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Twenty years ago, I drove a cab for a living. It was a
cowboy's life, 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, 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 partiers,
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 80s 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 and 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

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
I opened the trunk and took the small
suitcase to the door. The woman was
already seated in a wheelchair. "How much do I
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, then
walked into the dim morning light. Behind
a door shut. It was the sound of the closing of a
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


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Copyright 2006 Joke A Whenever

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