Thursday, October 27, 2016

500 Miles

I picked up a young man by the name of Rodney the other night at a spot downtown and took him back to his home - a small mobile home that he shared with his wife and kids.

We had some small talk - I remarked about the rain we were having and what a mess it was to walk around in. He mentioned that he walks to work every day. 7 miles and back, every day. I don't know why he has to walk and doesn't drive to work and he didn't mention why.

All I could think of was what a huge expression of love to his family. Walking to and back from work every day.


Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Living in the Dark


The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched - they must be felt with the heart.
-Helen Keller

I was not prepared for Molly. She lives alone with her cat in an apartment and needs a taxi ride to and from the grocery store from time to time. She has no family in the area and not many friends. She is blind. Blind from birth, in fact.

When I was a kid growing up in San Marcos, Texas, my mother would take me to the Duke and Ayres five and dime store on the town square. I guess you could compare it to the dollar stores that we have now that are so popular. On the weekends, a blind hispanic man sat on a chair just outside of the front door of the store and played his accordion. He was a talented musician and churned out song after song for people passing by. A little tin drinking cup sat next to his feet for donations. This was the extent of my experience with a blind person.

I pulled up to Molly's apartment complex and waited for her to come out. She came walking down the stairs, cane in hand and I got out of the cab to greet her and assist her to the cab. We drove to the local grocery store and chatted along the way. She was quite honest and open and unexpectedly confided to me that her dream was to get married and have children, but most of the guys she's met are afraid of potentially being the father of a blind child. I really had no idea what to say to that. I think I said, "wow" or something equally earth shaking.

We got to the grocery store and I helped her out of the cab. She asked me to take her to the customer service counter where I could leave her and she would do her shopping. It never occurred to me to ask her how on earth she could be blind and still shop. Did she stop shoppers and ask for help? As we walked to the counter she lightly held on to the back of my arm as we walked. I told her it was quite okay if she wanted to hold on tighter, but she replied that she was taught not to hold on tight and just use a light touch. I left her there at the counter and went on to my next ride.

The dispatcher called me about an hour later and asked me to pick up Molly and her groceries. I pulled up to the front of the store, got out of my cab and walked into the store to find her. She was having coffee in the bakery department. I helped her up from her chair and walked out to the waiting cab. I drove her back to her apartment and she asked me to help her take her groceries inside. She nimbly walked up the stairs ahead of me as I carried her grocery bags and stumbled up the stairs behind her. She opened the door to her apartment and asked me to put the groceries on the counter. The apartment was pitch dark and she told me I could turn on the lights if I needed to. No lights? Of course not. Why would a blind person need room lights? Another thing that had never occurred to me. She paid for her cab ride and thanked me for my help.

I still can't quite get over how odd it is that I have never been spent any time over these many years that I have been on this earth with a person who is blind. I think of her often and try to fathom what it must be like to be blind and alone. It's impossible for me to do.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Worlds Apart

“The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.”
― Ralph Waldo Emerson

I picked him up downtown. He was wearing a dirty jacket, dirty jeans and a Vietnam Vet baseball cap - and he smelled. The cab dispatcher gave me a call on the radio and asked me to pick up the gentleman at a building downtown. When I arrived, he was nowhere to be seen. I called the dispatcher back and asked him to give the rider a call to find out where he was. I was getting annoyed and my patience was wearing thin as I waited outside the building with the engine running for what seemed like forever. The dispatcher called me back and said the man was on his way.

He finally appeared, shuffling very slowly down the sidewalk towards my cab. He had trouble walking and even more trouble getting into the cab. I immediately felt guilty for my impatience. He asked me to take him to a downtown liquor store.

On the way to the store I struck up a conversation with him. I thought he was much older than me, but I found out that we were just about the same age. The years had obviously been much harder on him. He suffered from gout and neuropathy in his legs and feet which was extremely painful and made it hard for him to get around.

We arrived at the liquor store and I parked out front. He asked me if I could help him out of the cab. I got out, walked over to the passenger side and helped him out and on to the sidewalk. He thanked me profusely for my, "kindness and understanding." A few minutes later, he came out of the liquor store and I helped him get back in the cab.

We arrived back at the building that I had originally picked him up from and I helped him out of the cab once again. He asked me if I would mind helping him get to the door. I said it would be no problem at all and started guiding him by the arm to the main entrance of the building. He stopped me and pointed to a long narrow alley that ran beside the building. "My door is down there."

It was at that point I started getting just a little nervous and began to wonder if maybe this wasn't just a ruse and he was going to rob me once we got into the alley. It's funny where your mind can go in this kind of situation. We squeezed down the alley and arrived at a door with a security lock. He typed in the combination and opened the door.

He turned to me and said, "Can you follow up the stairs behind me just in case I fall?" I said, "Sure, I know I look soft and all but if you fall on me it's going to hurt and I'm going to be really upset!" (I can't seem to stop myself from making jokes even in the oddest of situations.) He laughed and slowly made his way up two flights of stairs to his apartment. "Thank you sir," he said, as he reached out and shook my hand. "My pleasure. I'll see you again, I'm sure" I replied.

I would have never had an interaction with this person in a million years had I not been driving a cab that day and had he not needed a ride. We were worlds apart, but during the 30 minutes or so that we were together, a connection was made. I held the arm of a stranger and helped him from one destination to another.

It still feels good.