Carl Cisney on 4 Decades of Amish Taxi Driving
78-year-old Carl Cisney is an Amish taxi driving veteran. He’s been providing rides for Amish for over 4 decades – since the time in 1975 he was asked by an Amish neighbor for a ride to a weld shop.
Carl has formed deep friendships through his taxi services, even getting invited as the only English guest (along with his wife) to Amish weddings.
The work can be eventful, as detailed in a recent philly.com article:
One passenger Carl Cisney picked up in a snowstorm in 1978 was very pregnant, and then, quite suddenly, wasn’t pregnant anymore.
That little girl, born in Cisney’s van, was named Sarah, after Sarah Jane, who came to help. Carl can’t stand the sight of blood.
“I jumped out of the van and said ‘I’ll see you later,’” he said.
Despite his queasiness, Carl also once transported an Amish man to the hospital after he nailed his foot into a beam in a barn with an air hammer. The nail was so deep, he said. that the man’s co-workers cut the wood and it came to the hospital still attached. After another mishap, Carl was asked to drive two fingers, on ice in a shoe box, to a hospital after an Amish man had an accident at a pallet shop. He was too late.
Amish taxis are essentially transport services provided for the Amish, both by full time drivers and also by retirees looking for extra work.
We’ve looked more closely at the work in several past posts including An Inside Look at Amish Taxi Driving and Debbie the Amish Taxi Driver.
Carl has certain rules for his rides. I might have to implement this footwear rule when I’m doing my sporadic free taxiing for Amish friends:
Some clients have wanted to bring chickens and ducks inside for the ride. He’s always said no. Carl also insists Amish men take off their boots and put them in bags, particularly after a barn raising.
I also found this one of interest. Doesn’t matter your background, people like to talk:
Carl Cisney said he found each new customer wanted to know where the last customer had gone, a bit of Amish gossip if you will. He put up a sign by the dashboard to squash it:
“Don’t ask me where the last person went and I won’t tell the next person where you were going.”
Read the article in full here.
The good and bad of Amish taxi service
Wow-40 years and not crazy! In Ohio they won’t pay waiting time which is outrageous. Trying to live in the past-horse and buggy, etc., doesn’t work as proven by you, me and other “English” taxi drivers as we take them to “English” doctors, dentists nurses hospitals emergency rooms pharmacies China-Walmart and all other stores. Then there is the massive use of electric generators by the Amish. I once asked an Amish bishop to tell me the difference between electricity from the pole and electricity from his generators. He didn’t answer, just gave me that “why did you have to ask that?” look. A lot of the Amish men I see smoke like chimneys. I have seen a few women sneaking smokes too. The telephone thing is also ridiculous. Sure-run out of the house to the little telephone outhouse when the bell starts ringing. Lots of men have cell phones now–oh “work only” I am told. I’m trying to drive and I get “can I use your cell phone?” Bottom line: it is a supposed free country, but trying to live in the past, but playing all kinds of games is both hypocritical and downright stupid. Only an 8th grade education-pathetic. I could write a book! OK, they are hard-working mostly honest and very family oriented. All good. But in the real world we are the adults and they are the children. Look how much they depend on us!
I must agee. that living in the pass, has gone way to fair.
Seriesly. The Amish are known to Travel by Amtrak, where Available.
There’s no such Slow Train America. It doesn’t make sense.
The exceptions are in the Touriest area. When the Shy away.
8th Grade Education. Kids finds way to get an I phone from the English.
They wouldn’t dare being caught to avoid any “Restrictions”
How long will it be until the younger English Farmers are either fed up or simply not available. They can live the dated old fashion ways. why are the Amish Exempt for their Identification, to Ck into a Hotel? Obviously. Irrelevantly, they will not take a flight anywhere.re; refuse Photo.
Taxi Drivers and beyond!
