Astoria cab driver Michael Rodas was a little hesitant to show some skin for his 2017 NYC Taxi Drivers Calendar photo shoot, but the former health club manager graces both the October page and the back cover.
Rodas, who was born and raised in Astoria, is friends with another Astoria driver who was featured in last year’s calendar and knew he had to be a part of the process this year.
“I was kind of talking about this last year,” Rodas said. “I missed the boat.”
The calendar is the brainchild of Philip and Shannon Kirkman. The duo created a “tongue-in-cheek beefcake calendar” in 2012 as a Christmas gift for Philip Kirkman’s older brother. They decided to feature taxi drivers to take some of the mystery out of the men and women who chauffeur city residents every day.
Rodas said the first few minutes were a little uncomfortable but he was able to have fun with the process.
“I felt a little awkward but at the same time it was fun and I guess it was also, it was around 7 a.m., there were a lot of other taxi drivers that passed by and smiled and gave me a thumbs up,” he said.
Rodas has been driving a taxi for eight years. He was laid off from his job as a health club manager during the recession and spent a year looking for other jobs. On his way to a job interview, he stepped into a taxi and struck up a conversation with a driver who recommended he apply for the job.
“He planted a seed in my head,” Rodas said. “I fell in love with it. I should have been doing this 10 years ago.”
The Astoria native said his customer service experience helps him strike up interesting conversations with clients and also leads to better tips. He was also able to meet one of his idols through this job.
“I remember seeing Questlove form The Roots,” Rodas said. “He was actually hailing for a cab and I saw so many cabs passing him by.”
Rodas got out of the cab to open the door for the musician and was able to take a photo with him.
Rodas said he has fond memories of driving around in a cab with his father, who was a taxi driver in the ’80s.
“He was driving those big checker cabs, picking me up from school,” he said. “I used to love that.”
Rodas said he stopped working out for a while because he had knee and back pain but has recently started running again. He’s going to use the photos as inspiration to start getting active again, he said. Rodas would also like to use his new-found fame to convince taxi and limousine commissioners to encourage fitness and a healthier lifestyle for his fellow drivers.
He’d like the commission to sponsor yellow cab drivers to run in the New York City Marathon and even has a sneaker design in mind exclusively for taxi drivers.
“Why wouldn’t they want to promote health and fitness in cab drivers?” he said. “You’re sitting pretty much 10 to 12 hours a day.”
The calendar costs $14.99 and the proceeds go to University Settlement, America’s oldest tenement house. The 130-year-old settlement serves about 30,000 immigrants and low-income families every year with programs such as mental health services, adult literacy and case managers to help those on the verge of homelessness.
Philip and Shannon Kirkman have been able to donate nearly $55,000 to the organization through the calendar.
To purchase a calendar, click here.