the opening of the market, there were people in this profession who rather associated a longer future with a taxi.

It was an excellent whip against dishonest entrepreneurs, but the threshold to enter the profession, wherever it is high - removes people from the case, and those who have passed the verification - keeps the reins.

Centrum handlowe we Wrzeszczu

My beginnings on the tariff

It was 2015 - moments before the St. Dominika - I'm going to the Medical University to get the coveted license.

But from the beginning...

I always tell everyone that I am a driver by choice, not by compulsion.

It is important to do in life what you like, what you feel.

I must have taken a little bit of PB95 with my breastmilk, because she always pulled me behind the wheel.

That's how life went. Probably because of the possibilities, a bit because of my upbringing in a tenement house, that I did not become a rally driver ...

I've never ridden a motorcycle, even though my father told us many times how they used to ride Honda WSK or other Junaki bikes when they were young.

As a matter of fact, it's all because of my parents who took me when I was little to trade in West Germany/East Germany. Even then, I was sitting in the car all day, and in the car parks by the autobahns I was watching Steyru Mercedes or Renault Magnum, which I remember - they made the biggest impression on me.

Renolut Magnum
It started with something similar

My father was always a man who could do a lot on his own. Anyway, such times - that's what you had - when you made or repaired it yourself.

Often, when he was repairing something on cars, I closely watched what he was doing, and so it stayed with me that today replacing McPherson, valve timing or poking around in the common rail pump is not a matter of rocket science, but the willingness and willingness to get dirty in grease . But that was my beginning.

In college, I ran my own shop, basically a service point - everything and nothing. From today's point of view, I probably made all the possible business mistakes that could be made, plus I added a bit of my messiness and dishonesty in keeping papyrology, which resulted in a beautiful book bankruptcy and a fall on the face ...

Well, if you're in your twenties, minus ten thousand on your account - you have to act differently.

A man of this age doesn't see hima ditch, but only difficulties to overcome.

I'm going to work as a courier - I've always been drawn to fireworks as much as I could - to go somewhere by car, as long as it's further away and it gave me pleasure. What was my collision with reality when I got to work in such a racial Janusz business ...

Not fresh enough as chives, I get the keys to the sprinter - three days of training and assignment to the area: Gdynia Redłowo, Wzgórze Św. Maksymilian, Orłowo.

Obviously, knowledge of the topography of the city was at the level of knowledge of quantum physics - I knew where these districts were and that was it.

Google maps didn't exist back then. Mega clunky car navigations were used.

Result: work from morning to night, hug of the president at the end of the month... and a thousand pair in the account.

It was definitely not what I wanted to do.

Polish postal truck in Gdynia
One of the mail trucks I drove?

I changed my job to such a tiny mold, dealing with the delivery of poultry - stench, muck, lack of any hygiene rules. For a while I practically did not eat chicken and offal - I was so sick of it ...

Okay, then I knew that working on general cargo was not quite what I imagined a trucker to be, so I went to a driving school - I signed up for a category C course and driving ... Later, a course for transporting things and I didn't even notice when I found myself in one of the largest transport companies in Pomerania - Wakoz S.C.

Golf 3 on Soil
Golf 3 on the ground

Later on, there were: Poczta Polska, DB Schenker, Decko, some small construction companies, and even for a while I worked in a Pizzeria.

One thing I can say is I've had some bad luck with employers. I did not lack enthusiasm - I wanted to develop, do something new, drive and earn money, but most often I was treated like another elk who will earn a lease installment.

Maybe that's a good thing. If it wasn't for the fact that I got sick of driving trucks, today instead of writing such nonsense, I would be sitting unloading in some Hamburg, Bremerhaven or waiting for the ferry from Calais to Dover.

I've always had a taxi on my mind, but when you talked to Skorpion or other Night Riders Trójmiasto, you always heard: it's not worth it, taxi ends, it used to be... blah blah blah...

Today I know that this has been the talk for decades. Every taxi driver, as soon as he gets his license, starts talking that it used to be better.

Once again - as it happens in life - good decisions come in crisis situations.

I rode in a courier - even a comfortable job, but let's face it, it was the boss who earned the best, not his employee. He had cars from Rohlig Suus and Hellmann Worldwide, so pretty cool companies.

