The taxi driver arrived at the address and honked the horn. After waiting a few minutes he honked again. He thought about just driving away, but instead he put the car in park and walked up 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 90′s stood before him. She was wearing a print dress and a pillbox hat with a veil pinned on it, like somebody out of a 1940′s movie. 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 asked the taxi driver. He took the suitcase to the cab, then returned to assist the woman.
She took his arm and they walked slowly toward the cab. 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 to be treated.’
‘Oh, you’re such a good boy, she said. When they got in the cab, she gave him an address and then asked, ‘Could you drive through downtown?’
‘It’s not the shortest way,’ he answered quickly..
‘Oh, I don’t mind,’ she said. ‘I’m in no hurry. I’m on my way to a hospice.
He 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.’ 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 him 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 newly wed. 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 him 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’m tired. Let’s go now’.
They drove in silence to the address she had given him. 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 they pulled up. They were solicitous and intent, watching her every move. They must have been expecting her.
He 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 a living,’ she answered.
‘There are other passengers,’ he responded.
Almost without thinking, he bent and gave her a hug. She held onto him tightly.
‘You gave an old woman a little moment of joy,’ she said. ‘Thank you.’
He squeezed her hand, and then walked into the dim morning light.. Behind him, a door shut. It was the sound of the closing of a life..
He didn’t pick up any more passengers that shift and drove aimlessly lost in thought. For the rest of that day, he could hardly talk. What if that woman had gotten an angry driver, or one who was impatient to end his shift? What if he had refused to take the run, or had honked once, then driven away?
On a quick review, he realized he hadn’t done anything more important in my life than this.
Great moments often catch us unaware-beautifully wrapped in what others may consider a small one.