Tuesday, August 18, 2015

THE LAST CAB RIDE ... A Powerful Life Lesson Shared by a Cab Driver

I arrived at the address and honked the horn.  After waiting a few minutes, I honked again.  Since this was my last fare for this shift I thought about just driving away, but instead I put the car in park and walked up to the door and knocked hard.

"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 who must have been in her 90's stood before me. She was wearing a print dress and an old fashioned pillbox hat with a veil, like somebody out of a 1940's movie.
By her side was a small suitcase. The apartment looked as if no one had lived in it. All the furniture was covered with sheets. There were no clocks on the walls, no knickknacks on the shelves 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 young man?" she asked. I took the suitcase to the cab, then returned to help the woman walk to the cab.  She took my arm and we walked slowly toward the curb; all the while 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 the address she wanted and asked if I could drive through downtown before we got there?  "Ma’am, it's not the shortest way," I answered. 

"Oh, I don't mind," she said. "I'm in no hurry. I'm on my way to a hospice center."  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 with all this cancer."  (I quietly reached over and shut off the meter.)
"What route would you like me to take?" I asked.

"Any one you want," she replied.

For the next two hours, we just drove through the city. She pointed out a building where she once worked as an elevator operator.  Then we drove through a neighborhood where she said she and her husband had lived when they were newlyweds. 
She had me pull up and stop in front of an old furniture warehouse that she said had once been a ballroom where she had gone dancing as a young girl when she was in high school.  As we drove, she would often ask me to drive slow in front of a particular building or around a corner;  sometimes she would ask me to just park and then she would stare into the darkness and say nothing.
At the first hint of sunlight she suddenly said, "I'm tired; can we go to the Hospice Center now?"  We drove in silence to the address she had given me. When we arrived it was a low building, kind of like a small convalescent home with a long driveway that passed under a portico.  As soon as I pulled in, two orderlies came running out. They were solicitous and very intent; they watched her every move.  They obviously were expecting her.

I hopped out and opened the trunk and took her small suitcase to the door.  The orderlies had already seated her in a wheelchair. "How much do I owe you young man?" she asked reaching into her purse. 

"Nothing," I answered. 

"That’s not fair; you have to make a living," she said. 

"There are plenty if other passengers," I responded.
Almost without thinking, I bent forward and gave her a hug and kissed her on the cheek. She held onto me tightly. "Young man, you gave an old woman a lot of joy tonight," she said.

"Thank you," I said as I squeezed her hand and walked back to my cab.

Behind me, I heard a center door shut; it sounded like the closing of a life.  For the rest of that day, I could hardly talk. I thought what if that woman had gotten an angry cabbie or a driver who was impatient and wanted to end his shift quickly?  What if a driver would had refused to take that late night run, or had honked only once, then driven off?
Looking back on last night, I don't think that I have ever done anything more important in my entire life.  

Many of us think our lives revolve around great moments; but the truly great moments in our lives often catch us when we least expect them – they are often hidden in what others consider to be small things.
Remember; people may not always remember what you did for them or what you said to them but I no one ever forgets how you made them feel.  

I am not going to ask you to share this story.  All I want you to do is think about The Last Cab Ride  and remember try to always remember that even though life is not always the party we had always hoped for while we are living it, we might as well dance every chance we get.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

The Beauty of a White Rose

I was killing time walking through a Big Bazaar type store, when I overheard a cashier tell a young boy who couldn't have been more than 6 or 7 years old, “Son, I'm sorry, but you don't have enough money to buy this doll.

The little boy looked at the cashier and asked, “Are you sure?''
The cashier politely took time to count the boy's money again and replied, ''You know that you don't have enough money to buy the doll, dear.''

The little boy stood silent while still holding the doll in his arms. I walked over and asked him who he wished to buy the doll for. “My sister.  It is the doll she loved and wanted so much. I wanted to give it to her for her birthday on Friday.”

He went on to say; “I have to have the doll today so I can give the doll to my Mommy tonight so that she can give it to my sister when she goes to live with her tonight.  My sister has gone to live with God and Daddy says that Mommy will be going to live with God soon too so I thought Mommy could take the doll with her to give it to my sister on Friday.''

My heart nearly stopped. The little boy looked up at me and said, "I asked my Daddy to tell Mommy to wait until I come back with the doll.” Then the little boy reached in his pocket and pulled out a picture of him laughing with a little girl and said, “I want Mommy to take my picture with her so my sister won't forget me. I don’t want Mommy to leave me, but Daddy says that she has to go to be with my sister." Then he squeezed the doll against his chest as tears fell from his eyes.

I slowly put my hand in my pocket and grabbed a few bills I had and said, "Son, suppose we count your money one more time just in case you do have enough money for the doll?''

"Okay he said. I sure hope I do have enough." As we counted his money, I discreetly added several of my dollar bills to his pile. When we were done counting, low and behold there was enough for the doll and even some money to spare.

The boy looked up and quietly said, "Thank you God for giving me enough money!" Then he looked at me and added, "Last night before I went to sleep I asked God to make sure I had enough money to buy this doll for my sister.” I also wanted to ask him for some money to buy a white rose for my Mommy, but I didn't dare to ask God for that because I thought I would be asking too much. But look what God did. He gave me enough to buy the doll and also enough to buy a white rose for Mommy because she loves white roses."

