Driving I-95 North. Private One-Hour Conversation.

Tuesday.  It’s late. It’s been a long day. I glance at my smart watch, 4,500 steps, well short of 10,000 target. Should have walked across town and taken the train. No you shouldn’t have.  Air is heavy. Feels like mid-August.  My head swims from the second glass of red wine. I walk half way up the block and back, while I wait.  4,935 steps. Well that’s Something.

I’m in back seat of car. Phone rings. Work. The call carries on. Something is off.  Antennae go up. I can feel him. Driver is listening. I’m conscious of my words. I shift to deeper code, quickly end the call, and set the phone in my bag. I sit quietly. Irritated. No privacy anywhere. Rude.

It’s silent in the cabin, air blows cool. Tension seems to rise a few clicks in the silence. You’re just tired. It’s all in your head Pal.

He breaks the silence.

“Sir, what is it that you do?” I’m wary about my response, but I respond, and at 100,000 feet. He’s not getting anything out of me.

“How long have you been doing it?” I respond curtly.

“That’s a long time.”  At this point, I feel I need to take control of the conversation.  “Why do you ask?”

“Well, I couldn’t really follow your phone conversation but I could feel that you love your work.” My hard edges drop, I shift in the seat, and I soften into the conversation.

“Where are you from originally?” I explain where I’m from and how I landed in NYC and the few stops in between.

Traffic begins to clear as we leave Manhattan and we are flowing on I-95 North.

“Do you have any suggestions for me as to how I could get started in your business?” I ask him how he landed in this job and ask him about his background.

“Sir, I’ve been in the service, stationed in Korea. And then to Phoenix as a finishing carpenter. And then back home to Maine as a D.J. And then I took the D.J. business to NYC. Sir, it’s hard to make ends meet. Weddings. Parties. It gets old really fast.”

And I ask him to tell me what he likes about his driving job.

“Sir, I meet fascinating people. I get to learn about their backgrounds and where they come from. No different than this conversation I’m having with you. What other job is there that would have afforded me a private one-hour conversation with you Sir, incredible.”

“And Sir, I’m sure you’ll find this silly, but we’re in Manhattan. Everyone is rushing. Busy. No time for anything but work.  What I really love about my job is stopping and letting people make their way across the crosswalk. And even when light is green and I’m free to go, giving those that need a bit more time, a bit more time. Impatient drivers behind me have both hands on the horn. No matter. I take my time. I smile and wave at them. They smile and wave back.  You would think they won the lotto. It makes my day.”

He pulls up into the driveway. Home.  I thank him and wish him luck.  He offers his hand through the window.  I shake it and he continues:

“I really appreciate you taking the time to speak with me.”

I watch him pull away.

What other job is there that would have afforded me a private, one-hour conversation with you Sir, incredible.


Notes:

  • Inspired by: “You don’t want to hear the story of my life, and anyway I don’t want to tell it, I want to listen to the enormous waterfalls of the sun. And anyway it’s the same old story— a few people just trying, one way or another, to survive. Mostly, I want to be kind.” – Mary Oliver, from “Dogfish” in Dream Work
  • Photo: ars Technica of Manhattan

Comments

  1. instant shift of the earth, like a teutonic plate

    Liked by 1 person

  2. made me cry a little. Tell you why: Living in the Paris region, life is difficult, harsh, hard, a challenge – I guess just as it is in NYC…. I DO have a very privileged position though. I’m no longer in the work process and I joke that ‘I’m a kept woman’, thanks to my Hero Husband who’s so much younger and still very much ‘working for a living’. We met many, many truly underprivileged ppl here, mostly they originate from Africa. In less than one year, three of them, wonderful men, all of them, one with a very good scholar background & diplomas, two with basic schooling, have taken up ‘high class’ taxi driving (mostly to and from airports). None of them ever looked back. They love their job, are always turned out perfectly, are hyper polite, and they confirm what you’ve been telling here. Although they pay a higher rate to loan their taxi (taxi licenses in Paris must be the most expensive ones worldwide – and the cars allowed to airports come at an additional premium), although they work many, many hours, they are happier. They have discussions, sometimes deep & meaningful, encounter civilized ppl, they master the awful traffic and stress with ease because they know they do something good for their clients. They decide to take a few hours off when needed as they are their own masters, but also know that if they take time off, there’s no money coming in….
    It’s ‘just’ yet another way of reminding us to count our many, many blessings, to be thankful to everybody who does something to make OUR life that bit easier.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. Did we just witness a paradigm shift? A serendipitous moment, indeed and May you have many more!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. God reminds me sometimes that I’m not the only souls seeking a connection by putting someone in my life who is “fascinated” with me. Someone told me random people start conversations with people who “aren’t scary” . Sounds like you’re not scary.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Someone who “gives those who need bit more time, a bit more time” is just what the world needs. So glad you were able to pause, listen and shift perspective David. 🙏

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I can feel his love for his work…

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Such a gift when we have an encounter that moves us off-center and makes us both question what we are doing and realize how many blessings we have been given and take for granted. I keep coming back to it: time is precious.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. This would be a good time to call that fellow that recognized you on the street last week. lol

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Tears…how wonderful when I get out of my cranky mode and find a deeply human loving connection! For me, I lapse into irritable, and maybe because that’s not who I really am, another human can open that door of my heart. Hard to express, but your experience is such a profound lesson…I hope to be more open to “taking the time” in this way.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Divinely humbling.
    Beautifully written, as always.

    I had one of those moments on Wednesday. I was busy, behind the scenes busy, at work. But I’m still a sales person and taking care of customers should come first.

    I almost brushed someone off and asked another sales person to take over. But the customer would6take her captivating sad eyes of of me. She kept luring me in asking for my opinion.

    My sales person, the one I asked to take over, came and whisperer something to me, “Boss, this is the woman who’s son was shot and killed over the weekend.”
    I’ll just leave it at that. My humbling moment was the 2 hours spent with this mother after that.

    Truly appreciate and love this post.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Wow. No words. Thank you for sharing Sawsan.

      Liked by 1 person

      • You’re very welcome David!

        I read a quote few years ago and since then I haven’t come across it again. Don’t remember by who either.

        What it was saying is,

        All the universe needs from you is to let its energy pass through you. Let it flow, through you. To allow it this much.

        Only special people get the universe to knock harder when we’re closed up.

        Like

  11. A post that makes us think about life

    Liked by 1 person

  12. My friend, you were given one of those ‘aha’ moments. Hold onto the gift – what he gave you is inestimable; what you returned equally invaluable.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. So comforting to know, even in Manhattan! That there are a few people left who are making an effort to connect. Bless this man 🙏🏻

    Liked by 1 person

  14. What I love about this most is that, without intruding, he intruded just enough to force you to be present with him. One man appreciating another man because both of you love your job for what it gives you. You get what you get, David; and he gets what he does by exchanging with strangers in such a way that by the end of the journey, your stranger level has diminished just a tad and has moved towards a friendship of sorts.
    I adore these posts of yours.

    Liked by 2 people

  15. It IS incredible. AND. I don’t know if I am more mortified by someone listening in or someone actually admitting that they were doing that. Because, let’s face it, we all do this unless part of our brain is spongecake. So kudos to you both for an honest interchange. (As an aside, I have ridden in a cab well under a dozen times in my life.) 😉🤗

    Liked by 1 person

  16. I love this. Shields Up is SOP for me, but people can slip through with their damn kindness or a story that grabs me by the throat and shakes my compassion loose. The connection startles me. I forget that I’m human.

    Liked by 1 person

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