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Cab driver bonds with patrons

Dan Brombach | Wednesday, May 2, 2012

For Gail Hickey, cab driving is far more than just a source of income. It’s an opportunity to forge bonds of loyalty and trust with members of the Notre Dame community.

“To me, it’s more than just a job, it’s about getting involved in student’s lives and what they’re doing,” Hickey said.

Hickey said the strong customer relationships she has formed during five years in the business motivate her to continue cab driving.

“The only thing that could possibly be keeping me going at this point is that these kids have become like my family,” she said.

Hickey said her experience as a mother has strongly influenced her treatment of the students who ride in her cab.

“I try and treat students the way I would like to have my daughter treated when she’s out and running around,” Hickey said. “If anyone is ever not feeling well, I’m pretty much at their disposal, even if I’m not working.  Students know if they’re in trouble or in a bind that I’ll help them out.”

Hickey said her approach to cab driving is special because she values respect and customer loyalty more than making a quick dollar through rapid turnarounds and impersonal service.

“Where others see money, I see students,” she said.  “It’s a whole different mentality.  For me, it’s all about getting repeat business, and that’s why I do as well as I do.”

Hickey said she greatly enjoys interacting with Notre Dame students and with one minor exception, she has not had problems driving them.
In her second year of cab driving, Hickey said a group of students fled the cab without paying, but were ultimately chased down by a graduate student also traveling with her at the time.

“He cornered them by Alumni [Hall] and said ‘This is Gail. You don’t do that,'” Hickey said.  “They all ended up coming back and paying.”

Hickey said it is often bittersweet and emotionally taxing to say goodbye to students she has formed close friendships with.

“It’s both rewarding and sad, seeing students graduate,” Hickey said. “It’s like watching your kids grow up and go out into the world.”

Hickey said she has never felt endangered at her job due to the size and familiarity of her client base.

“I know a lot of the people I drive, so at no point have I really felt like I’m in peril,” Hickey said. “If I were anywhere else but here, I certainly wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing.”

Hickey said her least favorite part of cab driving is the large time commitment required to be successful in the business, especially on Notre Dame football weekends.

“Football weekends are pretty intense, they just about kill me because I’m constantly moving,” she said.

In the future, Hickey said she hopes to continue cab driving while also shouldering increased family responsibilities.

“I’m going to do this as long as I can, because I still enjoy it,” Hickey said. “I clearly love what I’m doing.”