Monday, May 7, 2012

The Cab Ride I’ll Never Forget

by Michael

“I don’t think that I have done anything more important in my life…” 

Twenty years ago, I drove a cab for a living.
It was a cowboy’s life, a life for someone who wanted no boss.
What I didn’t realize was that it was also a ministry.
Because I drove the night shift, my cab became a moving confessional. Passengers climbed in, sat behind me in total anonymity, and told me about their lives. I encountered people whose lives amazed me, ennobled me, and made me laugh and weep.
But none touched me more than a woman I picked up late one August night. I was responding to a call from a small brick fourplex in a quiet part of town. I assumed I was being sent to pick up some partyers, or someone who had just had a fight with a lover, or a worker heading to an early shift at some factory for the industrial part of town.
When I arrived at 2:30 a.m., the building was dark except for a single light in a ground floor window.
Under these circumstances, many drivers would just honk once or twice, wait a minute, then drive away.
But I had seen too many impoverished people who depended on taxis as their only means of transportation.
Unless a situation smelled of danger, I always went to the door. This passenger might be someone who needs my assistance, I reasoned to myself.
So I walked to the door and knocked. “Just a minute”, answered a frail, elderly voice. I could hear something being dragged across the floor.
After a long pause, the door opened. A small woman in her 80′s stood before me. She was wearing a print dress and a pillbox hat with a veil pinned on it, like somebody out of a 1940s movie. By her side was a small nylon suitcase. The apartment looked as if no one had lived in it for years. All the furniture was covered with sheets. There were no clocks on the walls, no knick-knacks or utensils on the counters. In the corner was a cardboard box filled with photos and glassware.
“Would you carry my bag out to the car?” she said. I took the suitcase to the cab, then returned to assist the woman. She took my arm and we walked slowly toward the curb. She kept thanking me for my kindness.
“It’s nothing”, I told her. “I just try to treat my passengers the way I would want my mother treated.”
“Oh, you’re such a good boy”, she said. When we got in the cab, she gave me an address, then asked, “Could you drive through downtown?”
“It’s not the shortest way,” I answered quickly.
“Oh, I don’t mind,” she said. “I’m in no hurry. I’m on my way to a hospice.”
I looked in the rear view mirror. Her eyes were glistening.
“I don’t have any family left,” she continued. “The doctor says I don’t have very long.”
I quietly reached over and shut off the meter. “What route would you like me to take?” I asked.
For the next two hours, we drove through the city. She showed me the building where she had once worked as an elevator operator. We drove through the neighborhood where she and her husband had lived when they were newlyweds. She had me pull up in front of a furniture warehouse that had once been a ballroom where she had gone dancing as a girl. Sometimes she’d ask me to slow in front of a particular building or corner and would sit staring into the darkness, saying nothing.
As the first hint of sun was creasing the horizon, she suddenly said, “I’m tired. Let’s go now.”
We drove in silence to the address she had given me. It was a low building, like a small convalescent home, with a driveway that passed under a portico. Two orderlies came out to the cab as soon as we pulled up. They were solicitous and intent, watching her every move. They must have been expecting her. I opened the trunk and took the small suitcase to the door. The woman was already seated in a wheelchair.
“How much do I owe you?” she asked, reaching into her purse.
“Nothing,” I said.
“You have to make a living,” she answered.
“There are other passengers”.
Almost without thinking, I bent and gave her a hug. She held onto me tightly.
“You gave an old woman a little moment of joy,” she said. “Thank you.”
I squeezed her hand, then walked into the dim morning light. Behind me, a door shut. It was the sound of the closing of a life.
I didn’t pick up any more passengers that shift. I drove aimlessly, lost in thought. For the rest of that day, I could hardly talk. What if that woman had gotten an angry driver, or one who was impatient to end his shift? What if I had refused to take the run, or had honked once, then driven away?
On a quick review, I don’t think that I have done anything more important in my life.
We’re conditioned to think that our lives revolve around great moments. But great moments often catch us unaware – beautifully wrapped in what others may consider a small one.


Tina~in_ut said...

Good moaning~

Tina~in_ut said...

Michael~ I didn't know u were a cab driver!~

Michael said...

que stupido! This wasn't written by me! It is part one of two SUBMITTED by me!!

You ingrate!!

Tinka said...

Good Morning Tina and Michael - I have a dentist appointment at 8:00 and a doctor's appt. at 10:00 and then we have to get our grandson a birthday present. He will soon be two. (We are taking the wheel chair and I hate it). I am just dropping to by to say "Hi". I will read your blog this afternoon Michael. It looks interesting.

Have a great morning all Owls everywhere.

Zona said...

MICHAEL: I almost wrote the same thing TINA did..good thing I checked the comments first..I really thought you once drove a cab!! :D

That was a sweet story..I can only hope I can do something that kind and selfless for someone someday. I really liked your blog today..thank you for sending it in. :)

Good Morning TINA! Are you still curly today? ;)

TINKA: Yikes!! Both appts in one morning? I don't think I'd like that at all! Shopping for your beautiful grandson will make it a good morning though..I can't believe he's almost two. Time just flies by anymore.

Well..I'm off to practice some patience..My computer is still acting up..driving me bananas..I guess we'll have to look into getting a new one..after we get thru the summer a/c bills that

Have a good day everyone! Stay cool..and stay cooool.. :D

Just_Lin said...

Tina Congtats on being the purdiest today. I, too, want to know if you are still curly today. Give us a pic, Woman!

Just_Lin said...

Michael That was a lovely and touching story. Thanks for sending it in. I did it wasn't a first hand account as I read all the way to the very last line and I am a Smarty Pants. :)

Just_Lin said...

Tinka I hope the dentist and doctor appointments go well for you. In my mind, it would be difficult to have a good day when it starts at the dentist but I hope you have a good day, nonetheless. I know you hate the wheelchair but it is a blessing that it allows you to do more than you could otherwise.

Just_Lin said...

Zona It's so frustrating when the computer acts up. I remember when I was very resistent to getting a computer. Now I don't know how to get through a day without it.

Maureen said...

MICHAEL...that was beautiful and heart wrenching.

Waving to all. It is thundering and lightening...better log out

Dianne/Denver said...

Michael--very touching blog. Thanks for sharing. I knew u didn't drive a cab lol

We r busy getting ready for tomorrow. Louis is trying to finish up his classes for grading and packing, etc. hospital called and changed his surgery to earlier so that will be good not to have to wait so long.

Tink--hope ur apps went well. It's not so fun doing two in the same day or aybe good tongetbthem over withbst one time.

Mo--we r having that kind of weather all day here too. Snow not too far from here. Crazy weather everywhere.

Zona--- were u on with Dell all day today? What country were u talking to?

JL---so glad to hear ur bday was nice. I haven't been to that restaurant in years. It always fun to go somewhere different for a change.

Tina--I still need to go and look at those pictures. Ü r lovely at first today. I will probably be last

Dianne/Denver said...

Testing from phone

Shirley(NCC-1701) said...

I knew it! I knew Michael was a cab driver! I always thought he was either a cab driver, a barber or a mechanic. Now we know for sure! Nice blog Michael!

Tina~in_ut said...

Di~ did u pass ur test?~