It doesn’t always seem like the best idea to jump into a big, green van with a Big Daddy or Shaggin’ Wagon Taxi logo scrawled on the tinted side windows. Most moms teach their daughters to avoid cars like those somewhere in between the lessons about never taking candy from strangers and always carrying a can of pepper spray in their purse. Turns out, for a quality ride home, the local cabs just might be the right companies to call.
Theater sophomore Sam Higgins has used taxis many times around the East Lansing area, mostly getting to the local club scene and back and forth to the airport to travel to her hometown in Georgia. She said she’s never had a bad experience with any of the companies, even making short-term friends with a few of the drivers. “They’re so lovable, they’re just like big teddy bears,” Higgins said. “I haven’t met a cab driver on the East Lansing campus that didn’t just listen to me talk and tell my sob stories.”
[cab]At least 20 cab companies have laid their stake in the East Lansing area, making it their business to chauffeur students back from parties on negative-degree-weather nights. Nash Grabes, a driver for Shaggin Wagon Taxi, said while the company mostly serves MSU students, they will go anywhere they’re asked. “We’ll go everywhere, we’ll go to Chicago if someone asks us,” Grabes said. “We’ve gone to the Detroit a lot for the Metro Airport and Grand Rapids.”
However, the company gets the majority of their business driving around downtown East Lansing to bars, clubs and restaurants on weekends. They do their best to keep their rates affordable and their service as fast as possible. Grabes said that people only usually have to wait 10 to 15 minutes after they call, 20 at the most. Shaggin’ Wagon charges $6 a person around campus and $3 if more than two people need a ride. “Customer service is our main priority,” Grabes said. [sam1]
David Cornelius, a computer science freshman, has used several different cab companies to get to and from the airport. He is from Kansas City and stopped using the buses to get to Capital City Airport because they take too long. After enough rides back and forth, he says he’s gotten to know East Lansing cab culture. “Big Daddy is kind of known to have the creepy drivers,” Cornelius said. “Country Club is really nice but they’re kind of expensive. Spartan Cab probably gives the best deal.” L-Town is one of his favorites because he had a good conversation with one of their drivers.
Cornelius said that he has never had to wait for a cab before because a lot of them loiter outside the airports after incoming flights. He has also noticed a lot of them waiting outside the main party areas off campus. “Taxis tend to prowl around Abbott and where the houses are,” Cornelius said.
Freshman no-preference major Meg LaLonde had one of her best cab experiences from DDs Downtown Taxi. She noticed the driver was wearing a Boston Red Sox hat when she got into the cab and asked him the score of the game. “He gave it to me and I told him I was from Maine and was a fan,” LaLonde said. “He was from Boston and it turned out he was wearing a Red Sox hat and jersey and was listening to the game on the radio.” The driver gave LaLonde his personal number and has treated her well on other cab rides.
[nightcab]Higgins has also gotten a couple personal numbers from drivers, but doesn’t always use them. “I’ve gotten many a cab ride just from walking down the street,” Higgins said. “I’ve never been turned down.”
Grabes said that Shaggin’ Wagon does refuse to pick people up if they are so drunk that they are sick or doing something foolish, but Higgins said she has never had a problem. One driver even helped her out of the car to throw up so she wouldn’t have to pay the $20 puke charge. “There’s no judgment here,” Higgins said. “The companies are perfectly happy to get you from Point A to Point B. I would much rather pay $3 than catch pneumonia or drive drunk.”
She and LaLonde both agreed that cab companies are valuable assets to college campuses because they help to cut down on drunk driving and keep people safe who would otherwise be walking around at night. They also said they think taxi companies would be dumb to tip off police that they are driving home minors who have had a few drinks. “It’s bad for their business and bad if they’re trying to cut down on drunk driving. It would be like calling the cops to drive you home,” LaLonde said. [grabes]
Higgins agreed. “I don’t think kids should get MIPs as long as they’re not hurting anyone or doing something stupid like drinking in the cab. That’s why we love cab drivers so much.” Plus, Higgins has found that most drivers don’t mind listening to the occasional drunken rambling. “They just let you talk. They accommodate you,” Higgins said.
Higgins said Shaggin’ Wagon and Big Daddy Taxi have the best service, but has found every company to have pretty reasonable prices, and besides the occasional long wait at 1 a.m. on a Saturday, she cannot complain. Some of her drivers have even given her a much-appreciated self-esteem boost. After her latest taxi driver introduced himself as Jim, he asked, “What’s your name, beautiful girl?”
“I told him, ‘You know what, Jim? That’s just what I needed to hear,'” Higgins said. A few cab drivers are known to give out unwanted compliments on their customer’s outfits or makeup as they sit uncomfortably in the shotgun seat, but “Jim” picked the right time to throw out some late night flattery.
As for the slightly sketchy names of some of the companies, Grabes said he didn’t know anything about how Shaggin’ Wagon Taxi came up with its moniker. Plus, Big Daddy Taxi tends to live up to its title. “The vans are cheap, but they fit a lot of people,” LaLonde said.
Overall, East Lansing cab drivers seem to be a lot more understanding than the average guys in the yellow taxis cruising around big cities. And after a day of a little too much tailgating, they might just be the best number to drunk dial. “They’ll play the game with you and let you be ridiculous,” Higgins said. “They were young once too.”
A few East Lansing cab companies and phone numbers:
DDs Downtown Taxi: 517-252-4498
Big Daddy Taxi: 517-367-7474
Shaggin’ Wagon Taxi: 517.507.5047
Spartan Cab Company: 517-482-1444
C C Country Club Transportation: 888-655-8180
L-Town Cab: 517-749-7871