Confessions of a lady cab driver

Twin Cities-based cabbie Chey Eisenman talks death and taxis and everything in between

Confessions of a lady cab driver
E. Katie Holm. Special thanks to Doug Luchsinger of A Taxi for loaning the 1978 Checker Marathon.

A woman slipped into the backseat of my cab, sobbing. Since I am, as a general rule, uncomfortable around tears, I wanted her to stop.

"The rule in my taxi is that if you're going to cry, you must share the story behind the tears," I told her, expecting the typical "my boyfriend/girlfriend dumped me" or "I lost my job."

Instead: "My daughter drowned a few days ago. And tonight I came home to find my husband on top of our neighbor."

Chey Eisenman began driving a cab when she lost her two jobs, but not her bills
E. Katie Holm
Chey Eisenman began driving a cab when she lost her two jobs, but not her bills
E. Katie Holm

The cab fell silent, as if all the air had been sucked out. As she spoke, the tears stopped and her speech became flat and void of emotion.

The pressure pushed me to say something, anything, to break the silence. But what do you say to something like that? Tears began to creep into the corners of my eyes.

As I dropped her off at a motel, I thought about the story she shared: a woman baring her soul about (I hope) the worst thing that will happen to her. What would compel someone to share something so raw and intimate with a complete stranger?

But I already knew. Cab drivers are the nomadic priests of the streets, hauling people from every walk of life, listening to their confessions. We offer no absolution, no penance, only a listening ear.

We see the best and worst of humanity.

Lady cab drivers not particularly wanted

My adventures as a cabbie began when I was laid off from my nine-to-five at a tech firm in the North Loop. Shortly thereafter, I lost my night gig serving at Chino Latino, an Uptown restaurant.

Though I had lost my jobs, I hadn't been able to lose my bills. Ask anyone who has experienced a job loss how quickly the bank account drains when the faucet turns off.

So I sat down and began listing temporary money-making options while I interviewed with other tech companies. As a joke, I put cabbie on the list.

I'd once set up a girlfriend with a guy I met at Chino Latino in an effort to distract her from a creep she was seeing. He'd been secretly driving cab after a job loss, and offered to show me the ropes, including ways I could scam customers for a few extra dollars. Whenever people recognized him, he would claim they were wrong. He was embarrassed by his new vocation.

I told myself that if I was going to drive a cab, I'd do it honestly, in the open. After all, when most people think of a cabbie, they don't consider a sassy, mostly white woman elbowing her way into the forefront of this image. I would stick out like an albino buck in the forest — with no commercial driving experience.

I eventually found an owner-operator willing to rent to me after fighting to get my calls returned. They were desperate for drivers, but didn't want to rent to a woman, though I never fully understood why. Drivers tend to wash out quickly, and some of his drivers had been the victims of serious violence. He was being protective in his own fatherly, Egyptian way.

He rented me the worst cab in the history of cabs: a retrofitted police cruiser, filthy and barely mobile. I couldn't afford to be choosy.

The rise & fall of Neck Tattoo

It was a slow Sunday night when I grabbed a call at a cluster of apartments in Inver Grove Heights that's known for trouble among cabbies and cops. Ideal? Nope. But getting evicted from my apartment wouldn't be optimal either.

He was young and scrawny, with a charming neck tattoo. He slithered into the backseat with a case of Coors Light (very suburban 651 area code) and told me he was going to a seedy bar in an equally seedy neighborhood on St. Paul's East Side.

(What kind of customer brings a case of beer to a bar, you might ask? Someone who's not really going to a bar.)

I have come to realize that shady knows no social, economic, or ethnic commonality. Shadiness is like pornography: You know it when you see it. And I saw it.

When we reached our destination, Neck Tattoo jumped out and started to run, carrying his case of Coors Light. I was livid. I spun around in the middle of the street, jumped the curb, and drove across a vacant lot between two houses.

Cabbie warning: Do not mess with our income during the slow months of summer.

I envisioned flinging open my door, knocking him to the ground with a satisfying thud. But I thought better of it. (Body work is expensive, and I wasn't sure if running down a customer is exactly legal.)

Instead, I chose the slightly less awesome but surprisingly satisfying Jump Out of My Cab and Shove Him into a Retaining Wall option. His shoulder crushed into the wall and he tumbled to the ground. I like to think that he peed himself a little, but he was off and running again before I had the chance to confirm. I had a decision to make: continue my pursuit and leave my cab unattended, or accept the $25 loss. Giving up wasn't easy, but I didn't want to see "Vigilante Cabbie Goes Too Far" in the next morning's paper.

