Being a cabbie will 'get in your blood'

  • Article by: JAMES LILEKS , Star Tribune
  • Updated: January 4, 2014 - 4:46 PM
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My Minnesota bym Lilieks.. Chey Eisenman

Chey Eisenman drives a cab. How was New Year’s Eve?

“You work very hard for your money! The phone never stops ringing, and people have unrealistic expectations, like a cab can fall out of the sky. What do you mean you can’t be here in three minutes?!?

So you’re like a bartender, right? People feel anonymous in the back seat, unburden themselves, ask for your life wisdom? No?

“The first few years it was a lot more dangerous and hellish. I was driving random people and strangers. I was shocked by the way people treated me. I’d worked as a waiter, worked in IT — and I’d never been treated with such abuse and disrespect. From people in the ’hood to white collar to everything in between, they treated cabdrivers like fourth-class citizens.

“I remember going to the North Loop; she gets in my cab, treats me like dog crap, making cutting remarks all the time. We get to her condo, and I realize we know each other. Oh, you’re so and so. We both know so and so!” She laughs. “Now she’s embarrassed.”

So it’s not a job where Minnesota Nice is on glorious display. What made you get into the taxi trade?

“I found myself in a stressful pickle. I was laid off from my IT job in 2009, and I made a list of things I could do. I wrote cab driving on the list as a joke, just to see people’s reaction — wasn’t very good. Why? No one does that. Because it was so far outside what anyone would expect me to do, I was curious.”

She tried to rent a taxi from a fleet, but no one called back, “because I was a girl.”

Finally, a cab company relented: “They looked at me, chuckled and put me in the worst taxi. I wouldn’t have put a dog in that taxi. They thought I’d wash out, but not only did I make the taxi immaculate, I was paying them on time.”

Odd how minds change when you can hand over a stack of bills at the end of the shift.

Have to ask: Most memorable fare?

“I got a call one night, and the bartender said we have to help the passenger out of the bar. That’s a bad sign — they might not know their name, or throw up. So the bartender and two Samaritans came out holding her up. She can’t carry her body weight; she’s kinda dressed like a prostitute. They said a man had joined her for one drink, and then she got like this, so we’re thinking he drugged her.

“She can’t say her name or where she lives. We’re going through her purse to find out where she lives — she had about $1,500 on her. After we found the ID we go to her house with the two guys. They paid her fare and we got her inside.

“She looks up and says: ‘You look like someone I should be thankful for.’ ”

“I’ve been doing it four years. It was so extreme and foreign to anything I’ve experienced. Meeting people I would never encounter, people I didn’t know existed in society. Old-time cabdrivers told me to be careful, this job will get in your blood — I didn’t believe them. But it did.”

JAMES LILEKS

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