I finished my shopping with a totally different state of mind from when I started. I couldn't get that little kid out of my mind. As I was checking out, I suddenly remembered a newspaper article from a few days earlier which mentioned a drunken driver hit a car occupied by a young woman and her little girl. The girl died at the scene but the mother was taken to the hospital and was in a critical condition. The family, I recall, was asked to make a decision whether to pull the plug on the life support machine because the woman would not be able to recover from her coma. I wondered if that was the family of the little boy who wanted to buy his sister a doll.

The next day on my way to work I bought a paper.  A story featured on the front page was about a young woman who passed late last night because her family had instructed her doctors to pull the plug. I don’t know why but during my lunch break - I went to a nearby florist and bought a dozen white roses and drove to the funeral home that was listed in the paper. The room was full and up front was a casket for family and friends to make their last visit before the burial would occur.

I walked towards the casket and as I neared it I saw a young lady holding a beautiful a white rose in her hand. Next to the rose was a photo of a little boy and a girl laughing and over her chest was placed a doll – a doll I had seen the night before. I immediately turned around and left the funeral home as my eyes filled with tears. On that day I learned the simple beauty of a while rose and a little toy doll.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Who Was That Man

A nurse on the intensive care ward took the tired and anxious looking serviceman to the bedside. "Your son is here," she said to the old man. She had to repeat the words several times before the patient's eyes opened.

Heavily sedated because of the pain of his heart attack, he dimly saw the young uniformed Marine standing outside the oxygen tent. He reached out his hand. The Marine wrapped his toughened fingers around the old man's limp ones, squeezing a message of love and encouragement.

The nurse brought a chair so that the Marine could sit beside the bed. All through the night the young Marine sat there in the poorly lighted ward, holding the old man's hand and offering him words of love and strength. 

Occasionally, the nurse suggested that the Marine move away and rest awhile; however he refused.

Whenever the nurse came into the ward, the Marine was oblivious of her and of the night noises of the hospital - the clanking of the oxygen tank, the laughter of the night staff members exchanging greetings, the cries and moans of the other patients. Now and then she heard him say a few gentle words to the dying man who said nothing, only held on tightly to his son all through the night.

Along towards dawn, the old man died. The Marine released the now lifeless hand he had been holding all night and went to tell the nurse. While she did what she had to do, he patiently waited.

Finally, she turned to the Marine and started to offer words of sympathy, but the Marine interrupted her. "Who was that man?" he asked. 

The nurse was startled, "Why he was your father," she answered. 

"No, he wasn't," the Marine replied. "I never saw him before in my life; my dad is doing fine I just saw him yesterday."

"Then why didn't you say something when I took you into his room?" asked the nurse. 

The Marine replied "I knew right away there had been a mistake, but I also knew that man needed his son, and his son just wasn't here.

When I realized he was too sick to tell whether or not I was his son and knowing how much he needed someone, I just stayed." 

“I came here tonight to find a Mr. William Grey; his son was killed in Iraq today, and I was sent to inform him. What was this gentleman's name?

The nurse, with tears in her eyes, answered, "Son, that was Mr. Grey."

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

The First Presidential Limousine - You Won't Believe It!

It's been a while since I have posted on this blog.  December was hectic and January just took off.  I am sorry.  Hopefully you will find this story fascinating and share it with your family and friends.  Gabe   

Just hours after Pearl Harbor was attacked on December 7, 1941, the Secret Service found itself with a major dilemma - an unusual problem. President Franklin D. Roosevelt asked to speak to an emergency session of Congress on Tuesday morning, December 9.  He chose to wait until Tuesday to address Congress as he wanted as many of the elected state representatives present and wanted to give them time to get back to Washington when he made his address to the nation. This joint session on December the 9th is where he gave his powerful “This is a Day That Will Live on in Infamy” speech. 

Though the actual trip from the White House to Capitol Hill was short, Secret Service agents at the time were concerned about his personal safety. Standard vehicles had always been used to transport the President wherever he travelled; however now with the possibility of war pending, they thought a more secure and safer mode of transportation should be used.

Federal Laws in place at the time prohibited government agencies and departments from purchasing vehicles that cost more than $750. The only recourse the Secret Service had was to get emergency authority and funding from Congress to purchase a safer vehicle; however
with all the mayhem erupting in Washington, nobody had time for that. 

As luck would have it, one of the older (or should we say long-term) agents working for the Secret Service, remembered the US Treasury Department had seized a bulletproof car from a mobster a few years ago that might work. 

The mobster they seized the vehicle from was none other than Al Capone - the famous Chicago crime boss. Capone, you may recall, was sent to prison in 1931 for tax evasion.  He failed to file and pay taxes on $150,000 of income he earned from his illegal operations. The car the Treasury Department seized from Al Capone was now sitting in a Washington D.C. warehouse.

Capone’s seized car was a 1928 Cadillac Town Sedan which had a V-8 engine. 

Interestingly, Capone had his car painted black and green to look identical to the Chicago police vehicles of that era. Capone also had the 1928 Cadillac Town Sedan modified with 3,000 pounds of armor plating and one-inch thick bulletproof glass. Furthermore, he had a police siren and flashing lights installed behind the front grille of the vehicle which he used often to speed his way through Chicago’s congested traffic quickly.

Throughout Sunday night, all day Monday, and all of Monday night mechanics and Secret Service agents labored to clean the car and make sure it was in perfect running condition. On Tuesday morning, December 9, they had Capone’s car ready to transport President Franklin Roosevelt to Capitol Hill. 

The point we should all remember from this fascinating little story is: The very first "Official" White House Limousine ever used to transport a US President was a bulletproof Cadillac, formerly owned by the notorious Chicago gangster, Al Capone.