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Beyond Belief – Cabs of Put-in-Bay

North Coast, Checker, Kens, Supercab, Matt’s, Chick with Attitude, Put-in-Bay Cab Co., Island Club, the list goes on and on.  I swear there are more cab companies and gypsy cabbies working in PIB on a busy weekend than New York City. For three bucks these folks will take you anywhere on the island. Not a bad deal. I can’t remember getting into a cab in any major city without the meter starting at $2.70 (plus extras, whatever that mystery charge is…), before I even get a chance to discuss with the cabbie where I want to go it has cost me 5 bucks.  Like all cab stories, you know there’s never one around when you really want one and 20 waiting when you don’t, but the good news is that the island is only 3.5 miles long so if you call, you’ll probably get one in 5 minutes or less.  And if not, luckily there is always Buck, Pam or Roger driving the Island Transportation bus from the downtown depot to Lime Kiln dock just about every half hour.

Checking out the drivers and their vehicles is almost as much fun as the cab ride itself.  The fleet of cabs on the island varies from almost new 2008 diesel Ford Econoline; to a bonafide antique 1978 Dodge passenger van.  The most popular style is the older modified airport limos that allow you to stand up inside the vans while riding, which comes in quite handy at closing time when everybody needs a cab at the exact same time. I heard a rumor that one of these vans had over 30 people in it one night a few weeks ago.

Anyway, the drivers range from young college kids hoping to make money for tuition to retiree’s looking to cover Medicare supplemental coverage costs. For many people coming to the island, these cabbies are the first people they come in contact with.  Most are quite friendly and will go out of their way to help you find what ever you are looking for. They are in a way the island ombudsmen.

Over the last few years only Larry Kowalski, who owns PIB Cabs, has stuck it out all winter long. The rest usually disappear by mid September. We personally have moved furniture, groceries, remodeling supplies and even our recycling with Larry to and from the ferry. His dedication to the Islanders year round makes him a standout.

During the summer, especially on weekend nights, you might get the feeling that the cabs are like sharks, circling looking for bait. If you need a cab, you might want to be a bit choosey. Not all the cabs are the height of comfort or cleanliness. However, most of the cabbies want to make you a happy customer, so what they lack in comfort and style they try to make up for with a positive attitude.  Nothing beats a good cabbie story.  Spend some time riding around the island in a cab and you are sure to hear a few. One of the island drivers who can tell a good story is Dusty (Chick with Attitude). Dusty is a very hard working lady, and the only cabbie with a handicapped van so her ride is often requested. And not only is she a very nice person, but from time to time she has her grandkids with her helping out.
So this summer, if your driver was friendly and got you to your destination safely remember to tip. In the big picture the tip is really the measure of appreciation the drivers work hard for and we should reward those that do a good job.

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