Everyone has a story. We just have to listen.
The kids and I spent a couple of days in Chicago last week, and we were surrounded by stories. Every time we climbed into the back of a taxi cab or Lyft car, we learned a little more.
Our driver to the Museum of Science and Industry wants to travel to Texas someday, mostly to try the food and visit the home base of his church. Cedric has heard that the produce is fresher and the beef is better here. And he'd love to see Joel Osteen preach live at Lakewood Church in Houston.
Cedric shared that he was on public assistance when he was younger. He said that he could have found a way to continue to receive welfare even when he no longer qualified, but he knew that would be dishonest — and he would be taking money from someone else who needed it.
He allows that same philosophy to guide his decisions today. When he shops and sees a bargain, he rarely buys it. "If I didn't need it 10 minutes before I walked in the store, I don't need it now," he said. It would be better, he said, to leave that bargain for a shopper who really needs the item and the discount.
We waved goodbye, climbed out of his car and explored the museum. We bought nothing from the gift shop, Cedric's advice fresh on our minds.
Samuel drove us from our hotel to the theater. He's a special-education teacher hoping to be rehired by the school he transferred to last year. It's close to his home — he can walk — and he enjoys the work.
He was fascinated by the amount of money spent on high school football stadiums in Texas. At the same time, he lamented the poor budgeting decisions of his own school district and state.
"They make a lot of bad choices," he said, with the soft, calm voice you'd hope for from a young man who works with children with special needs.
We wished him luck for the new school year and spilled out on the sidewalk, eager to stand in line for Hamilton.
We relied on Christopher to drive us back to the hotel. He endured our effusive praise for the musical — we stopped short of singing the soundtrack — and we listened to his story.
He lives in Indiana and drives about 45 miles one-way to get to Chicago. The money is good — better than he can make at home. He prefers the afternoon, evening and late-night shifts. On busy weekends, he might not return to his wife and children until 5 or 6 a.m. He's got all kinds of tales of revelry.
No one, though, entertains like our cab driver from the airport.
He spoke with a heavy accent, so we had to lean forward and concentrate on every word. In half an hour, we learned about his three grown children, his travels in Africa and South America, his opinion on pharmaceutical companies and his work in computational physics.
He drives for fun, he says, to get away from his university lab.
After the car in front of us ran a red light and was almost hit by another car, our cabbie shook his head sadly and said, "There is only one second between life and death. Cherish every moment." (Chicago traffic is not for the fainthearted.)
|Katie, Cooper and our sweet cab driver|
He told us about his parents in Scotland and his phone calls home.
"Kids, cherish your mom. She is special," he said. "There is a lifelong bond. Don't ever joke with it."
And then we reached our destination and said goodbye and marveled, again, at the people we've met, the strangers still out there and the stories we've yet to hear.
Tyra Damm is a Briefing columnist. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.