I met one friend there who drove the same way as me, and after work he changed to his Chrysler Town & Cantry and went to the city.

This friend of mine used to work for Baltic Taxi - such a nice company servicing hotels: Qubus, Sadova and a bit Number One.

What I was talking to him, all I heard was how much he didn't earn, what a lucrative job it is, and the courier just wanted ZUS to cover him and security for the winter, because you know - in Gdańsk in winter there is practically no good customer.

It stimulated my imagination, and since I've always been closer to my own business than to working for someone else - why not. The only thing blocking me was the lack of a suitable car, and my budget was well under the line at the time, so the decision was basically in the air, but could not materialize...

Suddenly, my very nice car, namely: Golf 3 - on such soil that it was scraping the rocker arm over the ruts - decided to "finish" the engine.

Actually, I overdid the diesel tuning a bit and burned a hole in the piston like 10 cents.

Golfik was already old, bought once from a friend (let's agree that he was already very tired of life then), it was a pity to load more hay into it ...

I asked my family for help and literally overnight I became the owner of the Opel Signum. The car was bought only looking at the fact that it was in my budget and that it was suitable for a Taxi.

I have a great fondness for this car, this car changed my life literally.

Golf 3 on Soil
Golf 3 on the ground

Coming back: I received my license on the second day of the St. Dominica. I remember it like today - I was returning from the Iveco Eurocargo route and to make it to the City Hall on ul. Milski - I was trying to figure out where I could drive with this junk so as not to get a ticket.

Equipped with a set of documentation, a car, a taximeter, fresh stickers - I'm getting to work.

The next day I took a change of clothes to work, a quick shower in the storage room and I'm off to earn real money.

A colleague earlier told me that if I don't know each other, it might be worth going to a corporation, so I made an appointment with the president of Komfort Taxi, but in the environment they know how hard it is to meet him (for obvious reasons).

Another friend tells me that it's high season - make yourself 3 PLN/km and catch tourists.

For me, it was some kind of abstraction, basically when I was driving a taxi myself, I was always looking for the cheapest dumpster to get to Sopot near Vive Galaxy or Sfinks.

And here I would take three zlotys, who will choose it at all ...?

From the stories of others, I heard that once when you had a good car, everyone went especially to you. Others said that the most important thing is to have a good seat.

Generally, theory is theory, and practice, as always, turns out to be different.

I made 2.70 on the first tariff - I say, it will be money, possibly I will lower it after the season.

I'm going to the city and a collision with reality - when other berets saw my rates - and they had 6 zlotys each - they immediately told me that I'm sorry buddy, but you have to change it.

Lucky - there's always a helpful soul to guide you through life - and seriously, somehow I've always been lucky that people around me were comfortable talking about their lives. A taxi driver is a herd animal, so in a herd you have to brag about: what, how, where, who you caught and for how much.

A few months of moving around in such company and I no longer feel like working in a corporation.

Of course, I couldn't find a better place: Fair, so there was a lot of work then, others had a loose approach to young people. By the way, I've never been someone easy to switch either.

I was lucky to be among the best scammers and thieves that Gdansk stops have seen. I say this with a grain of salt, but that's how life turned out - someone once told me that morality is left at home for the family, and money matters at work. From today's perspective, I don't really agree with it, but there are features that are more important - after all, I'm Polish - we have honor in our blood.

After my first summer season, I already knew that there was no point in continuing to drive someone's truck. Well, since for two months I didn't have time to go to my boss to collect my paycheck and my life was getting better and better, it's probably worth going in this direction .

I was just struggling with my thoughts - what to do here...

The season is over. Then I started working in the vicinity of Wrzeszcz - as I come from there - I know every fyrtel.

I met a different team of grandparents who used to be sailors, former militiamen, a few corporate exes, but most of all I met some cool guys my age.

In fact, it was the time spent at the train station in Wrzeszcz that shaped me as a taxi driver.

The layout was simple: it was a year-round job, a great place to overwinter.

In the morning you would come to the train station, drive people to the Medical Academy, to the market, in the neighboring districts. Later we switched to Galeria Bałtycka - we had to get to a stop. If there was no place, you asked who was last and reserved a place.

