"I'm lucky, very lucky to be alive!"
That's all cabbie Ilias Papaionnou keeps repeating to himself.
After 10 years as a cabbie, he's picked up just about any kind of customer imaginable, but none like the one he picked up Wednesday morning.
"Nothing suspicous. I pick him up like everyone else. He wanted food and ask me to take him to Subway," says Papaionnou, a 65-year-old Greek immigrant now living in Norridge.
When they arrived at the Subway restaurant on Mannheim Road and East Touhy Avenue, which was apparently bustling with early morning customers, the passenger asked Papaionnou to take him to another Subway in Des Plaines.
In Des Plaines, Papaionnou said he turned off the cab and stepped out of his vehicle while he waited for the customer. He said he had no clue his customer was inside robbing the store.
When the man exited the restaurant he rushed the cabbie and demanded the keys to the cab.
Papaionnou told him the keys were in the pocket of his jacket, which he was wearing. The man reached into Papaionnou's pocket and ripped the keys out, along with the entire pocket.
The man dropped the piece of cloth he tore from the jacket before driving off and lead police on an early morning chase, ultimately crashing into a school bus and a pole.
In his kitchen, Papaionnou stared at his jacket -- and the pocket which he picked up and kept -- repeating what he turned into his mantra for the day:
"I sure am lucky. Maybe they (could have) kill me for nothing."