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Ali Omari, 43 

Owner, Royal Cab

When you get the client sometimes he acts very smart, is too busy to talk to you, and I understand that. Sometimes they are just regular working-class people and they love to talk to you. They wonder where you come from. What brought you here? How is business? Some people have fights with their companions and they try to express their feelings. They complain to you — as a jury, as a judge — what do you think? Here's the problem: Some drivers, they take it too personal. As an owner, I don't mind that as long as there are limits.

The people who come from out of town, they think you are the governor of the city, you should know everything. You should know where the good place is, where the bad place is. What is a good restaurant? Where are the bad areas? Where is the fun? If you know what you're talking about, you make them happy, even if you don't take them where they want. They find you smart. You go to a bad neighborhood and they want drugs, for example, or they want to find women, as a cab driver, you should not be involved in that, and if the police pulled you over, you wouldn't be treated as innocent.

There are some neighborhoods where we know from the news there's crime there, there're robberies there, shootings there — this kind of place we do not go. And we tell the client we cannot send a cab after dark. Like Pizza Hut, like Papa John's, they don't deliver after dark in these neighborhoods.

If you have a situation you think might jeopardize your life, you have the right to refuse them, the right to kick them out. The cab service in Richmond is like any commodity you deal with. The bottom line is, I could name the cab driver as the Godfather, as the closest of friends, as a psychiatrist, a doctor, a wise person. — As told to Brandon Walters



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