Confessions of a lady cab driver

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

I would eventually have my revenge.

A few years later, a dope-dealing employee of a St. Paul gas station called me to come pick up a fare. I drove through a blizzard of white gold (cabbie fact: snow storms are very profitable) and watched as a young male poured himself into the backseat, reeking of booze. He looked like every other young, scrawny, Midwestern guy I'd had in my taxi a thousand times before.

As we headed south on Highway 52 he started to vomit. Imagine the rage you'd feel if one of your clients arrived piss drunk at your office, only to barf all over everything. I turned to freak out at him. We both realized it at the same time: Neck Tattoo had slithered back into my life.

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

He pleaded with me not to kick his ass or to kick him out, pulling out $100 and begging me to take him to Inver Grove. I did some quick mental math: He'd shorted me $25 a few years back; the ride today was another $25. Add in $50 for interest and the pain and suffering of cleaning up his sick.

It took a few years, but I had won.

Every cabbie has a robbery story

This is a job that requires guts and quick thinking.

Example: Gangbanger jumps into my cab and wants a ride from from St. Paul's East Side to north Minneapolis, one questionable neighborhood to another. This equals high risk, which requires a high guard and money up front.

He hints that he has a gun. Because of that, I'm "gonna" take him wherever he wants to go.

Sorry, dude, wrong cabbie. I pull into a 24-hour gas station that doubles as a cop hangout. A group of officers are gathered inside drinking coffee. I ask Mr. Badass what he thinks the boys in blue would say about his plan.

Suddenly he ain't so badass. He jumps out and penguin shuffles with a sagging-pants run into the night, muttering "this is bullshit" under his breath.

Yeah, that's what I thought.

Every line of work has its ups and downs, and almost every cabbie has a robbery story. On a slow summer night around 3 a.m., I got a call for four young hoodlums in south Maplewood. I'd dropped off a couple of my regulars, Maggie and Lucy, bartenders from Jerseys Bar. This call would hopefully take me in the direction of my bed.

But something wasn't right. The callout from the cab computer had failed, often a sign that the phone number was bogus or a long distance number. I could see four shady dudes outside of a long line of dark garages in a low-to-no-income cluster of town homes. It wasn't the address I was given, but instinct told me they were my pickup.

Critical thinking exercise: Why would four young males give a fake address and phone number to order a cab in the middle of the night? Because they were up to no good.

I locked the doors and shoved my money and cell phone in my bra. If they tried to rob me, they'd have to go to a forbidden place to get my goods.

I have a layered approach to my valuables. A purse in plain sight with no true valuables, then two cash stashes and my ID and credit cards in separate locations. If I get robbed they will go after the purse first (low-hanging fruit). If they demand cash, I can give them the small change stash. I approached with caution.

One of the sketchy dudes noticed my doors were locked. "What, you racist?" he demanded.

Every cab driver learns quickly that if someone is up to no good, he or she will call you a racist. He's playing on the hope that you will be uncomfortable (most white people are) and question your instincts.

Mr. Racist made me uncomfortable. Normally this would be the point where I drive off and live another day, but his friend, Mr. Good Guy Gangbanger, talked me into letting them in the cab.

Three climbed in and cuddled together in the back, including Mr. Racist. Mr. Good Guy sat in the front. My cabbie-sense was tingling. Something was off about these fools. Mr. Racist was the kind of guy I would read about doing something bad to a cab driver someday. I could it feel with absolute certainty.

They wouldn't give me money up front, wouldn't let me speak to the chick on the other end who was "supposed" to pay, and wouldn't give me collateral. I knew I was either going to get robbed, run on, or both, but it was too late.

I thought about pulling into a gas station and making them get out (it's illegal for me to dump them on a freeway), but there were no open gas stations en route.

When we arrived on the 200 block of East Cook, the street was so dark I could hardly see the house numbers. As I slowed, Mr. Good Guy Gangbanger grabbed my purse. His buddies ran.

If you're going to mess with me, expect some resistance. I clung to my purse.

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