A dozen cabs idled in a line outside South Station on Wednesday afternoon, but few were going anywhere anytime soon.
For taxi drivers, Christmas Day is notorious. It’s among the slowest days of the year, when the thin trickle of potential customers coming out of the train station means they often wait at the curb for more than an hour before nabbing their next fare.
Still, Augustin Cime, 61, tried to be optimistic. Working on Christmas Day, he said, is not just an opportunity to make some extra cash — it’s a good deed he performs to help out others trying to get home for the holidays.
“If everybody stays home and you need help, how are you going to get help?” said Cime, of Mattapan. He watched a couple dressed in matching trenchcoats trot out of the station, rolling suitcases behind them, as they jumped into the first cab in line. Cime nodded toward the pair.
“If there is no cab,” Cime said, “what are they going to do?”
When it comes to the nitty-gritty task of getting from here to there, Christmas functions like any other day — some people schlep to their destination, and others must show up for work to be able to get them there. But for some who spent the holiday on the roads or rails, the day’s transportation pursuits took on a veneer of positivity, as people sought out the silver lining in their commuting hassles.
Even cab drivers were able to find comfort in the experience of working on a holiday.
One driver snacked on food that he had brought from home in a plastic container. Others read newspapers. Another gazed into the screen of a laptop as he waited for the time when he would be able to pull forward by one spot.
Cime had spent the morning with his family, opening presents, feasting on breakfast, and calling relatives in Haiti. But he knew that come early afternoon, he’d have to be ready to get on the road.
“This is the best time to enjoy with family,” Cime acknowledged, but “this is going to help my family.”
Some were less glass-half-full about their lot on Christmas Day. Majd Benjelloun, 54, of Winthrop, is originally from Morocco and is Muslim, so he doesn’t celebrate Christmas. Still, he has been tempted to take the holiday off, but said he hasn’t taken a vacation in years because of the constant need to make money to cover the costs of operating a cab. He had to make $71 for the day just to break even.
Besides, he said, tips are better on Christmas.
“People are more nice today,” Benjelloun said.
Others also took advantage of Yuletide generosity.
Lewis Brown, 67, sat on a pair of plastic crates on the outbound side of the South Station Red Line platform as he balanced a Casio keyboard on his lap with one hand, tapping out “Joy to the World” with his other hand. Brown said he’s usually in a subway station on Christmas Day.
“Everybody likes the way I play,” Brown said, as he improvised a riff on the keys. “It’s like I’m lifting people up with a little music.”
As he played, a woman in a navy beret dropped a dollar bill into his cup and wished him a merry Christmas.
For some, the Christmas present that trumped all others was ease of movement.
“No traffic going into Boston today is actually the best gift of all,” Kati O’Neill wrote on Twitter.
Perhaps nowhere was the lack of traffic more jarring than in the North End, where parking is often a nightmare. It was a special surprise for Bernie Ponte, 58, of Nashua. Not only was he able to whizz down on the highway to Boston in record-breaking time, he said, but he found a parking spot on Hanover Street. Magic, he said.
“It seems like we’re always driving around the block a million times,” Ponte said, describing his previous trips to the North End.
He waved an arm at the parking spot in which his sedan now resided, just a few feet from the restaurant he and his wife planned to patronize.
“We just got here, it’s amazing,” he said. “It’s like, merry Christmas to us!”