Bloomsday for Cab Drivers / 10: Drifting Cabbies
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Horse-drawn jaunting car with passengers, passing Kingsbridge railway station. Photograph circa 1897-1904 by John J. Clarke (1879-1961).

The jaunting car was the preemininent cab vehicle in 1904 Dublin. It filled the same role in Ireland as the hansom cab filled in cities and towns throughout England, North America and Australia, but the jaunting car predated the hansom and survived long after the hansom disappeared.

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Bloomsday for Cab Drivers / 10

Drifting Cabbies

So much for the big picture. The essence of Ulysses from our point of view is Joyce's depiction of the cabs and cab drivers.

Joyce seems to have had a certain fondness for the cab trade judging by Leopold Bloom's musings as he passes by the cabmen's shelter at Butt Bridge, which we'll see more of later:

Curious the life of drifting cabbies. All weathers, all places, time or setdown, no will of their own. Voglio e non. Like to give them an odd cigarette. Sociable. Shout a few syllables as they pass. [5 223 / 3485]

(Note: the citations in square brackets identify the episode (5 = Episode 5), the quotation's first line within the episode in the Gabler edition of Ulysses (223 = Episode 5, line 223) and the overall line number in the Imperial College (London) etext (3485 = line 3485). See Selected Sources for more information.)

Taxi drivers who value their independence and consider themselves masters of their own fate might bridle at "no will of their own", but I suspect that even they would concede a certain justice in the quotation.

Bouncing from trip to trip all drivers sooner or later feel themselves to be under the control of unseen forces acting through the medium of the dispatcher. As one of them said, it's like being a pinball in the penny arcade of life.

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