Driving Up I-95. With Mr. Friendly.


I jumped into a cab after de-planing in Fort Lauderdale late Sunday afternoon. An uneventful flight. Largely uneventful that is, with the exception of the couple sitting in the front of the aircraft in premium seating. They were wearing face masks and plastic gloves synched with rubber bands. (Ebola.) If you gotta fly and you’re freaked, put on the protective gear. (It would be a cold day in Hell before you’d see me absorbing the ‘looks’ on a three hour flight.) Face-Mask-Man catches my stare. His eyes lock on mine as if to say: We’ll see who’s the Fool. 

“Do you take American Express?”
The cab driver’s response is undecipherable.
I’m guessing he’s in his 60’s, his accent places him from the Islands, and he’s wearing a day or two beard.

I ask again.
Do you take credit cards?
Yes, Sir.
This ‘Sir” thing is de-stabilizing. When did I become a Sir?

I note that I have plenty of legroom in a Yellow Cab. I’m grateful for one of life’s rare and simple pleasures.

How was your flight?
Good, thank you.
Where you coming from?
New York.
Is it cold?
It’s getting there.

89°F. The air conditioning is either not working or he’s conserving fuel. I open the window to let the tropical air blow in.

Do you want me to turn on the air?

No, it’s fine, thank you.

Is the friendliness a ploy for a larger tip? I scold myself for the unprovoked cynicism. And then reverse course and conclude that a friendly driver would earn a larger tip and that my cynicism was rationally placed. And the wheels on the bus go round and round.

What is the address again?
I repeat the address.

Is that on A1A?

I have no idea. Sorry.

Anticipating a bad outcome, I grab my smartphone and turn on Google Maps. And wait. I don’t want to be pushy and start offering instructions. Not yet anyway.

He reaches back with his right hand offering me his Blackberry.
Could you put the number in?

Having just put the address into Google Maps on my phone, I remember the address. I stab at his Blackberry, with its glass screen badly damaged, and its sticky keys. It takes me three attempts to get the location up. My Eagles-Easy-Like-Sunday-Morning feeling is draining.

Here you go. 

He stares at the Blackberry with a puzzled look, and then puts the phone to his ear. Not hearing anything, he puts the phone down. That’s Odd. I take note that my friendly cab driver has gone silent.

I think you need to get off on Exit 38 and head to A1A. 
I wasn’t taking anymore chances. I guide him to hotel. We arrive.

He swings the Card Processing Reader towards me. It is affixed on a rusty hinge. The machine offers four tip choices. I select 20%. The machine won’t accept it. I key it in again. It still won’t work.

This isn’t working. Can you help?

He doesn’t turn around and offer to help. He sits impassively with his back to me looking forward.

I try it again a third time. It still won’t accept the gratuity. Now, I’m annoyed. And, I note that he still doesn’t offer to help. Mr. Friendly, for some reason, has shut down.

I’m about to go at it a fourth time, and pause wondering if the reader will process four separate charges to my account. I also consider slashing his tip to 10%, and for some reason decide against it.

I’m preparing to dig into my bag to grab bills from my wallet and Bingo!,  the card reader takes the tip. I swipe my card and the receipt starts spewing out of the machine.

The driver now turns to wait for the receipt.

He put the Blackberry to his ear rather than read the directions? 
He couldn’t help me with the Credit Card reader when he could see I was struggling? 
Mr. Friendly shut down? Why?

Something is off. Something is off. Something is off.

And then it hits me with a Bing! as I watch him tearing the receipt. He wanted me to punch in the phone number for the Hotel into his phone so he could call them for directions.

The Man Can’t Read.

I thank him for the ride.

He avoids eye contact: “Thank you Sir.”

I Googled Illiteracy Among Adults after I landed and learned the following.

According to a study conducted in late April by the U.S. Department of Education and the National Institute of Literacy, 32 million adults in the U.S. can’t read. (Source: Huffingtonpost.com, September 6, 2013, The U.S. Illiteracy Rate Hasn’t Changed in Ten Years)

Sad. Very Sad.



