Maxi Taxi Tales: When Hysteria, Survivors and Justice Reigned

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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…

Looking back, it’s amazing how fickle things like travelling in a bess maxi made secondary school life interesting. High on the list of memories is the fun we had travelling… if you were lucky enough to be allowed to find your way home via public transportation. See, not everyone had that freedom, in the 90s, and for those who never learned or weren’t allowed to travel until after they left secondary school, there was a whole other world in maxi land that they were missing.

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.

Now I can only talk about the East-West Corridor maxis, but I hear South had maxis with names like Classic, Rugged, Sesame Street Bus, and Black Sheep. If you ask me, the East-West Corridor maxi names were better (ducks toilet paper from Southies haha).

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.

And remember when maxi men knew that police were somewhere along the route waiting to catch overloaders, and they’d put out some students and you’d walk down the road a bit, for them to pick you back up lower down? Mess…

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

Justice’s pull didn’t last too long, as far as I remember. See, popularity was quick to come by, and easy to fade away. What determined just how popular a maxi was were things like a bess windscreen design, dark tint, having a cute conductor or better yet a two-for-one combo with an equally cute driver (to pull the school girls of course), and cool upholstery. Back then, people took windscreen design seriously. The ‘H’ in “Hysteria” had to be just right. All caps and lowercase were seriously considered for impact. A spiderweb on the back screen vs. the front screen was also a matter for serious consideration.

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

However, it was common knowledge that conductors and drivers would prey on gullible, vulnerable, young girls who were willing, and sometimes unwilling, victims, who gave up force-riped goods. This was the dark side of it.

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.

 

Karel Mc Intosh

Karel Mc Intosh is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Outlish Magazine. She's also the Lead Communications Trainer at Livewired Group, where she conducts workshops in business writing, social media, and other communications areas. A real online junkie, when she isn't surfing the Internet, she's thinking about surfing the Internet. Find out more about her here or tweet her @outlishmagazine.

8 Comments

  1. jdid

    December 2, 2010 at 8:25 am

    Love off this article Karel. big up.
    We had the same same ting in Bim too with the maxi taxis. best dub tapes determined best maxi taxi and minibus and if the driver could do tricks like the milkshake and rock de cradle ya would hear all a we shouting out in the back lol

  2. Reanna

    September 11, 2011 at 7:05 am

    Hi, I actually found your article while researching something online. I can relate to your article very well, it brought back a flood of sweet old memeories for me. The songs you mention and the names of the Maxis Taxis. The mention of a friend also sparked an interest for me. Perhaps you may have met him “Toppin” almost everyone knew him. Anyways I was curious and tried to track him down and found out that he died about a year ago. Anyways, your article was well written and I give you 5 tumbs up. It made me re-live the memories of when I was once a school girl going to junior sec and waiting for my favorite maxi.

    Thank you

  3. Whoda Fukkyeehz

    May 16, 2012 at 5:36 pm

    Brain & Music!!!!!
    Or d infamous ‘Dollar Maxi’ Checkers if yuh went to school in town!!!

  4. Whoda Fukkyeehz

    May 16, 2012 at 5:36 pm

    Brain & Music!!!!!
    Or d infamous ‘Dollar Maxi’ Checkers if yuh went to school in town!!!

  5. Shivan Rogue

    May 16, 2012 at 5:41 pm

    da was real best days jed lol

  6. Shivan Rogue

    May 16, 2012 at 5:41 pm

    da was real best days jed lol

  7. Rakesh Ramsundar

    May 16, 2012 at 5:54 pm

    i remember them days all too well coming from d west into town. music was jamming. bess time of the day.

  8. Rakesh Ramsundar

    May 16, 2012 at 5:54 pm

    i remember them days all too well coming from d west into town. music was jamming. bess time of the day.

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