When I hailed a taxi on the Las Vegas strip last week, I never expected to find a former Lehman Brothers broker behind the wheel. His greeting: “I hope you’re not one of those liberals.” I am, but he didn’t hold it against me for long.
Let’s call my driver Jack. Jack was an up-and-comer with Lehman Brothers for years and worked for the firm in New York, San Francisco, and Las Vegas. When he agreed to pack up his life to transfer to the Las Vegas office, he never expected that the firm would implode and leave him stranded without a job in Sin City.
You see, Jack invested in Las Vegas real estate and is unwilling to walk away and take a loss on his home. But there aren’t many financial services jobs to be had in Las Vegas. Not that Jack isn’t flexible. He recently traveled to San Francisco for an interview with a major international bank and met with a condescending 30-year-old manager (Jack is a well-seasoned 50-ish). Don’t call us, we’ll call you. But they never did.
So Jack spends his days driving a taxi around Las Vegas. It’s not so much that he’s desperate for the cash. Luckily, his wife is still bringing home a regular paycheck. No, Jack became a taxi driver because he couldn’t stand sitting at home in his depreciating Las Vegas home and thinking about the job market and how he got screwed over by Corporate America.
It’s better to have the distractions of Vegas traffic, talkative tourists, and slow-moving construction workers. “She’s pulling in six figures just to stand there holding that sign,” he grumbles after beeping, cursing, and exchanging hand signals with a sluggish woman in an orange vest.
Jack’s a pretty good cabbie and an even better story teller. But he doesn’t want to do this forever.
In between shifts, Jack is keeping an eye out for promising job listings (they are few and far between) and waiting for a break.
In the meantime, if you hail a cab in Las Vegas, you might find yourself accused of liberal leanings by a gruff, bearded, former Lehman Brothers broker. He will get you to the airport on time and even help you with your bags. Tip generously.