  1. Well done for keeping your cool, Sir. Plenty in there to provoke the red mist.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Healing Grief says:

    Great reminder David that we really never know someone’s story. Being patient, non-judgemental and open isn’t always the easiest option to take, but in this very frustrating case, you did pretty well, Mr Dalai Lama! Bravo

    Liked by 1 person

  3. How did he pass his drivers test? Makes you wonder if he is even licensed.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Didn’t go where I thought it would, but arrived at a better place than I had imagined.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. i cried.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. You’re a paragon of patience.
    It’s something how technology can unite us, like your wonder-filled blog does.
    It’s also something how technology can divide us.
    Poor Mr. Friendly, if he has a blog, which is unlikely, might share that he got another fare more or less savvy than he.
    He might be wondering he got a rider who was innumerate.
    It affects millions, and many don’t want to talk about it.
    Numbers can be daunting and you never know who you’ll share a ride with.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for your kind words. Oddly enough the patience shows up less at work and more at times with others far less lucky, and perhaps that is where empathy is more needed. And I so agree with your comments on technology and it’s uniting factor. Wonderful point.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Must confess that I didn’t see that one coming. When I was doing literacy tutoring, I had a student who was a factory supervisor. He had his daughter read each of the manuals he needed to use to him over and over until he memorized them! The compensation skills are incredible. Very bright, capable guy and so, so happy when he began to read, as was I. It’s a gift we take for granted all too often…..

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Thanks for the story, Sir.
    I like the first bit about ebola. I’d rather be seen dead, than dress like that 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  9. so many would have lost patience so much sooner–good for you David–but this is how I picture you in my mind’s eye–someone who is smart and fair and compassionate


  10. Yessireebob (or maybe it’s “yessireedave”) that was a good one… 🙂 As for flying these days, I have forbidden my friend, Michael, from flying for at least the next month…until we see what happens with contagious diseases. Scary stuff out there. Yessireedave, stay safe!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Carol. Yes it is scary. When you see people having Purell tied to a their belt, you know there is an invisible monster lurking out there.


      • Yes…and so much traveling for business doesn’t make sense to me anymore, anyway. With teleconferencing so easy and readily available, meetings can be conducted many times without having to travel clear across the country. I really want to see what happens in the next month with this dangerous disease. I’ve told Michael that it is reckless to travel unnecessarily at this time…for his own safety and for the safety of everyone around him. Anyway, please stay safe out there my friend.

        Liked by 1 person

  11. I can’t imagine not being able to read. Life would be so much harder in so many ways.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Is this the same guy who’s going to give me an a** whooping? Seriously, someone being illiterate isn’t the first thing that usually pops into my mind, living in the United States. We have a large number of taxi drivers from Haiti in Fort Lauderdale. By the way, I know exit 38, not far from me. For how long are you here?

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Oh. My. Goodness. David, what a story. I can’t even begin to imagine navigating this crazy world behind what seems a shield of nonsense. Makes me so sad to imagine someone missing all those layers of words. This relates back to your post about being alive. You were so patient with him and I wonder if he knew that you knew?

    And… while nowhere near as important, I wonder how I am sometimes Ma’am (miss is MUCH nicer!) the way you wonder how you became sir!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, the emotional stress of hiding the “disability” must be grueling. Not sure if he knew, but I’m sure he was waiting for a tongue lashing. Have sense that he’s been through a few.

      And yes, Miss is so much better than Ma’am….

      Liked by 1 person

  14. An awkward moment David! 😐 I stick to cash with taxi drivers – it’s nice and easy! It’s annoying if I don’t have small change though, I hate giving them a £20 note for a £6 fare, I feel like I’m taking all their spare change. I’m not even sure taxi drivers where I live take cards. You’ve got me wondering now, I shall have to ask. I’ll try not to make the same mistake though! 😉

    Liked by 1 person

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