Practically the same rules as in corporate.

And in the evening, we went back to the train station, or when the weekend was approaching, we went to the old town to stand in front of the discos. The man was full of strength and hungry for money, so he stayed at this job as much as he could.

I was still working on the truck until spring, so as to be protected (as if it was actually going to be tragic).

But it turned out that if you want to, you can even make a good living from it.

For me it was important to work where the client is - contrary to appearances - in such a hermetic world as this, at taxi ranks it is not easy.

Each stop had, let's say, a crew to keep an eye on it. We are talking about these good places here, not some car parks in housing estates.

There were rules everywhere you had to know. You had to be tough, have a bit of boor in yourself and, above all, be assertive as hell, because this is the world of people who leave their moral backbone at home.

I could write a lot about how I searched for events over coffee in the evening and entered them in the calendar, how I checked when holidays are: in Germany, Norway or Sweden.

But really, these are just memories...

Today, the market is dominated by cooperatives that rent cars to drivers from the East - sometimes really the Far East.

When I started, there were some unwritten rules - however sick they were sometimes - there were some rules, today the only one that applies is that money is, how the wheels turn.

I had my short episode in MyTaxi. The company was entering the Tri-City market - it was possible to have your own prices, not imposed by corporations, and at the same time use their system and customer base.

Opel Signum in a taxi
My Opel Signum

I previously signed a contract with iTaxi and at that time it worked really well. Algorithms were not yet so focused on making kilometers, there were not many drivers and, above all, it was a young cool group of drivers, sometimes with really cool cars.

We represented something - the service was well done, it was fair to the client.

But transport apps don't make money because we make money, but on a commission that prefers the number of transports, not the turnover.

The algorithm that is set up in such companies will always prefer the number of trips. Social engineers will manage the company in such a way that the driver earns: enough to survive, to make him want to drive, but not to earn too much, because then he will return home after a few hours, instead of driving further and earning money for renting a car.

Whatever - the time when these big four tech giants settled down for good was the fall of the taxi I knew.

Of course, from the customer's perspective, it was a time when you no longer needed to use companies like Scorpion Taxi or NRT to get somewhere cheap.

Whoever remembers what kind of junkyard used to run in these companies knows what I'm talking about.

But I write about memories from the perspective of a taxi driver, so for me it was the time when it all started to go downhill overnight.

Later, Forum Gdańsk, previously known as Forum Radunia, opened. On ul. Chmielna, Nowak's investments on Spichrzów Island were opened.

Overnight, the most lucrative shopping customer stopped moving around the city.

It's no secret that difficult times came - outside the summer season - everyone lived off weekend tourists. Swedes, Norwegians, Germans, Finns ... everyone, especially before Christmas, flew in the area: Thursday, Friday, so that on Sunday fly back in the morning.

In the meantime, the standard - there were shopping in Galeria Bałtycka or Rewir, more than once it was possible to persuade them to Klif Gdynia. When the weather was nice, you could take them to Monciak or to the pier in Sopot.

The more ambitious ordered the course at Westerplatte.

Another blow was the Sunday trading ban

I really am a supporter of social programs. I believe that the state in the form we want to see should have control over some aspects of our lives.

I like the Scandinavian model and I think a lot of it could be implemented in our lifestyle.

But from the perspective of a taxi driver's job, the introduction of a trade ban in Gdańsk was a tragedy.

It supposedly started with one or two non-commercial Sundays, but it caused such confusion that Scandinavians shortened their stays to Sunday morning as a rule.

Before, you managed - if you had health - to run a weekend marathon, which earned you a whole week.

It was enough to get a good night's sleep and leave on Friday afternoon, spend the night, sleep for a while and extend Saturday to Sunday evening. A good couple of hours, but most of the time on the second tariff, and if in the middle of the night a client came to Bodega or Roza, or some party, concert at Ergo Arena, you were earned like a miner for Barbórka.

Opel signum as a taxi in Gdansk
This car changed my life

Epidemic, Putin, official prices

...and other diseases

Why do I work a lot and am poor?

I'll write this again from my perspective. You can be lucky in life, you can be unlucky, or you can just make good decisions at the wrong time.

