RALEIGH, N.C. — When people see Dwight Robinett's cab, they usually have one of two reactions: They scream and applaud, or they wonder aloud: "What the heck is that?"
Robinett, 66, has been a driver for Taxi Taxi of Raleigh, N.C., for about three years. For the last two, he has decked out his yellow cab for the holidays, wrapping it in multiple strands of lights, carefully attached with waterproof gaffer tape.
This year it took Robinett about 20 hours of painstaking work to attach about 9,100 lights over every inch of his Toyota Prius in a grid pattern that still allows people to get in and out of the vehicle, he said.
"It's tricky," he said. "You have to get the wires just right so you can open the doors."
Robinett said he hung about 4,000 lights on his cab last year because he thought it would be more fun than decorating his house again. This year he decided to double the number of lights because they got such a great reaction from people riding in his cab.
"Sometimes people want to ride in my cab just for my lights," he said. "I just had a lady call me to have me drive her around in my cab to deliver presents."
Robinett said he took up driving fares as a second career. Originally from Houston, Robinett retired from the North Carolina Symphony after spending roughly 35 years as the assistant principal trombonist.
He picked up the trombone when he was 12, after his band director suggested he should try the brass instrument because he had arms long enough to operate its long slide.
"When I was 15, I decided that's what I wanted to do for a living," he said.
He estimates that he played the trombone for about 50 years, but had to stop after some dental work made it difficult for him to play, he said.
Unable to sit still in his retirement, Robinett came across the idea of operating a cab for Taxi Taxi because he liked talking to people and liked driving, he said.
As a member of the symphony, Robinett played all sorts of holiday music in December and toured North Carolina many times bringing cheer to all corners of the state. In a different way, Robinett is still bringing cheer to others when he drives Raleigh's streets with his colorful cab sparkling down the road.
"A lot of people say, 'That made me smile. I had a really bad day but that made me happy,' and that's a good thing," Robinett said. "There's too much negativity in the world. I'm just trying to make some people smile."