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Liquid ban with a Twin Cities twist

Marketplace Staff Nov 7, 2006

KAI RYSSDAL: It’s tricky enough trying to figure out what you can and can’t take with you on a plane these days. Now, if you’re headed to Minnesota, it’s taxis. Commentator Rudy Maxa had a tough time finding an airport cab recently. Because of what he had in his bag.

RUDY MAXA: Whenever I fly into the world’s eighth busiest airport — that would be the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport — 8 out of 10 times I’ll encounter a taxi with a Muslim driver behind the wheel.

Fine with me. During 30 years in my former hometown of Washington, D.C., I had fun getting to know an entire United Colors of Benneton array of taxi drivers who hailed from all over the world.

But recently, a group of Muslim airport cab drivers in Minneapolis-St. Paul decided they needed to follow the dictates of the Koran and refused to transport anyone carrying any kind of alcohol.

You brought back a bottle of French Burgundy in that see-through duty free bag? Well not in my cab, said some of those mostly Somali airport drivers.

This being the United States and all, the local bureaucracy that regulates airport taxis swung into action.

Cabbies that wouldn’t transport alcohol-toting passengers would get a special light affixed to the roof of the car. That would allow passengers to readily identify drivers who weren’t booze friendly.

But the public protested and so did some cabbies who feared people would choose alternate transportation. So, Twin City airport officials scrapped the special light solution and now they’re trying to come up with another plan.

Now, I don’t want to sound like a guy on Fox News, but as long as it’s legal under U.S. law to carry alcohol as luggage, a cab driver has no right to turn down a passenger who happens to be bringing a bottle of schnapps home to dad for the holidays.

Laws are different all around the world. I once heard a story of a business traveler to a Mideast country whose cab hit a farmer’s animal.

Under local law, the passenger had to reimburse the farmer because local legal theory held that if he hadn’t hired the cab, the cab wouldn’t have been cruising down that particular road at that particular time and hit that particular critter.

OK, so when in Rome . . . but when in Minneapolis-St. Paul, your job is made possible by a license issued by the local government, which, by the way, protects your company’s quasi-monopoly by granting only a limited number of those licenses.

So, you have an obligation to serve anyone not breaking the law. The alternative isn’t a special light. The alternative is this: If you don’t like the rules, find another job.

RYSSDAL: Travel expert Rudy Maxa lives and rides cabs in Minneapolis-St. Paul.

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