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Thanks for the information! I've always been lucky to find awesome cab drivers like yourself. I actually really enjoy riding in cabs. I love talking to taxi drivers. It's nice getting to know new people!


I was just wondering where I could get the "gangbanger" detector this racist cab driver must have had in order to be able to tell if someone is in a gang or not. Or is "gangbanger" code for something the target market of Citypages gets. When speaking of her $20 a day customer, she put no label on her (gangbanger, riff-raff, thug,ect...) I bet she was white. (Or maybe it's because the use of a taxi in prostitution is prohibited. So is asking to be paid up front.)Fwd Fwd Fwd


The article was riveting. I hope to read more by Eisenman in the future!


These are great stories and you have good writing skills. But I have to ask:

You were worried about making rent, yet you still bought a "brand new" Primp purse and considered "$75 moisturizer, $28 mascara, $30 hand cream, $25 lip gloss, $30 Apple earbuds, etc." to be "daily essentials?"

If you lived with a bit of frugality, you wouldn't have to drive a cab! Of course, if you enjoy the risk, by all means drive a cab and keep telling stories. 

But if you'd like a more leisurely, less risky job, check out the mister money mustache blog. If nothing else you'll enjoy his writing style, which is similar to yours.


sweetliberty17761776 topcommenter


so you cant really be sure if she is racist

but for a fact you are as you state "bet she was white" 

the article tells you

get a clue 

if you dont like stereotypes stop supporting them



The author, who is an excellent writer, listed $158 of beauty products in an expensive bag. Below I've listed the same products for a total of $22. If this is a monthly purchase, the yearly cost is $1896 vs $264.

How many cab fares does it take to make up the difference of $1632? That doesn't even require "going without" these "essentials", it just means selecting more affordable products.

Boy, do I feel like an idiot for making a friendly suggesting that could improve a person's lifestyle and save them $16,320 over ten years (not even accounting for compound interest).

$8 moisturizer:

$5 mascara:

$4 hand cream:

$5 lip gloss:


The woman was sexually assaulted while at work, but by all means focus on the important things like how much her moisturizer cost.


@ryanflanders @sillyboys this was my immediate thought as well. i am a female, and i make over $80K annually. i buy Olay from Costco in a 2-pack because it is cheaper than Target and use the free mascara i get in my Clinique bonuses. i also don't have an iPhone. all of these seem totally unnecessary and point to a major issue with overconsumption and gluttony in america.


@MakeItSo  please tone down the drama, not a single person discounted the fact that this happened to her.

however, if I were so concerned with my safety, I sure as hell wouldn't be carrying hundreds of dollars of products on the seat of my vehicle. and as ryan says below, if life is so difficult, why in the world are you spending so irresponsibly?


@MakeItSo Of course we don't want our dear author to get robbed and sexually assaulted. Frugality is very relevant to the discussion. If she limited her overspending, she would have the option of working a less risky job.

The photo cultine reads "Chey Eisenman began driving a cab when she lost her two jobs, but not her bills."

We are merely suggesting that scaling back some of her bills would allow her to choose a safer occupation.


@NoMoreGasthof @MakeItSo I'm not being dramatic. I may have used the oh-so-dramatic-phrase "sexually assaulted" for flair(and accuracy), but really, I just think it's ridiculous that someone read that entire piece and the thing they felt was worth criticizing was the cost of her personal products, as if that had anything to do with anything. It was such an off-hand comment in her story that to bring it up in the comments is missing the point.

She already is a cab driver, this stuff already happened to her, and from what I read, she's already in a place where she has built up a better clientele. These are merely her stories as a cab driver. She sounds smart and okay with her decisions, so to hit her with the frugality-slap seems rude and dismissive.


@MakeItSo @NoMoreGasthof again - you clearly miss the entire point. she ended up in a risky job that caused her to be in a situation where robbery, assault, etc. were a reality. if she wanted to be in a less risky job and climb out of the hole more quickly, she wouldn't spend so irresponsibly. if you don't think this is a major point of the article, and as i mentioned, a major issue in our society, then you need to do some soul searching. it's like people who buy electronics or gym memberships but not medications for their kids. they're out there, and it effects all of us as a society.

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