After nearly 3 million miles, cabbie is still going strong Longevity: Forty-seven years of driving have given Chappie Manning an interesting view of the area.

March 31, 1998|By Sheila Hotchkin | Sheila Hotchkin,CONTRIBUTING WRITER

Chappie Manning does the math on 47 years of working as a Baltimore cabbie and comes up with nearly 3 million miles, more than 100,000 gallons of gas and countless cabs.

Not to mention the naked passenger who wanted to go to York Road (but got there only after putting his pants on), a smash-up with a drunken driver and the two armed men who carjacked the 79-year-old Golden Gloves middleweight boxer.

His bosses at Yellow Transportation Inc. -- astonished to discover that Manning had been driving for them nearly a half-century -- insisted on throwing a surprise thank you party yesterday to honor his dependability and character over such a long fare.

Said Ray Nelson, a company vice president: "That's the ideal, optimum cabdriver."

The ruse to get Manning to the surprise was a "secret meeting" with his bosses and Manning walked into it with the fear only a senior citizen can know.

"He thought they were ready to kick him out of Yellow Cab because of his age," said Iris Manning, the cabbie's wife.

Instead, he was given a commemorative certificate, a Yellow Cab baseball cap, and a $100 bonus.

"He's only a few pounds over [his] fighting weight," said company President Mark L. Joseph. "We don't expect him to retire for a long time."

Relieved that he wasn't being put out to pasture, the veteran cabbie sat off to the side with his family around him, content with an orange towel draped across his shoulders, a cross around his neck and the new baseball cap replacing his Teamsters hat.

When he became one of Yellow Transportation's first black drivers, the drop on a cab meter was 25 cents. Today, a ride starts at $1.40.

Details of his life sometimes slip his mind but not the characters he's ferried from one side of the city to the other.

"You very seldom get someone in a cab who wants to stare out the window," said Manning, who can easily shift gears from talking politics with a fare to breaking into the baritone he uses in his church choir.

"He'll talk you to death," said Carlos Manning, a son. His father's favorite subject, even more than memories of his clarinet playing days with an Army band at Aberdeen Proving Ground, is politics.

"It's fun to watch and to be a part of it," he said. "It's just like cab driving, the most political thing in the world."

Decades of political conversations with the person in the back seat have honed Manning's skills in gauging the public's political views.

Through his windshield, he has watched the decline of Baltimore's neighborhoods since the end of World War II but predicts a rebound.

"The good things," he says, "they've got to come."

Pub Date: 3/31/98

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