August 24, 2005 News & Features » Cover Story

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Mario Oweidi, 37 

Owner, American Taxi

I've been driving in Richmond for two years. Before that, I drove a cab in Chicago. It's an interesting business. Sometimes we meet famous people. Like yesterday I had — what do you call them? — The Click Five. They are a group, a band. I dropped them off at Tower [Records] and people were lining up to meet them.

Sometimes we have to be like the bartender. We see all the drunk people. But it's our job to help those that have a problem. I would rather help somebody who is drunk take a cab than have them drive. I save lives, too.

Sometimes people talk about their lifestyles or whatever problems they're having and we listen to them and maybe try to help them make sense. Sometimes we offer advice. They talk about subjects that often we find ourselves involved in and we have to figure out what the circumstances are.

One time when I was working nighttime, I had a few guys going to the South Side and I felt uncomfortable having them in my cab. I drove about two blocks and they started talking bad, and with their hands gesturing, I could tell they were not normal, that they might do something. So I decided to turn around and drop them off. We are not allowed to have a knife or a gun.

When it's slow, I try to have a book with me. Most of the time, especially in winter, I stay by the Omni Hotel downtown. There are lots of people around — lawyers, businessmen — who want to go to the airport or to the West End. When I drive I listen to 98.1, John Tesh.

Sometimes people say they've seen the ["Taxicab Confessions"] series on HBO, and they joke and ask if I have a video camera in my cab. Always my answer is no. But sometimes to loosen them up or to make them laugh, I say I do. I can see the expression on their faces that they are shocked — and I say, "No, I'm just kidding." — As told to Brandon Walters



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