Ric Elias - 3 Things I Learned While My Plane Crashed
Well, ex-best-friend now somewhat of a casual friend/acquaintance.
It’s crazy to think that we were best-friends for 8 long years and now we could barely sustain comfortable dinner conversation, a couple of awkward silences for sure.
But, that’s life right?
It was good nonetheless, definitely had some good nostalgic moments and savored past funs.
As weird as it sounds, I was not saddened, not even slightly. It actually made me happier knowing just how much my life has changed these past years.
I’ve never been happier.
Twenty years ago, I drove a cab for a living.
It was a cowboy’s life, a life for someone who wanted no boss.
What I didn’t realize was that it was also a ministry.
Because I drove the night shift, my cab became a moving confessional. Passengers climbed in, sat behind me in total anonymity, and told me about their lives. I encountered people whose lives amazed me, ennobled me, and made me laugh and weep.
But none touched me more than a woman I picked up late one August night. I was responding to a call from a small brick fourplex in a quiet part of town. I assumed I was being sent to pick up some partyers, or someone who had just had a fight with a lover, or a worker heading to an early shift at some factory for the industrial part of town.
When I arrived at 2:30 a.m., the building was dark except for a single light in a ground floor window.
Under these circumstances, many drivers would just honk once or twice, wait a minute, then drive away.
But I had seen too many impoverished people who depended on taxis as their only means of transportation.
Unless a situation smelled of danger, I always went to the door. This passenger might be someone who needs my assistance, I reasoned to myself.
So I walked to the door and knocked. “Just a minute”, answered a frail, elderly voice. I could hear something being dragged across the floor.
After a long pause, the door opened. A small woman in her 80′s stood before me. She was wearing a print dress and a pillbox hat with a veil pinned on it, like somebody out of a 1940s movie. By her side was a small nylon suitcase. The apartment looked as if no one had lived in it for years. All the furniture was covered with sheets. There were no clocks on the walls, no knick-knacks or utensils on the counters. In the corner was a cardboard box filled with photos and glassware.
“Would you carry my bag out to the car?” she said. I took the suitcase to the cab, then returned to assist the woman. She took my arm and we walked slowly toward the curb. She kept thanking me for my kindness.
“It’s nothing”, I told her. “I just try to treat my passengers the way I would want my mother treated.”
“Oh, you’re such a good boy”, she said. When we got in the cab, she gave me an address, then asked, “Could you drive through downtown?”
“It’s not the shortest way,” I answered quickly.
“Oh, I don’t mind,” she said. “I’m in no hurry. I’m on my way to a hospice.”
I looked in the rear view mirror. Her eyes were glistening.
“I don’t have any family left,” she continued. “The doctor says I don’t have very long.”
I quietly reached over and shut off the meter. “What route would you like me to take?” I asked.
For the next two hours, we drove through the city. She showed me the building where she had once worked as an elevator operator. We drove through the neighborhood where she and her husband had lived when they were newlyweds. She had me pull up in front of a furniture warehouse that had once been a ballroom where she had gone dancing as a girl. Sometimes she’d ask me to slow in front of a particular building or corner and would sit staring into the darkness, saying nothing.
As the first hint of sun was creasing the horizon, she suddenly said, “I’m tired. Let’s go now.”
We drove in silence to the address she had given me. It was a low building, like a small convalescent home, with a driveway that passed under a portico. Two orderlies came out to the cab as soon as we pulled up. They were solicitous and intent, watching her every move. They must have been expecting her. I opened the trunk and took the small suitcase to the door. The woman was already seated in a wheelchair.
“How much do I owe you?” she asked, reaching into her purse.
“Nothing,” I said.
“You have to make a living,” she answered.
“There are other passengers”.
Almost without thinking, I bent and gave her a hug. She held onto me tightly.
“You gave an old woman a little moment of joy,” she said. “Thank you.”
I squeezed her hand, then walked into the dim morning light. Behind me, a door shut. It was the sound of the closing of a life.
I didn’t pick up any more passengers that shift. I drove aimlessly, lost in thought. For the rest of that day, I could hardly talk. What if that woman had gotten an angry driver, or one who was impatient to end his shift? What if I had refused to take the run, or had honked once, then driven away?
On a quick review, I don’t think that I have done anything more important in my life.
We’re conditioned to think that our lives revolve around great moments. But great moments often catch us unaware – beautifully wrapped in what others may consider a small one.
and GUESS WHAT????
They just arrested somebody for my stolen car. He has been driving it hot-wired for the past month. I was too shocked to remember to ask the cop how he got arrested.
And get this, *DRUM ROLL*, are you ready? you sure? because here it comes!
It’s being held in the impound because it needs to be investigated for other offenses.
Say what? my car is under arrest for crimes?
My little Integra is no longer innocent and is now tainted by crime! Oh the horror!
It’s hard to believe that it never experienced ‘sex, drugs, and rock n’ roll’ before it descended to such corruption!
Remember how I had a dream similar to this? HERE
And remember how I just settled with my insurance company on friday? HERE
Yeah, so what now? I just sent in my signed settlement earlier tonight. Will they cancel the settlement? what will become of my car? I WANT MY MONEY!
I guess I will find out when I call my insurance company tomorrow morning *sigh*
My life is space mountain minus the giddiness.
I honestly cannot figure out if this is a good thing or bad thing that just happened.
Can I at least get a high five?
We are so used to the idea of ‘owning’ and ‘having’ that even the slightest resemblance of ‘loss’ or unattainability leads to dismay. We have a need to own love, the people associated with love, and the material things that we love. Isn’t that what life all comes down to? Every aspect of life seems to be webbed within love: music, literature, film, relationships, material things, and even food.
Where does ‘owning’ get us? It eventually leads to some sort of loss. We lose the people we love and the things we love to coincidences, meant-to-be’s, incidents and time. Despair, regret, what-ifs, and could-haves then ensue, dwell, and linger with time.
I’m not dismissing remembrance or nostalgia, but the despair and pessimism that some hold on to with all their might and destroys not only themselves but others around them.
What if we thought of people and things as borrowed? We borrow them from the universe when we need them the most, and vise versa. After they have fulfilled their purpose in our lives, they are returned for others’ needs. This borrowing and returning eliminates the idea of owning and losing. Lovers, marriages, friends, and family may end or leave, but hasn’t love, support, and laughter been fulfilled at one time? We don’t have to keep holding on to the anger or sadness associated with the separation or desertion, but learn to be satisfied with the borrowed time together and ensue a more positive and content disposition.
And one day we will die and our ashes will fly from the aeroplane over the sea but for now we are young let us lay in the sun and count every beautiful thing we can see