Maxi Taxi Tales: When Hysteria, Survivors and Justice Reigned
School days were happy, happy days. They were also filled with hard pong, picking and choosing maxi on the Eastern Main Road, and squeezing your backside in a two-seater to help maxi men make some extra dollars.
See, not everyone had that freedom, in the 90s…
Survivor I, II and III. Hysteria. Boyz N D Hood. Barry Bee. Damage. Rico. Super Max. Home Boys. Khaos. Night Train. Russeman. Red Fury. Power Station. Turbo. Artical. Punisher. Kinky. These were some of the big players on the East-West, red-band maxi route. I can imagine maxi owners, drivers and conductors, sitting at a table trying to come up with a great name, because having a no-name maxi was a no-no, and L-A-M-E. You, yes you, were also lame if you jumped into a boring bread van driven by an equally boring-looking driver, who played 97.1 FM.
Survivor I, II and III. Hysteria. Boyz N D Hood. Barry Bee. Damage. Rico.
Those were the days… when wasting time, liming on the Main Road, was the perfect way to end a school day… when short drop was $1.50, and it cost $3 from Port of Spain to Arima… and you couldn’t fathom the thought of having to take a PTSC blue bus. You’d lime in a properly shaded area, maybe buy a ‘Massive’ (remember when Cannings had Massive?), and chill, waiting for a popular maxi to pass by. Yes, we’d pick and choose maxis, but as much as we liked to think we were picking and choosing ‘hot’ maxis, the maxi conductors were picking and choosing who was worthy enough to get in their ride. Girls who got in were cute, and d fellas who got in were cool.
Yes. Those were the days… when holding a wad of cash and hanging halfway out of a maxi made a young fella feel like a celebrity (remember man like Toppin?). Touts who used to full maxi for $1 even got play.
There was no bigger pips than being able to get a space in a top maxi. There was nothing like feeling the waves of hard pong pierce your chest, and blast your eardrums. And if your backside was small, it made the ride that much enjoyable, as you’d squeeze up with friends, and strangers, or even sit on someone’s lap, for the commute on the Main Road and through back roads to beat the traffic. Overloading. It was a way of life. You think squeezing up with three people in a two-seater is squeeze up? Try four people in a two-seater. Almost every school got some representation. From St. Augustine (Senior Comprehensive), to El Do (Senior Comprehensive and Secondary), St. Joseph’s Convent, Bourg Mulatresse (San Juan Senior Sec), Tunapuna Secondary, and more.
Overloading. It was a way of life.
Even though you’d reach home later than you needed to, because you’d waste time liming, you knew you had to be out the road by a certain time to get in a ‘good’ maxi. And if you missed your favourite maxi, you’d wait for it to make its route and catch it on its second passing. Ent? Doh lie and say no. If the conductor said, “We heading in town” (when City Gate didn’t exist) and you were in San Juan, you’d wait for it to pass back. Some of us had it easier. Maxis would come to pick you up by the school gate.
I remember my days at St. George’s College. We’d rush outside to get a seat in ‘Justice’. That was about 1993, when Justice had pull. You’d pack your bag, five minutes before school was about to ‘over’, and rush outside to get a seat, and not just any seat. If you were like me, that was the backseat. Backseat was the best seat ever. Especially when your whole crew was there, but it was a hard seat to get. Fortunately, one of my older brothers went George’s too, so he and his friends would save a seat for little ol’ me, ’cause we Form 3s had to suck salt, and pay respect by leaving the backseat reserved for the older, popular Form 5s (Form 6 people were too cool for that ish; by Form 6 you graduated to taking Bus Route maxi). Getting back seat was a big deal… that’s if you weren’t a bad ting who wanted to get the front seat between the driver and conductor (but more on that later).
Getting back seat was a big deal… that’s if you weren’t a bad ting who wanted to get the front seat between the driver and conductor
Still, the HARD pong sealed the deal with the best dub tapes courtesy the likes of Dr. Hyde, Ear Traffic Control, Nyabinghi, Howie T, Star Child and Chinese Laundry. Those tapes helped cultivate our taste in dancehall and reggae. That’s where we heard Buju’s “Boom Bye Bye” and “Batty Rider”, Shaggy’s “Oh Carolina”, Mad Cobra’s “Flex”, Terror Fabulous’ “Yaga Yaga”, Cutty Ranks’ “Limb by Limb”, Louie Rankin’s “Tyepwriter”, Lady Shabba’s “Ram Ram”, Patra’s “Queen ah d Pack”, Red Fox’s “Oh Jessica”, many a Super Cat classic, and even our local Kiskidee Karavan music with Yard Fowl Crew’s “Dan it Up”, Kindred’s “Dis Trini could Flow”, General Grant’s “D Shot Call”, Supa Chile’s “Ambush”, Edu Rankin’s “Hand inna D Air”, and the list goes on.
Remember when they had skits on the tapes, and Dr. Hyde talked too much? Remember when you’d be so bummed that you had to travel in an old bread van that didn’t play 96.1 WEFM or 98.9? Remember when we used to crow because a song was just sooooooo bad (as in good)? Remember hiding from that scary conductor named Sunny? And maxis would have invis for almost every party and concert stuck on their roof?
Maxis taxis in the 90s. Their simple, red stripes belie the role they played in shaping cultural and social aspects of our lives. For some of us, they were just fun to travel in. For others, they put bread on the table, and babies in young arms. As one person says: “Good memories, but poor choices by some of the females. Conductors tracking Junior Sec and Compre girls. The maxi front seat was always reserved for the bad ting who used to share pom pom for the drivers and conductors and get free ride.”
Doh feel only Junior Sec or Compre girls were in that! Bishops girls, St. Joseph’s Convent girls, Holy Name Convent girls, St. Dominic’s girls, St. Charles girls… they were all in it. If maxi men ruled the world, there’d be no discrimination, because they gave each girl fair play, from prestige to Compre to pay school – as long as she was cute enough (Ok, maybe they discriminated).
…it was common knowledge that conductors and drivers would prey on gullible, vulnerable, young girls
Nowadays, maxis don’t have the same kind of pull, and only a few like Machiavelli and Tsunami are popular (dais what d teens tell me). Word is… it’s the taxi men who run tings now. As one person said, “Who want maxi conductor when you could get man wit’ car”, and since almost anyone can afford a B14, any scrub (who say TLC) could pull a girl or two in a noisy, old Sunny.
Don’t feel that maxi men have totally lost their grip though. One teacher who works at a former junior secondary school in the West says some of the girls still like their maxi man, that is the yellow-band, maxi men who run the Diego Martin and Carenage route, and I’m willing to bet it also applies to some red-band, green-band (South and Arima environs), and blue-band (dat’s Tobago) maxi men. Young girls like flashy things, and while they’re not so big on the hard pong these days (’cause police could stop the maxi), they like a little entertainment – yuh know… DVD player with music videos and ting.
Reminiscing about maxi culture, it’s obvious we had fun. Some of us had clean fun. Some of us had fun that stripped us of our innocence, and made us mommies and daddies way before we were ready for it. However, it’s obvious that maxi taxis had a key place in youth culture back in the 90s, and maybe, just maybe, that’s why I still have a hard pong in my car that can be heard from miles away.
Illustration by James Hackett. Check him out at shizzies.com.