08 December, 2011

Why We Need To Slow Down

The Cab Ride I'll Never Forget
by Kent Nerburn

Twenty years ago, I drove a cab for a living. One time I arrived in the middle of the night for a pick up at a building that 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 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 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.

Life is Good!


Elisa Black said...

Oh this is a lovely and touching story-- thank you for sharing it. I'm definitely one of those who needs to be reminded to slow down.

Helen said...

What a beautiful story. Thank you so much for taking the time to share it with us.

Merry Christmas

KaHolly said...

The perfect story to share. Gave me goosebumps clear down to my knees.

Ann Marie @ 16 Muddy Feet said...

Thanks for sharing. Everyone needs to be reminded to stop and smell the roses, because no one is guaranteed tomorrow.

Janet said...

Great story! Thanks for the gentle reminder.

quiltkeemosabe said...

That is a wonderful story.

KQ Sue said...

What a beautiful, but sad story. Wish everyone was kinder to each other.

Linda in NC said...

We can do no great things, only small things with great love. Mother Teresa

Mama Spark said...

Thank you for sharing this. I have tears in my eyes. We really do need to be reminded.

regan said...

I'm bawling! That was so touching. Thank you for sharing it!

Unknown said...

Beautiful story.

Janet O. said...

Hard to see through the tears. Thanks for sharing this story.

Teresa said...

Thank you for sharing that story. So often we overlook the impact an act of kindness has on someone, even more so on ourselves.

Kim said...

This is an old story and just as good as the first time I heard it.

Happy Sewing and Merry Christmas

JudyCinNC said...

Thank you so much for posting this. I had read it before, but loved it all over again. I took the liberty of posting on my blog also, this just needs to be shared with everyone in case we forget to take the time to make a difference. Judy C

Salem Stitcher said...

Wow. Thank you for that.

Gmama Jane said...

Wonderful story and I love your blog. I'm a new follower. I think you would enjoy the quilting blog, Sew We Quilt with Madame Samm. So many of us quilters go there for our main source for tutorials, guest bloggers, great monthly themes, give-aways, etc... You'll find all quilters at Sew We Quilt and Samm's personal blog is Sew I Quilt. Check them out.
Gmama Jane

Shoutforfood said...

thanks for sharing.

Paula, the quilter said...

Thank you for sharing this. It is my basic premise: do unto others as you would like others to do unto you.

Becky G said...

So tender. Thank-you.

Quiltdivajulie said...

Beautiful ... as are you, for sharing it with us.

Rori said...

Thank you for such a touching reminder of what is really important in life...honoring people, not things or our "to-do-list."

JKW said...

An encouraging post. The time is always right to share this story. Blessings, Janet

Unknown said...

Thank you for sharing this story. A lesson to us all on many levels.
Merry Christmas to all!

Tanya said...

Wonderful story.