I was called by the dispatcher to pick up a young man downtown one day recently. When I arrived, I realized that I had seen him a few times before as I drove past the corner that he occupied which he used to approach passerby's for donations. He is blind.
I circled the block a few times before I was able to find a parking spot that was close to him. I got out of the cab and said, "hi, I'm here with the taxi" as I walked up to him. He asked me for help walking to the cab and then we took off for his destination.
I told him my name was "Tex" and he told me his nickname was "Rodeo" - two monikers that seemed to work out well together. He had worked rodeos before he was blinded six years ago by diabetes. Now, he made his living off of disability and supplemented it with donations from people who passed him on the street corner.
I battled in my mind the entire 10 minute drive how to handle the cab fare. Should I charge him? If I offered to not charge him, would it offend him (my wife the counselor has taught me a lot over the years)? I mean really, a five dollar cab ride was not going to make or break me. I decided to be honest and I asked him, "would you be offended if I didn't charge you for the ride?" He replied, "No I wouldn't. I really appreciate it."
We arrived at his house and I helped him up to the front steps. "Nice to meet you Rodeo," I said as he started up the stairs. "Thanks for the ride, Tex" he replied.
Now, this isn't a post that I've written to solicit praise for being such a nice guy from whoever reads this. You might be thinking, "man, what a sucker!" I'm not sure why I'm writing this post except that giving "Rodeo" a ride was a unique experience that made me really think about how to respond to someone who has had such a different life experience from what I have lived.
This is what I enjoy about driving a taxi. I get to spend a short, fascinating amount of time with people I would never normally interact with outside my little bubble.