Cabbie Cruises Pittsburgh Streets on Road to a Teaching Future
BY SCOTT TRAVERSO
It’s 5 p.m. on a Friday. While most college students are getting ready to enjoy themselves after a long week of class, Rian Zarko is just getting to work. Zarko, a 25-year- old junior at California University of Pennsylvania, is not like most college students.
Zarko is a cab driver for Pittsburgh Yellow Cab, a job one would not expect a college student to have. Before being a cab driver, Zarko had just about every job one might think a college student would have.
“Stock clerk, gas station attendant, cook, server, and bartender -- I did it all,” Zarko said.
A freak injury led him to Yellow Cab and it has worked out well. In the spring of 2011, Zarko tore his anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee at a Cal U intramural basketball game. The injury required surgery and can take close to a year for rehab.
Forced to find work that had him off his feet, Zarko became a freelance driver for his friends when they went to the bar or anywhere around town. Eventually, a friend directed him to making his business official and got him a job with Yellow Cab.
The ins and outs of the cab business were easy to grasp, and now his routine on the weekend is set in stone.
He picks up the cab between 4 p.m. and 5 p.m., drives the business crowd around, then moves onto the dinner crowd.
The rest of the night is dedicated to college students and young adults in the Oakland, Southside, and Mt. Washington areas.
“You can take a 12-hour lease, a 24-hour lease, or a weekend lease on a cab, and after you make back your lease, the rest of the money is yours to keep,” Zarko said.
“On any given weekend, I can make an easy $500.”
Along with the money, the schedule is another thing that Zarko enjoys about driving a cab. He only has to take the cab out once a month to retain his status as a Yellow Cab employee, so it works around his schedule for being a fulltime college student. The schedule allows him to work whenever he wants and basically have a business to himself.
“If I make a Facebook status saying I have the cab for the night, my phone is ringing nonstop,” Zarko said.
“I don’t even have to take calls that get sent into Yellow Cab. My friends and regulars know I can pick them up, or if
need be, I can pick people up on East Carson Street. There is more than enough business down there every Friday and Saturday," Zarko said.
Although the cab business has been good to him, Zarko has bigger plans for his future. A secondary education social studies major, Zarko is looking forward to student teaching in the fall of 2013. After he graduates, Zarko is looking to get a teaching job around the Pittsburgh area.
“Being from the North Side of Pittsburgh, I saw a lot of kids get ignored and left behind and that’s not acceptable to me,” Zarko said.
“I spent lots of time at Heinz House when I was young and it’s a safe place for kids to go after school and stay off the streets. It really influenced me in my decision to go into education and help those kids in need while they’re still in school,” he said.
Zarko knows getting a teaching job right out of school isn’t a guarantee and that the cab job is a good back-up plan to have.
He said, at first, if he’s just subbing on and off, he can keep working for Yellow Cab on the weekends to keep the money coming in. But the big picture for Zarko is moving on from the cab business and into the world of education.
“I have more to give the world than just a ride around town,” he said.
Scott Traverso is a senior at California University of Pennsylvania majoring in Journalism. He enjoys all things Pittsburgh, music, and playing golf.