The last cab ride
The last cab ride3 mins 10.9K 3 mins 10.9K
Twenty years ago, Kent drove a cab for a living. One time Kent arrived in the middle of the night for a pick up at a building that was dark expect 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 he had seen impoverished people who depended on taxis as their only means of transportation. Unless a situation smelled of danger, he always went to the door. This passenger might be someone who needs my assistance, he reasoned to himself. So he walked to the door and knocked.
"Just a minute", answered a frail elderly voice.
He 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 movies. 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. He took the suitcase to the cab, then returned to assist woman. She took his arm and they walked slowly toward the curb. She kept thanking him for his kindness.
"It's nothing", he told her ."I just try to treat my passengers the way I would want my mother treated."
"Oh you are such a good boy," she said. When they got in the cab, she give him an address, then asked, "Could you drive through downtown?"
"It's not the shortest way," he answered quickly.
" Oh, I don't mind," she said. "I am in no hurry. I am on my way to hospice."
He 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."
He quietly reached over and shut off the meter. "What route would you like me to take?'' he asked.
For the next two hours, they drove through the city. She showed the building where she had once worked as an elevator operator. They drove through the neighborhood where she and her husband had lived when they were newlyweds. She had him 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 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 am tired.Let's go now."
They drove in silence to the address she had given.
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" he said.
"You have to make your living," she answered.
"There are other passengers."
Almost without thinking, he bent and gave her a hug. She held on to him tightly.
"You gave an old woman a little moment of joy," she said. "Thank you."
He squeezed her hand, then waked into the dim morning light. Behind him, a door shut. It was the sound of the closing of a life. We are 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.