As I wrote before - a number of negative factors will affect how much money you earn as a private, non-affiliated taxi driver.

I'm not talking here from the perspective of the guys who cleaned customer accounts as effectively as competitors from another industry: Cocomo Fenix and stuff...

If you want to live from a taxi in the Tri-City, you won't be able to live from it driving privately.

The threshold to enter this business today is actually insurmountable for a newcomer.

And starting with driving in the application - before you get to the level of knowledge that will allow you to earn money on it - you will lose your appetite.

And so this job is not just sitting on your ass - as some people think - and turning the steering wheel.

These are regular customers to win; these are places where to set up; these are agreements with hotels, boarding houses and agencies.

Once the customer came by himself - today you have to catch him and keep him.

Unfortunately, but if you want to start, the only way today is through corporations.

But how was it with me...

Okay, I decided that if it's bad, I either quit and go ride heavier equipment, or leave Poland and earn in crowns or euros.

Both options made me gag.

Sorry, but it's no fun working on suitcases, being a jar again, only in another country where they treat you as a labor immigrant.

At that time I had just bought a shack and was just finishing it up - and I'm telling myself: I don't have a house with a garden here to rent a trolling dormitory somewhere outside Oslo.

So we either quit or invest and move on.

So I bought a new car - a lot of money, but spread over leasing installments, so I managed to handle it somehow.

I calculated that since it's supposed to be under warranty, and later - not with such a high mileage, I'll sell it, so just take it and don't worry that something will break down.

Kia Optima Taxi outside the Radisson Hotel
Kia Optima outside the Radisson Hotel

So the choice fell on the Kia Optima Kombi - beautiful, white, pearl paint. Really nice car, although I was looking for something completely different before.

But above all fresh, opening doors in every company I want to go to.

Haaa...would open the door if they didn't associate me with the city.

As I wrote before - taxis are a hermetic environment, here everyone knows everyone, or at least everyone thinks they know everyone.

It was enough that they associated me with driving among the worst ones to effectively close and lock the door.

Taxi drivers don't like better than themselves. It's an environment steeped in envy and unhealthy envy.

Of course, officially everyone will say that I'm very sorry, but due to your past and due to concern for the company's reputation and customer base, we must take care of the quality of the services provided.

So I got a kick out of two of what I thought at the time were the best companies.

So, standing in a rather uncomfortable situation with a mortgage, loan, and leasing for a new car - the last option that comes to my mind is Gold Taxi.

The idea was totally sick, considering that there were mainly black Mercedes cars, possibly black Town & Country V-Class or Carawells.

And me with a product of Korean motorization, white as snow, considered prestigious only in the Far East.

A few minutes of conversation in the office - me basically against the wall and the owner of Gold with a need for new drivers...

We came to an agreement, and the matters of my past - as a beret - were briefly dismissed.

The company is small and any irregularities will quickly come to light. You do something - inappropriate at first - suspension and minus 700 in your account. The second time: kick from the corporation and 5,000 entry fee went ... you know what.

I haven't ridden in Gold for a long time, but the reason was completely different as some people think.

The specificity of work in this company was such that it strongly promoted black Mercedes or buses.

Me with my white arrow, all I could do was bring a monthly premium and make duty hours.

But what not to write - a few months of work in this company taught me how to deal with a VIP customer. It was a new quality for me - a number of behaviors that you will not learn from American films, but simply a few years of practice of people who serviced only the best hotels in Gdańsk.

It was not for nothing that Gold had contracts with Puro Hotel, Holidey Inn, Radisson or Hotel Królewski Gdańsk.

Damian Brzeski
Yes, that's me in a shirt with a tie

In the spring, a colleague called me that there was an opportunity to join Citi Plus Neptun.

After a whole winter of hanging out under empty hotels, the prospect of driving to an airport - where the customer stays all year round - was extremely tempting.

Admittedly, the entry fee: 8,000 (whereas a moment ago I scrapped 5 in the previous corporation), and I haven't made up for it yet.

Well, you only live once. You have to grab opportunities.

I have no problem passing anything in the form of verification in the disciplinary committee.

I remember, I was stressed like at high school graduation - and I'm signing the first contract - paying the premium and I'm a driver in "snowmen", as it used to be said not so long ago.

