Q&A with Art Rossi, Co-owner of Harrison Taxi Company

Features Editor Laurie Yarnell chats with cab driver Art Rossi, co-owner of Harrison Taxi Company.

Why and when did you start driving a cab?
After I graduated from college, I had my own route in Manhattan selling and delivering baked goods. To  make extra money, I drove a cab some nights. I just fell in love with it and started doing it fulltime in 1992 and became a part owner seven years ago.

What happens during a typical thirteen (gulp!)-hour shift?
We’ll get about thirty calls and I’ll drive about a hundred fifty miles. About a third of our business is driving to and from airports, and the rest is local.

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Who are your typical customers?
There’s such a wide range—everyone from a businessperson to a housekeeper, including kids we take to school and families who ask us to make deliveries.

People ask us to bring them an order of Chinese food, pick up a pack of cigarettes, or take their dog to the vet. Once, a woman asked me to get Chinese food from a place in Scarsdale. The food cost seven dollars—and the delivery fee was thirty-eight.   

Any other unusual delivery requests?
One time a woman made homemade chicken soup and asked us to pick it up from her house and take it into the City to her daughter who was sick. That cost one hundred dollars.

Which customers are most difficult to deal with?
Someone who has been drinking can be difficult. I just try to calm them down and yes them to death—and fortunately, no one has thrown up in my cab.

Who’s the most famous person you’ve driven?
I can’t name names but we’ve driven congressmen, senators, movie stars, TV people, and professional sports figures. Once, I drove a very prominent newscaster to a golf club in Rye—I didn’t say anything on the ride over and he gave me a one-dollar tip on a nine-dollar fare. On the way back, I called him by name and you could see he was very happy that I knew who he was. That time, he gave me twenty dollars and let me keep the change.
Do people confide in you?
Sometimes you’re like a bartender. After nineteen years, I could easily be a psychologist.

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What do people complain about most often?
Their jobs. I’d say sixty to seventy percent of people don’t like their jobs.

Have you ever overheard anything embarrassing while driving a customer?
Sure—it’s like you’re not even there sometimes. I remember one guy yelling to his wife how much he didn’t like her mother.

What’s the funniest experience you’ve had?
One of my drivers was so tired that, after picking someone up from the airport, he drove to his own home and left the customer in the back seat of his cab.

What’s a good tip?
Fifteen percent.

What’s a common misconception people have about cab drivers?
People think cab drivers are not very smart. I have a college degree and so do most of our drivers.

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How’s your driving record?
I’ve never had an accident off the job and only two or three minor fender benders while working. Our company as a whole has had very few accidents.

Most memorable fare?
The weirdest was one time I went out on a call and two people were having an argument in the driveway. The guy jumped in the car and said, ‘Please get me out of here.’ As I headed for the Hutch, the woman got in her car and started chasing us. We lost her going through the Whitestone Bridge because I had E-ZPass and she didn’t. Then, the next day, she came to the station to tell me her side of the story.

Photo by John Rizzo

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