Operating as an essential business in San Antonio during the coronavirus pandemic has been a struggle. I have been in the taxi business in our beautiful city for 40 years. We have seen hard times before, but absolutely nothing compares to this crisis.

Driving downtown, where we once had plenty of tourists and conventioneers requesting our services, or waiting at the airport, where we could have as many as 100 drivers picking up visitors to our lovely city, it’s like a ghost town, something straight out of a horror movie.

Now there are no tourists strolling the downtown streets, no sports fans going to games, or concertgoers catching their favorite musicians on tour. Hotels are closed and restaurants that have managed to stay open are operating at limited capacity or strictly curbside and delivery.

We are lucky that after 40 years in business we have some local customers – maybe a short trip to the doctor’s office, pharmacy, or grocery store. Everything helps. The 100 drivers that regularly worked the airport have dwindled down to maybe 5 to 10 drivers. These drivers are lucky to pick up 1 or 2 trips in their long day shifts. But they hang in there because they don’t have options. Many of us are older; the job market is dismal. There’s no alternative but to keep working. And we count our blessings. Maybe a driver makes $30 or $40 one day. It’s not much, but it’s better than nothing.

I started my company in 1980 with a $20,000 loan and am proud of the company I’ve built. We’ve been hit hard, but I’m an independent business owner and I take pride in doing things on my own. I didn’t apply for the Small Business Administration loans because it’s hard for small businesses like mine, or the little taqueria down the street, to wade through all the technicalities. We’re asked for information that we just don’t know about, and it’s businesses like ours that end up falling through the cracks.

With very little business coming in, it’s hard to keep up with regular expenses. We pay permit fees to the City of San Antonio every six months and, due to City regulations, we have to replace our cars regularly. But there are so many cars that just aren’t being used, so we’re asking the City for an extension on those vehicles and for permit fees to be waived during the pandemic.

I know that my drivers depend on me, so I’m doing all that I can to keep things going. I keep up with the news, so I bought masks, gloves, and hand sanitizer before it all started selling out. We’ve been on top of protecting ourselves and our customers. We don’t have another choice but to keep working. And it’s tough. I know some days my drivers feel like giving up. So I check in on them and try to lift their spirits, try to give them trips that get called in. We work as a team and try to motivate each other.

I was raised poor, so that gives me an advantage in that I’ve seen hard times. My dad died when I was four, and I was raised by a single mom. She worked very hard, doing everything she could to care for us. In the summer months, I would go pick cotton in the terrible heat. I’m blessed to be where I am right now, but hard times? I’ve been there. Because of that I have hope that things can get better. I’m a native San Antonian and have so much love for my city. I know that we can get through this together and once again welcome people from all over to see just how wonderful our city is.

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Robert Gonzales

Robert Gonzales started National Cab in 1980. He is a proud San Antonio native.