It was little more than a blip on my 30 plus year timeline in the taxi industry, but my short tenure with Premier Cab, in Minneapolis, left a lasting effect on how I view my role as a cab driver, and advocate for the industry.
Tom Lijewski started his 30 cab fleet of Lincoln Town Car taxis in 1989. Due to his sight impairment, Mr. Lijewski had long relied on taxis in order to get around town. He lamented the lack of customer service in the industry, and decided instead whining about it, he'd start his own company. The Town Cars, along with professional, uniformed drivers, were an instant success.
By the time I came to drive for Premier Cab, I had been in the industry for just under 8 years. Unfortunately, I had developed some bad habits, that weren't very customer friendly. Part of that was because of the beat up cabs I found myself driving in the early part of my career. There were days I didn't want to come to work, because I never know what piece of crap the company was going to roll out for me.
Mr. Lijewski had two steadfast rules. If you drove one of his spiffy Lincolns, you better not smoke or eat in the cab, and you better treat your passengers with the utmost respect, regardless of what they looked like, or how long the ride was. It is a trait that I take to this business to this very day, and one that I think is sorely missing, despite the ever growing number of cabs on the streets of the Twin Cities.
My travels had caused me to lose contact with Tom, but I was lucky enough to be able to see him a few months ago, at a benefit. Tom had come down with ALS, and was confined to a wheelchair. I was thrilled to know that he still remembered me, after so many years. I can only hope I left a good impression.
I was informed this morning, by friend and former Premier Cab driver, Ken Sowers, that Tom Lijewski had succumb to his ailment. I couldn't help but pause for a moment, and remember this short, but pertinent part of my life, in which I met a man who helped transform me from a hack, to a professional taxi driver.
Rest in peace, my friend...