Thursday, January 12, 2012

The Cab Ride

When I took my Hospice training at Hospice of Holland this was read in one of the classes. I remembered it but could not remember the name of it. A few years later I decided to take the class over and it was read once again only this time I was smart I wrote the name down and had the woman who read it send me a copy. I have had this since 2009 and I continue to have tears rolling down my cheeks and a weakness in my heart whenever I read it. I just had to share it with all of you. I hope you enjoy and appreciate it as much as I do! 


 Twenty years ago, I drove a cab for a living.  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.
 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
 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 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 rearview 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," I responded.  Almost without
 thinking, I bent and gave her a hug.  She held onto me
 "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.
 ~BUT ~

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