Thaddeus Logan figures he's driven more than a million miles in the last decade and a half, most of it without ever leaving the Baltimore City limits.
He's a cabbie who's driven a collection of people ranging from executives doing million-dollar deals to hookers at midnight to kids headed for school to old folks needing medical help, fast.
The Northwood resident is 48, a West Baltimore kid, graduate of both Douglass High School and the University of Maryland, ex-Baltimore vice squad cop and ex-salesman -- and always an )) observer of Baltimoreans. A decade ago he wrote and published with his own money a book about his experiences. He says it sold 7,000 copies and he was mentioned in a front-page Wall Street Journal article about people who write and publish their own books.
He followed up the book with city tours for both school-age children and out-of-town tourists. He even has made a slide show and video about Baltimore which he's sold to the city public school system. As always, Mr. Logan relishes talking about his city.
QUESTION: What's different in 1993 from when you started?
ANSWER: Baltimore is strictly a welfare town. If you don't believe it, just ride around with me on the third day of the month. People are hobbling around to the bank machines. It's a time of dangerous street crime.
Just stand at North and Fulton -- or Eastern and Conkling. Look at the dress and the demeanor of the people. They're in poor health. They have poor diets. They are poorly educated. They've lost their spirit. They have low self-esteem.
After dark, there are girls tricking in every neighborhood for a $10 crack high. I see them every night -- at Walbrook Junction, at Pratt and Broadway, 25th and Greenmount, 25th and Charles, and around Patterson Park.
It's worse today than it was 10 years ago. The poor are poorer. The cutbacks in the system for the elderly and the sick are just shameful.
I used to take an old woman in a wheelchair to the Berea Medical Center on the east side. She had a voucher for her cab ride. Then somebody cut off the program. She was told, "Miss, you have to get there the best way you can." Now she has scrape her little coins together to the best of her ability.
Q.: What hurt the city in the last decade?
A.: The biggest screw-ups were Reaganomics, the economy and drugs.
Ten years ago, this was still a comfortable blue-collar city. Now it's a service-oriented town. Johns Hopkins is the largest employer.
So much has closed or cut back -- Bethlehem Steel, Maryland Drydock, Western Electric. You have to feel sorry for young people today. You've got to have $10,000 to buy a house. Who has $10,000? I bought my first house for $1,000 down and got FHA insurance.
The business demographics -- if that's what you call it -- have changed in Baltimore, too.
We do not have a first-class department store within the city limits. People often ask me where to find Saks or Macy's. I tell them they have to get on the subway and ride to the end of the line.
Drugs -- it's bad. When the sun goes down, people go indoors and stay there, especially the elderly. The streets are empty. People are afraid to go out. Look at private businesses. They are all hiring their own security forces.
In Baltimore, there are thousands of boarded-up buildings and homes. Nothing's done about it. It's like a combat zone.
The homeless situation is unbelievable. It stretches from Walbrook to Guilford, Lexington Market to the Northwood Shopping Center. Everywhere, people are asking for money.
Look at Mondawmin Mall. There are security officers in a tower with field glasses trying to spot car thieves on the parking lot.
Q.: That's a pretty negative picture. Aren't there any positives?
A.: The No. 1 attraction on the harbor is the aquarium. And there's good night life in Fells Point and along Charles Street.
Baltimore has tremendous assets that I enjoy showing people. As far as out-of-towners go, people love Baltimore. They think it's clean. They like its restaurants, seafood and hotels. They say it's a Mom and Pop town, a real American city. You might not realize it, but the Bromo-Seltzer tower is a great attraction to people who aren't from here. So is the Mount Vernon Methodist Church.
The schoolchildren get a charge out of riding the subway. They like the zoo. They're amazed at where we get our water from. They love Lake Montebello and the filtration plant. They get a big kick out of the World Trade Center's 27th Floor Top of the World.
Q.: Would you ever leave Baltimore?
A.: No. I still love the place. It's great to go along Charles Street. I like to drop in the restaurants, the Great American Melting Pot, Louie's or Burke's, which makes the best club sandwich in the world. I believe that Baltimoreans should all take a weekend vacation in the city to get to know it better.
Q.: You seem to like your job. Why so?
A.: It's the best therapy in the world. You're always dealing with slices of life.
One minute you're running a judge home in Guilford, and the next you're listening to some VIP making a deal on his way to the airport. He's just wrapped up a million-dollar transaction and hasn't even seen the city.
Then the next person will want to pay you with food stamps. Or it'll be a lady who wants to do something to make you feel good. It's all in a day's work.
Q.: What are the best "fares," or passengers?
A.: Every cabbie looks for the run to Baltimore-Washington International Airport. It's an easy $17 for a 20-minute ride. But 90 percent of the time, you don't get a fare on the way back into town.
When there's a convention, it's good, too. You take people from Stouffer's Hotel or the Omni or the Sheraton to Little Italy and Fells Point. It's a straight run. Fast.
I had Ed Bradley in the car once, but I don't get many celebrities. What I really like is the slice-of-life, like ferrying the exotic dancers to the downtown clubs at night. The more professional people will not talk to you as much as the common man will. The top people won't reveal much.
Q.: People who take taxis always think about tips -- How much is right, how much is too little?
A.: People are funny about tipping.
I'm not picky about certain types of fares I pick up, so tipping one way or another doesn't make or break my day. People who need a cab need a cab. Maybe they have hit the number. Maybe they've had a new addition to their family. They might tip you better.
Basic cab fares in Baltimore are not cheap. After 9 at night, if you call a cab, it costs $2.90 just to open the door.
The worst tippers are kids, teen-agers and drug dealers. Whatever is coming to them, they want to keep it. Poor people don't tip. They don't have any money to give away.
Some of the best tippers are the people in the service industries who depend on tips themselves. I've had dancers from The Block run into the bars to get an advance on their salaries just to have the money to tip me.
Some people will give you all sorts of instructions about what route to take. They think they're saving a dime. Then, out of the blue, they'll give you a $1.50 tip.
I think 50 cents is a big tip in this town on a normal $4 fare. It's a good tip because Baltimore isn't a rich town.