I had to smile and respond to this Carl Cisney artical and subsequent posts. Working with the Amish in upstate New York for over a dozen years has been a joy in my life. Hpwever, I can relate to both Cisney and Ohio Taxi driver in many aspects. The Amish [and some Mennonites] are indeed dependent on the Yankee/English and the new technology notwithstanding. The cell phones in their barns are becoming more the norm, and yes the men smoke and drink [in the barn]. I have been asked to place on-line orders for fabric for the women. If we go to Walmart, I drive and the bathroom is used [running water, plumbing, electricity]. This past summer I drove two young men to the hospital for broken bones [ankle and knee]. Some women prefer home birth, others go to the hospital. All the aforementioned depends on the Amish District and subsequent sub-groups.
I’ve been in immaculate Amish homes and ones that are filthy. And I have been in Amish homes where I’ve been welcomed or hardly acknowledged. I’ve been in homes where the Amish families mirror any Bonnet Book’s “high ideals” of The Perfect Amish Family, and all of what the English have been led to believe. Conversly there are some Amish homes that I would not venture up their drive ever again. And so in this respect they are just like anyone else.
Overwhelmingly though, I wouldn’t have missed this opportunity in knowing/working with Amish and their culture. Always at a distance, some of my English friend’s have wondered how I stand the constant reminder that I am a Yankee and our ways are too different and separate from the Amish. I simply accept this tenant of theirs and insodoing gained an abundance of fun, laughter, good will, knowledge, tolerance, and friendship. That said, I have never worked with such great equine ability, and working along side them, I’ve gained more perception and ability in this dicipline. Their work ethics are great and it’s a pleasure to have shared these principles. Many women are distant for a long time, but once trusted I don’t think there are any group that laugh as freely and as heartily as the Amish women I have come to know and respect.
to Maureen and Christy
Maureen–you make a lot of excellent and informed comments. A lot of “English” outsiders, with no real contact with Amish, think the Amish are perfect. Well, we know better. Yes, I have made some great Amish friends and they have done beautiful construction work at my home. But, as I said, when you go to the bottom line, you see that what they try to do – live in the past, in many ways just doesn’t work. The horse-and-buggy is beautiful, but this is 2019, not 1919 or 1819. There have been many, many terrible buggy crashes here in Ohio. Eric interviewed a Swartzentruber named Shetler who said he had been in something like 14 buggy crashes in 25 years. The crash he was in,in Wayne County, Ohio, in January 2018 had a fatality. Most Amish now have brilliant flashing LED lights and bright headlights on their buggies, but not the Swartzentrubers. They are being stubborn and Stupid about safety. So many of our highways have blind hills and curves with motor vehicle drivers going VERY fast. The buggies are especially dangerous at night. Go over to Mt. Hope, Ohio and see Swartzentruber buggies at night with just small kerosene lanterns! SO UNSAFE. What about the children / babies in these nearly invisible buggies? CHRISTY: You are right. But check out “Renegade Amish” and “Break-Away Amish”–books available on Amazon. They are about the Sam Mullet cult that he built just east of Bergholz, Ohio, starting around 1995. He isn’t scheduled to get out of the Elkton-Ohio- FCI–jail–until April 3, 2021. He is a bad dude–user and abuser of people–fathered at least 18 children with minors and older women. The world is much better off with him in jail.
One thing I’ll say to the credit of the Swartzentruber Amish in Shetler’s area is that they did begin experimenting with adding visibility enhancements. I am not sure what has come of it, but it was unusual for Amish from arguably the plainest group to make that move.
How does it work?
I am in Kentucky and considering starting to drive regularly for the Amish. How do you charge them in Ohio? Seems they always want to a driver immediately when they call. Can you drive ‘by appointment only’ or does that not work?
Really nice description, Maureen. I think driving the Amish or regularly working closely with them (eg medical provider or Amish-oriented business) gives you a good window on how Amish really live, or at least the Amish in your area. I think I’ve asked you in the past but I am going to guess the community you are in is on the more traditional/materially plainer side (just based on the personal distance you describe, and also the smoking/drinking aspect). If you’ve been doing it over a dozen years I can see how it’s been enough to have gained trust and formed some good friendships even if this is a more “closed” community. I like the concept of the Perfect Amish Family, reminded me of how one Amish friend speaks of some of the stories and characters in the Family Life or Young Companion stories:)
Taxi Drivers and beyond!
