His name is Jerry, and I got into his cab at Houston’s International airport. The ride to the hotel was slow, traffic being what Houston traffic is at 6:00 p.m. on a Monday afternoon.
It seemed a good time to talk–and I’ve had wonderful conversations with taxi drivers. Jerry has been driving a cab for three years, and when I ask him if he enjoyed it, he pauses and says, “No one wants to grow up to drive a cab. You take that job because you are responsible for someone else and can provide by driving a cab.” He was responsible for two children and his wife. He had a university degree, but as an immigrant, found it hard to get a job in his field. So he drove a cab, often 18 hours a day.
Jerry drops me off at my hotel. I ask him if he will pick me up tomorrow morning and drive me to the client’s office. He checks the address and we come to an arrangement. The hotel is out-of-the-way, and I’m willing to pay for a safe, prompt ride, including asking him to turn on the meter when he leaves his house.
The next morning, I get a text five minutes before pick-up time, reminding me to be ready. He shows up and asks for my permission to not take the freeway, as even at this hour, it will take longer. Last night, after we shook hands on our deal, he drove a practice run to the client and found a faster way than the freeway at 7:00 a.m. I got the best of this arrangement, and he drives. We talk some more.
He owns his cab, he pays a cab company for the official documents (called a hack medallion) and a portion of his fares.
The next day, the scene repeats. Jerry shows up, I am picked up from my out-of-the-way hotel and delivered safely and early to my client’s office.
This time I hear that Jerry has discovered that people like me, who want a safe, dependable driver, make excellent clients. Next time I’m in Houston, I will call him two weeks in advance and will have a known, professional driver while I’m there. He has a roster of personal clients. He rarely has to depend on abusive, drunk, or dangerous clients, although any ride can turn into that. I ask this smart marketer how he figured this out. His answer is a wonderful study in life’s philosophy: “I am a peaceful man who wants now a peaceful life. I maybe have to drive a taxi, but I do not have to accept abuse because I am a taxi driver. I seek out people who are kind and generous and surround myself with them. That is how to build a peaceful life.”
I get out of the cab and smile. Big truth before 7:00 a.m. and I am grateful for the peaceful man who has crossed my path.
––Quinn McDonald travels and gathers stories as she goes.