Conversation over a half an hour cab drive

“I’ve had three careers over the past four decades”, said the aging man behind the wheels of a cab that I took one fine evening in Philadelphia.

It must have been the way he used the term “career” that made me lift up my head from the book I was reading. When it comes to having long conversations with the person next to me while traveling in a bus, train or even a cab, I can safely call myself more inclined towards being an introvert. This was not because I had a chronic aversion towards making conversations. In fact I do like engaging in interesting talks at any other place, but on road. You might find it rather amusing, but it has just been like that for a really long time now. I considered being on the road as my own personal space – a Time to be away from everything that was around me. I would rather read a good book, than look up to see who was sitting beside me. If by any chance somebody actually started talking, having been misguided by the quick smile that I usually managed to give when they came over to sit beside me, I would quickly try cutting it off, with the shortest possible answers.

But that does not mean that I’ve never ventured into conversations with my fellow travelers. If there was something that sparkled my interest, I always made it a point to latch on to it, like this time.

“So what exactly would you term as a career”, I asked, genuinely curious about what he meant by that and hoping to gain some wisdom from an old man.

“Any work that you do, which spans more than a decade can be called as a career, in my view. One, two or even five years would just make your work, a job”, he said, perhaps a little surprised by the way I asked that question. “I worked in the restaurant business and then in an advertising agency and finally moved on to become a cab driver.”

Well, that came as a surprise to me. I thought the most uninteresting of the all the “careers” he had chosen was being a cab driver.

“So what made you leave those careers to pursue new ones?”, I asked closing my book and leaning forward so that I could hear him better.

“I realised that I was never cut out for those careers”. he replied. This amused me even more. I never thought it would take ten years to realise that you were not cut out for a job. “I was a waiter at this small Italian place. Have you been to the Paradiso in down town Philadelphia?”, he asked. I nodded my head. Having come to this place just 6 months back, I would rather not call myself a native, yet. “I have always liked the intensity and the pace of the work at a busy restaurant such as this. I also had an opportunity to go into a managerial role after the ten years I was at the place.”, he continued. “But then I realised that the job did not give me the creative freedom that I wanted. It somehow restricted me from doing, what I would have preferred to do in some of the circumstances I had been faced with. That was the same case with the work that I did at the advertising agency. I was never as happy as I would have wanted to be.”

“So how is this job giving you the freedom that you wanted?”, I asked, having realised that my destination was just around the corner and I needed to find an answer to quench my curiosity. I would have preferred to have a longer conversation with him.

“Like for example. The place where you want to go is just around the corner. I cannot take a turn here to get you to your place.”, he answered, pointing towards the “One way” signboard. “I would have to go a couple of blocks further up and make a turn towards the road leading back to your place. Although it is just a 2 minutes walk from here. I wouldn’t want you to walk in this rain either.” That was perhaps the first time I looked out to see the rain pouring down on the streets. “So what I plan to do now is to stop the meter, go around the two blocks to get you as close to the place as possible, and let you pay me just what the meter says at this point.”

There was a thundering silence in the car, amidst the pouring rain, the next few minutes as he went up a few blocks and turned back to stop the car right in front of the shop where I planned to go.

“See that’s the freedom I get”, he said smiling, as he waved goodbye, leaving me stunned and silent.


~ by Niranjan Nandakumar on December 21, 2008.

13 Responses to “Conversation over a half an hour cab drive”

  1. I liked this one A LOT! Almost like a short story, isn’t it? Cab drivers and hair dressers can be wonderful conversationalists. I’ve had several of such encounters myself, but I can’t think of any off the top my head. But I must confess, yours was rather unique! 🙂

  2. Hey this is a nice post ! a good read!

    Btw , “I asked closing my book and leaning forward so that I could hear him better. “

  3. one word – “WOW”!

  4. Oh wow, funny how this never happens in India 🙂 though. Nicely written tho 🙂

  5. The novella style of writing does poetic justice to the incident itself. Fantastico 🙂
    Your blog triggered a brain wave, I’ll soon be coming out with a post 😀

  6. This really happened? If so then wow… what a sweetheart of a cabdriver.. 🙂 and writen very well i must say 🙂

  7. hey.. first time on your blog.. a nice story indeed.. !!

  8. now life has one more thing to wait for….
    to meet such a cab driver!

  9. or i should change my career to a Cab driver???

  10. @Prasil … It was indeed a ver unique experience. Couldn’t help but think about it for the next two days!

    @Jaris … Oops 🙂 Were oyu just quoting me there ?

    @Vaish, @Marina .. Thanks 🙂

    @Xeres … I guess its time you posted something!

    @Divya … It really did happen 🙂

    @WobbleBubble … THanks for visiting!

    @Sophie … Life is not just about waiting 🙂 he he.

  11. Nice one !

  12. i agree.. i really like the short story approach u took 🙂 well written and interesting incident.. a very nice cab driver, he was 🙂

  13. Thanks 🙂

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