Twenty years ago, I drove a cab for a living.
When I arrived at 2:30 a.m. to pick up my next fare, 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
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 knickknacks or
utensils on the counters.
In the corner was a cardboard box filled with photos
"Would you carry my bag out to the car?" she asked.
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 rearview mirror. Her eyes were
"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
I opened the trunk and took the small suitcase to
the door. The woman was already seated in a
"How much do I owe you?" she asked, reaching into
"Nothing," I said.
"You have to make a living," she answered.
"There are other passengers," I responded.
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.
PEOPLE MAY NOT REMEMBER EXACTLY WHAT YOU DID,
OR WHAT YOU SAID,
~ BUT ~
THEY WILL ALWAYS REMEMBER HOW YOU MADE THEM FEEL!
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