NEW YORK – Betty and Bob Matas have retired and are moving to Arizona, but like many New Yorkers they don't drive, and they don't want their cats to travel all that way in an airliner cargo hold.
Their solution: "Hey, cabbie."
They met taxi driver Douglas Guldeniz when they hailed his cab after a shopping trip several weeks ago.
They got to talking about their upcoming move, and "we said 'Do you want to come?'" said Bob Matas, 72, a former audio and video engineer for advertising agencies. "And he said 'Sure.'"
It was initially a gag, Matas said, but as they talked over the ensuing weeks it became reality.
They plan to leave Tuesday on the 2,400-mile trip to Sedona, Ariz., with Guldeniz driving his yellow SUV cab 10 hours a day for a flat fee of $3,000, plus gas, meals and lodging.
They're getting a break. The standard, metered fare would be about $5,000 — each way, according to David Pollack, executive director of the Committee for Taxi Safety, a drivers' group. But city Taxi and Limousine Commission rules direct drivers and passengers to negotiate a flat fare for trips outside the city and a few suburban areas.
It's also a good deal for Guldeniz.
"This job is not easy, and I want to do something different," said Guldeniz, 45, who has been driving a taxi for two years. "I want to have some good memories."
The Matases will ride in relaxed comfort in Guldeniz's sport utility vehicle while their cats ride in the back in their travel cases. A mover will haul their belongings.
"It's a little unusual, but it will be fun," said Betty Matas, 71, a retired executive administrative assistant.