'There is only one 'Cocker' Dunn': Jiffy Cabs dispatcher retires after 39 years

Going to the airport, getting picked up from work or trying to get home after a long night on George Street, you've heard this phrase — "Jiffy Caaabs..."

However, the famous, twangy greeting will no longer be coming through the phone from taxi dispatcher Rodney "Cocker" Dunn, who started using the salutation 25 years ago. 

Dunn, also known as the "Jiffy Cabs guy," retired Sunday.

"The job's been good to me over the years," said Dunn at the start of his final shift Saturday afternoon. 

"I love talking to people ... I likes a bit of fun."

Although you've likely heard his voice, you might not know what he looks like. But that's something Dunn is eager to change. 

"I am just going out to drive the cab two nights a week and meet the people I spoke to on the phone so many times and meet face-to-face. They tell me their story, and I'll them my story."

Meg Roberts/CBC

Staff at Jiffy Cabs believe Dunn has answered about 11.7 million calls over his 39 years in the industry. 

But they believe it's his attitude that has resonated so well with Newfoundlanders. 

"He meant so much to people's lives, he was a part of their day," said George Murphy, Jiffy Cabs's business manager.

"I don't know how he did it, I really don't know. I think it's time for him to take a break."

Murphy said Dunn has truly shaped the Jiffy Cabs brand.

"I think it is engrained here in the province now. It's just part of Newfoundland and Labrador folklore. There is only one "Cocker" Dunn and there is only one way of doing it, and he is it."

Family business 

Dunn was 14 years old when he got his first job dispatching for Radio Cabs. He has since worked at the former Gullivers and Co-Op Taxi before parking it at Jiffy Cabs.

His dad drove a taxi for 52 years, like his grandfather before him.

Meg Roberts/CBC

Dunn said there really was no conscious decision to become a dispatcher.

"You had to do something to make money and the opportunity was there. I grew up with eight kids in the family … if you wanted money you had to go out and get it. Work for it."

Dunn's younger brother, Jay, has also been working for the company for more than a decade.

Outpouring of support 

Since the company announced Dunn's retirement hundreds of people have sent warm wishes. 

Murphy said more than 4,000 people called Saturday evening and into Sunday morning as Dunn was wrapping up his last shift.

"It was astounding," he said. "It was like New Year's all over again."

Murphy said Dunn even took a call from as far as Australia, and although he didn't recognize the voice, he recognized the person's address.

Meg Roberts/CBC

"A floodgate of people calling … wanting to hear him say that one more time," he said. 

And some even showed up in person, to meet Dunn formally and present gifts. 

Murphy said Dunn's celebrity status might cause a bit of chaos when he gets back on the road. He's letting clients know now there will be no special requests. 

"You just got to play the Jiffy Cabs lottery," Murphy said with a chuckle.

Good days and bad days 

Dunn said he laughed a lot during his career, but it wasn't always easy.

He recalled a time when a female driver was robbed after a man struck her in the head with a rock. Dunn thought that someone was messing around with her radio but later realized she was looking for help.

"That wasn't a nice day," he said. 

Dunn said the job was different every day. He has taken calls from police officers looking for suspects, and frantic passengers looking for their lost belongings. 

But there was one thing that has always remained the same.

"As long as the customers get looked after all the time, that is the main thing," he said, with tears in his eyes.

"The customers are number one."

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