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Wednesday, November 26, 2014 |  Madison, WI: 18.0° F  Fog/Mist
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Madison is fortunate to have a relatively vital arts community as part of its civic makeup, in no small part because of the University of Wisconsin, of course, but also because of nurturing aspects within its economy and plenty of waitstaffing and bartending jobs to put sustaining wages into those creative hands.

As regular music contributor Jessica Steinhoff reports in this week's arts feature, "Driven to Create," there are a lot of creative types also paying the rent by ferrying Madison citizens and visitors around town behind the wheel of city cabs. It's a good alternative for those in the startup phase of their careers for the flexible and rather freelance form of its employment characteristics.

Not a lot of people make cab driving a career, though some do, valuing the self-management aspect of the trade. And they're able to make decent money doing it. Not everybody can. But if you need work, have a good driving record and know the city (some people fudge on this latter trait and think they can get by with a pocket city directory; they are soon found out), there are usually cab-driving jobs available. The turnover rate is high.

Steinhoff's report is centered on Union Cab, the city's largest cab company. There are two types of cab companies in Madison: metered, as Union is, and share-the-ride zone cabs. In either type, you really have to know what you're doing to make decent money.

How do I know all this? I put in a couple of years behind the wheel during my own fallow period in the '70s. I learned the city and a lot about it, met some interesting people, including my future business partner, and heard a lot of interesting things. (Some folks can be pretty chatty at bar time.) In my day there weren't as many artistic types as Ph.D. candidates cab jockeying. Then again, the arts and entertainment scene wasn't as robust as it is now. And maybe graduate schools got pickier.

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