Monday, April 21, 2014

The last ride

I arrived at the address and honked the horn. After waiting a few minutes, I honked again. Since this was going to be my last ride of my shift, I thought about just driving away, but instead I put the car in park and walked up 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 90s 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 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 to be treated.' 

'Oh, you're such a good boy', she said.

When we got in the cab, she gave me an address and 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 in a soft voice. '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 tightly. 'You gave an old woman a little moment of joy', she said. 'Thank you.' I squeezed her hand, and 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.

(Author: New York City taxi driver) 


Saurabh said...

Superb !!!
Anger, Impatience always are at the tip of our mind. Knowingly or unknowingly we end up hurting people.

Thanks for sharing !!!!

Unknown said...

Thanks for sharing this here, felt too good reading this again and would always feel the same whenever I read this in the future.
May I add one of my personal exp here Vinod:

I was on my way to office, was already late, luckily got a Rick, was just nearing the office saw a Beauty 80 plus walking alone and fast, i stopped the auto and checked with her if I will get the privilege of dropping her but she refused looked at me asked My dear do you mind walking with me,
for a second I thought am already late but next moment i cut off the auto guy and held that tender and spongy spongy hand and walked with her, a journey of 15 mins but felt like 15 years with her, we chit chatted, lost myself happily this time in her speech and the sparkling eyes and tightly held hands,
while going through the backyard of the Huge building I saw all security guys running and asking me Hey what happened to her, is she fine I said "Yes, am just dropping her today" to almost 10 guys and
then finally reached the Destination " Nightangles Old Age Home",
felt very Heavy, but she dragged me inside gave me a Tight Hug,and introduced me to her other folks who are like her, Hey she is Meera my Grand Daughter'.

For a second I felt, Oh god these people are going to think that I send my granny here,
then I felt good because She felt good saying this.
This shows her eagerness for having family connect.

About this Beauty: She spends 9.00-04.00 in this place everyday so that she may not trouble her family folks.

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