Some people are great to talk to
2007-09-06 13:02:19 -

SANDY HAZEL meets Hameed Azeez, a Dublin taxi driver originally from Nigeria 

Hameed Azeez is from Nigeria and has lived in Ireland for five years. When he arrived first, Azeez could not work until his residency status was secured. In 2005, when he got his residency, it enabled him to go for his full driving licence test. After that, Azeez felt that his driving skills could be an advantage. "I decided to take the taxi exam. It is run by the Taxi Regulatory Authority. After that I planned to get my own plates. I discovered that the plates were going to cost a bit and I determined to get this money. I tried to get a loan from the bank. That proved very difficult as I had not built up recent credit history. However, it was still a good idea so I have rented a plate which will enable me to get the capital together to invest in my own plate some time soon now." 
Azeez is very happy with the way he can work around family life: "During the week days I can be available for my children to collect them from school and help with homework, so I only work a few hours then. But at the weekends I make up the time and do the long nights." How does a newcomer to the country get to know the layout of the capital city and the streets of the suburbs well enough to be an efficient taxi driver? "Well, some people say that Dublin is a small city but it is not small at all. It is growing day by day with maps not keeping up. It would be hard to know all the routes but GPS makes it easier," explains Azeez. "GPS [Global Positioning Satellite] can make it easier for anyone to find their way around but you still need to be able to    orientate yourself too. The good thing about this job is that every kilometre you travel is another area learned. Every day I learn more." 
Having strangers in your car is a risky business at the best of times, so has Azeez ever run into any trouble with this work? "Yes I have had people try to run without paying and I have also been attacked once by two passengers. Luckily someone called the gardai and they responded incredibly quickly, they were very good in that situation. But these circumstances are a potential job hazard for all taxi drivers. I do not think that these incidents are necessarily racial, Black people are victims of regular crimes too I suppose." 
Azeez feels that there is support from other taxi drivers and that if there is a problem, they will stop to see if everything is well. "The other drivers are very helpful with stories and advice." The only other downside to driving for a living, according to Azeez, is the bad traffic in Dublin. 
"The best thing about this work is that I can regulate my own hours and that I get to meet such a spectrum of people. One minute I will have a magistrate or a lawyer in the car and the next it is a lady out shopping or tourists from all over the world. Some people are great to talk to, there can be so much fun and enjoyment talking to people and sharing stories." 
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