Live from Chicago. (Okay, Glenview, but still...)
This will likely only be of interest to people in Los Angeles, but it's a nice tale, anyway.
I've never written a love letter to a cab company, so this is a first. Usually when I fly, a friend and I alternate with airport runs for one another. He wasn't available today, so I started checking around on Yelp for a reliable taxi service, since I had to leave early in the morning and there was no wiggle room for screw-ups. There were a couple based in Santa Monica that had reasonable ratings, but when I called they were only licensed to pickup in Santa Monica. No luck there.
The only other company that had a good rating -- actually, extremely good, 4-1/2 stars out of five -- was what looked like a mom-and-pop operation, so I was a little wary, not knowing if they'd have enough cabs or what. Silly, silly me. It was an absolute joy. The Sunshine Yellow Cab company. Here's their Yelp page. Even if you're not in L.A., it's fun to read the comments.
Actually, they're not a Yellow cab company anymore, and that's part of the fascinating story. Instead, they use these charming, little black Chevvies. (Mine seemed almost new and very clean.) When I called and got the famous Pedro (many of the Yelp comments refer to him) and asked if they picked up from West L.A., he said, "We pick up from anywhere in California."
The driver I got was Yolanda -- who I think is Pedro's wife. All the drivers are in the family. They have six cars and 20 drivers who alternate. Yolanda has been driving for 20 years, and was joyfully pleasant. Not overly chipper, just nice. The story (and it's unfortunately quite sad, but wonderful what they built from it) is that her son used to drive a Yellow cab, but was killed for a fare. I didn't get all the story and couldn't tell if it was for another company or this one, but the story centered around having to pick up fares on the street, rather than call-in orders. And she said that she didn't want to use Yellow cabs any more or street pick-ups, and just wanted to run their company the way they wanted. They wanted to get their own, new cabs, wanted them in black, and chose to keep it all in the family. And the end result is that created this wonderful little taxi service. She has clients that have used them for over a decade, many of whom ask for drivers by name.
They're always busy, she said, and will pick up from anywhere because they got the licenses that allow them to do so. Since they're so busy, I asked if they've thought of expanding the fleet, but she doesn't want to, it's too much of a headache. She's seen all the problems at companies with too many cars. She and Pedro just want to run a small business they're happy with. And keep it just their family. (Her granddaughter works in the office, for instance.) Maybe they'll add two more cars at some point, but that's all. They've kept the name "Sunshine," she said, because her son had come up with, and she likes it, and wants to honor him.
As far as I can tell, from what little calling around I did beforehand, the rates were completely competitive and just fine. (I think it was $37 from where I live in West L.A) But that's almost secondary. What's primary was that this was just a wonderful taxi cab experience, a phrase I never thought I'd type. Whether that will always be the case for everyone -- hey, it's a cab service, things will go wrong. But with 4-1/2 stars, I suspect that they go right far more than almost everyone else.
The phone number is 310-306-6667. And don't forget to check out the Yelp user comments, so's that you can see I ain't lying...
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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