Over the dozen years, I’ve met several Amish subgroups [including Swartzentruber] throughout Central New York and the North country. In the beginning, most of the equine jobs took place in Central New York. I was very surprised to learn that some Amish in the surrounding counties were hostile to other Amish which was very surprising to me. In my observation, Amish are the most dependant [for help] and rely first on Mennonites, and then the the English farmers in their Christian farm communities, and lastly and reluctantly the common Yanks. Obvious still is that in general, Amish are more comfortable keeping any form of communications to a minimum. Moreover, there are Amish men and women who never looked my way the entire season I worked nearby. So I fully understand what Ohio Taxi and others are stating here.
There are two Mennonite farmers in the North Country who have “private” B&Bs and host farmers only; mostly North East farmers congregating for seminars concentrating on “Dairy” and the never-ending controversy surrounding rules and regulations. Many Amish unmarried women work these B&Bs, and here is where I learned and gained a greater understanding of the Amish ways. Wonderful gossip too, lol!
The times I’ve most noted “hostility” or let’s say “dislike” because I don’t know if the stronger term would necessarily fit in these cases, would more often be when speaking with Amish from higher churches (New Order for instance but not necessarily) about the plainer churches in their neighborhood. One example that sticks out is an Amishman in a smallish Indiana community talking about alcohol problems in Adams County in that state. He was quite open with me talking about those other Amish and the behavior that would by no means be tolerated in his own community.
A Great Book
I was thinking what a great book all of these driving the Amish stories would make!
It’s funny you mention that, I just picked up a book written by an Amish taxi driver…title slips my mind but I’ll check when I get home and share it. Seems like it would be an occupation where you’d inevitably collect a lot of interesting stories 🙂
Book by Amish taxi driver
The book is Amish Reflections by Joyanne Toth Ham.
Thank you! I will check out that book! I am considering starting to drive for the Amish and I am gathering all the info I can!
Driving for the Amish
I have driven for the Amish for the last 3 years. I absolutely have enjoyed it.They are human just like us. There are nice people and not so nice people. Why people judge them for being a normal human being I will never understand. Some smoke some don’t some use phones some don’t they haven’t judged me and I don’t judge them. If you decide to do this for a living you need to know it is a full time job. You receive phone calls 24/7 if you are a good driver. Shopping trips can take all day which means alot of sitting and waiting. I do charge a waiting fee but I keep it reasonable. Some driver’s charge ridiculous prices I have always worked with my riders and if I charge reasonably I have found they often pay me extra. I have been given fresh baked bread, deer sausage, cookies and small gifts on top of my fee. Respect people and they will respect you. Unfortunately my days of driving are coming to an end Ohio is implementing a gas tax that would force me to charge higher fees to fill up the car. I can’t with good conscience do that. I will still drive some of the great friends I have made but it will be too expensive to do this everyday. Your vehicle takes a beating as most roads and driveways are not in the best shape.Alot of Amish don’t understand you not wanting to drive in incliment weather. There is always several stops even on supposed short trips so leave yourself a few hours for each ride.
Live and let live
I’m from shipshewana indiana where we have a huge amish population..and people are people I don’t judge them and they don’t judge me. Their beliefs and how they conduct their lives is totally their business I feel. I’ve been living along side amish people for my whole life. The only thing that can really make me mad is when they are in public and speak dutch to each other when I’m within ear shot. Ohh it just works me! Rude! When I asked agood amish friend about it she said..it’s all in how your raised, and they know full well it’s rude to do that. And so now if they do, I will call them out, usually they will apologize and speak english.
Susan Krause what is a high price to charge the Amish. What would you charge. And what does gas tax mean??