In the process, I found out what had previously blocked my way to the corporation, namely: some dissatisfied customer wrote a complaint to them, thinking that I was their driver.

Heh.. what if what, I still remember this situation when I took a gentleman to Przymorze for half the price, who clearly had something on his mind. Suffice it to add that he threatened to make friends in the ABW, CIA or other Grom.

Of course, I found a perfect place, because literally the next month after my arrival - the entrance fee was reduced due to the lack of drivers to work.

At the same time, the system of waiting for a work permit at the airport for them for half a year was still in operation. Lech Wałęsa in Rębiechowo.

But ok, I became a corporate taxi driver as known to clients of the largest corporations in Poland.

I quickly found myself in the new reality and although the customer base in this company was quite specific.

From a business client, through a tourist, to a couple of long-term clients (with ID cards well over 60 years old) - I finally did what I had planned almost a year and a half earlier.

And I was really starting to like it. From month to month I saw in the Excel table that I was earning more and more.

Not only was the summer season fast approaching, I already knew what it was like to work in a corporation.

One, two, three... we're shutting down the whole country: we're saying Lockdown and all plans are on hold.

I remember it like today. not someone.

Overnight the country stopped. People locked themselves in their homes. I also saved myself with transfers to the borders, which I managed to obtain from the transport exchange.

But generally, in the good three months before the shipping market went into war mode, there was no point going to work.

Almost two years of a closed economy, regulations changing every two weeks, one big unknown what will happen tomorrow...

Instead of listening to the radio - we watched the speeches of successive ministers, hoping that the subsequent changes introduced would not make it more difficult for us.

Hundreds of drivers dropped out of the market at this point. Businesses closed, recently opened businesses collapsed. Really nice restaurants were closing, and until recently colleagues met in the city - it turned out that one was carrying dumplings, and the other had been working in Norway for several months.

And once again - I don't know if it's luck or just prolongation of dying... when most leave the profession. Others fill that void.

A friend opens Flash Taxi, another Taxi Seven, Hanza Taxi, Elite are strengthening on the market.

Familiar brands like S-Taxi, Gold Taxi are dying.

And during this time I practically sleep and live in the car because there is so much work.

How perverse it is, how much luck you have to have in this world - how much is in this case ...

One contact that you have gained through months of working for free opens the door to work in international transport that you did not even think about before.

When other companies on the Tri-City market went bankrupt - I took seafarers to Rotterdam, Amsterdam, Bremen, Rugen, Wismar.

When more taxi drivers left their jobs - I begged my colleagues to drive for me to the border crossings in Grzechotki - Mamonovo, Bezledy - Bagrationovsk.

There was so much work that it was impossible to do it alone.

Berlin airport
My Kia in the Berlin airport parking lot

Unfortunately, a specific period - you had to bid with others who barely stayed afloat.

During this time, you can order a 50-passenger Setra or Mercedes coach at a price at which not so long ago you could only find an old Renolut Traffic.

Now we have another crisis - the market has stabilized, so it's not too good - Putin has started a war in Ukraine.

Once again, day by day, the regulations began to change - more restrictions, sanctions.

Another crisis, and the last one is not over for good.

And someone tell me that running your own business is just clipping coupons and working when you want.

What it looks like today - everyone can see.

But this is my way to Rabbit-Trans Poland - a company operating on many levels - from taxi, through transfers, to concierge.

Already today - as the owner - I am not afraid of any crisis. For me, these are just obstacles or temporary difficulties to overcome. As my friend says: "Impossible topics we deal with immediately, and for miracles you have to wait a few days."

Working in transport is a constant struggle for survival.

It's sometimes a dirty war, facing constant adversity. It's operating in a world where you have to pay a bribe to serve a good spot. It's a job where you buy gold cufflinks for serving a good company. It's a job where you never know if the client will pay you the last invoice or if the tax office will say that you earn too much.

It's a job where your drivers will tell you how much you have earned and they will always conclude that you are not giving them enough. This is a really cool job that autonomous vehicles will be doing in a dozen or so years.

It's a job that has no future, but it's fun to do and I'm really proud of myself that I managed to do it during such a hard time.


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