Thursday, December 08, 2011



--- I arrived at the address and honked the horn. After waiting a few minutes 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 90’s stood before me. She was wearing a print dress and a pillbox hat with a veil pinned on it, like someone out of a 1940’s movie.

By her side was a small nylon suitcase. The apartment looked like no one lived there for years. All the furniture was covered with sheets.

---There were no clocks on the walls or knicknacks and utensils on the counter. In the corner was a cardboard box filled with photos and glassware. ‘’Would you carry my bag out to the car,’’ she asked. I took the suitcase to the car and returned to assist the woman. She took my arm and we walked slowly to the curb. She kept thanking me for my kindness. ‘’It’s nothing,’’ I told her. ‘’I 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 an address and then she asked, ‘’could we drive through downtown.’’

---’’It’s not the shortest way…’’ I answered quickly…but she said, ‘’I don’t mind. I’m in no hurry. I’m on my way to a hospice.

---I looked in the rear view mirror. Her eyes were glistening. ‘’I have no family left. The doctor said I don’t have very long.’’ I reached over and shut off the meter. ‘’What route would you like me to take?’’

---For the next two hours we drove through the city. She showed me the building where she 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 would have me slow in front of a particular building or corner would sit staring into the darkness saying nothing. At the first sign of sun creasing the darkness, she suddenly said, ‘’let’s go now. I’m getting tired.’’

---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 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. She was already seated in a wheelchair. ‘’How much do I owe you,’’ she asked reaching into her purse.

---’’Nothing,’’ I said.

---’’You have to make a living,’’ she said.

---’’There are other passengers,’’ I responded. Almost without thinking I bent and gave her a hug. She held onto me tightly.

---’’You gave a little old woman a moment of joy,’’ she said. ‘’Thank you.’’

---I squeezed her hand and walked into the dim morning light. Behind me, I heard a door shut. It was the sound of a closing of a life.

---I didn’t pick up anymore passengers that shift…I drove aimlessly lost in thought. For the rest of the day I could hardly talk. What if the woman got an angry driver or one impatient to end his shift. What I refused to take the trip or honked once and drove away?

---On a quick review…I don’t think I have done anything more important in my life. We’re conditioned to think that our lives revolve around great moments. But, great moments catch us unaware beautifully wrapped in what people would call a small moment.