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Dishing a Liberal Dose of Gab

D.C. Taxi Driver Welcomes Tips, Cherishes Chatter

By Robert E. Pierre
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, March 1, 2005; Page B01

The news playing on the radio of Adrian Brocks's taxicab is almost always drowned out by his constant talking to, confiding in and baiting of passengers about everything.

Weather, lap dances and movies. Sports of any kind -- women's or men's, college or pro. He'll tell any passenger that his doctor calls him "morbidly obese" or that he married and divorced the same woman twice. What really gets him going is good gab about politics, particularly the shortcomings of President Bush, whom he refers to as Little Caesar.

Adrian Brocks grimaces about traffic while talking to passenger Stacy Lloyd. (Jahi Chikwendiu -- The Washington Post)

Those who share his views are the most chatty. But nothing brightens his day like a good verbal bout with a conservative -- if that passenger doesn't ask to be let out of the cab. Brocks was ecstatic on a recent afternoon when a middle-aged passenger on his way to Union Station announced that he was a fan of Fox News.

"We got us a Bush man," Brocks announced, beaming, before he launched into a tirade against one of the station's anchors. "Brit Hume is so biased, he ought to be working as a spokesman for the White House."

The rider disagreed but soon was trading jokes and debating the relative importance of Bill Clinton's dalliance with Monica Lewinsky and Ronald Reagan's involvement in the Iran-contra scandal. When it was over, Brocks got a $10 bill (for a $5.50 fare) and this compliment: "Keep the change. That's a nice ride home."

Brocks said later, "They tip good to soothe their conservative ill thinking."

This is the world of Adrian D. Brocks, 57, a news junkie who wears his politics on his sleeve and uses his taxicab as a rolling confessional and pulpit. His travels outside the country are limited to the Caribbean, and he almost never ventures away from the coziness of downtown Washington.

But through the customers he meets from all around the world and the information he soaks up from television, newspapers and radio, Brocks makes broad pronouncements about the world -- and America's standing in it -- with the authority of a seasoned traveler.

"I feel like I can have an intelligent conversation with anyone about anything," he said.

The Crown Victoria he drives has 204,000 miles on the odometer. On the front seat is a clipboard to log his trips, a bag of snacks to get him through the day and a bottle of water in the cup holder. A pack of cigarettes is above the front passenger visor.

From about 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. each day, the slightest twitch of the arm by someone on the far sidewalk, and he will whip into an illegal U-turn to get the fare first. On the job, as in life, few sins are worse than being a shrinking violet who tries to avoid stepping on toes.

"I love people who aren't politically bleeping correct," said Brocks, who grew up in public housing east of the Anacostia River and rents an apartment at 15th Street and Massachusetts Avenue NW. "I say, offend, offend, offend."

It's that attitude that kept him from making it in the corporate world. He attended Howard University, and when he graduated in January 1971, he became a salesman for Campbell Soup. In that job, and later at several local marketing companies, Brocks said, he didn't take orders well from bosses he didn't respect.

"In the corporate world, you have to suck lip and compromise," Brocks said. "I had trouble biting my lip. I burned a lot of bridges. I'm not driving this cab by accident."

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