a recent incident with a cab driver ( detailed at the end ), made me look at previous interactions with cab drivers.
in India, i used to avoid talking to auto drivers if not necessary. but over last few years, i am getting into conversations with the cab drivers. i think it started during long (20 minutes) drive almost everyday last year during summer. i remained silent few times, but they would drive me into some talk. then i started actively getting into conversations, however if it involved sports i had to nothing to add. that too changed towards the end of summer.
but it is not just talking about [news, govt, weather, sports] that was interesting. i made it a point to understand the person better. about his past, his interests and rarely, his family. even though i hesitate to go into that last bit, it used to come up one way or the other. at the end of summer, i almost knew everyone by their name, their previous occupation, and if they liked sports or not.
interesting people they were – i am not saying that surprised me – but it is rare that i meet and get to know people from any other profession that regularly and that easily. one has had no saving, but has travelled all around the world. other was a bank marketer, but was laid off due to recession. another narrated me all the stories of his son who is away serving for the air force. one narrated how the city had changed over years, and how something remained same.
in this town, one was a top salesman, laid-off due to recession. another is a high school teacher during fall and cab driver during summer. such varied profiles.
oh, and one different cab drive, which lasted for 3 hours each way was very interesting. while going, i sat in the back seat, indulged in some talking, but mostly reading and sleeping. on the return, i made a point to sit in the front and decided to talk to him. i usually get tired after talking for shorter duration, but that day i went on. i don’t remember having talked that long to a stranger – but the one with whom i had connected well. he described all his early career adventures of being a radio jockey in Alaska – where people were found rarely, where no one wanted to go, where it was like almost being jailed. he was one of the first people who took that challenge to stay away from the normal towns. i opened up with him with all the frustrating (or not) stories of MBA, unbiased. i was happy to see that his opinions were matured and matched my thought flow many times – even when it was slightly unconventional. “you know, Ravi. people get lucky. and no matter what they do, they need not learn from their mistakes in life. they can keep getting lucky and somehow finish the journey without a clue”. “exactly”, i wanted to shout.
we talked about faith, people, experiences, et al. after somewhat exhausting topics to speak about, i carefully asked about his family. he said he never found time or opportunity to marry, and that he regrets it sometime. a minute later he said “well, thank you. no one had ever asked me that. it shows that you really care.”
well, all these thoughts came back due to the following incident. recently i was trying to move some stuff and hired a cab. he was irritated to begin with, that i had stuff to load , and later he was impatient trying to hurry me up. he did not lend a helping hand – not that i wanted one, but i was generously helped earlier by other drivers. i sweated myself but finished loading. when we took off, he realized he has misplaced his phone and started searching for it inside the cab. i offered that we go back and check – we did that. i gave a call to his phone from mine. i asked where he might have left it, when was the last time he used it – etc, i genuinely expressed my concern for him.
he was moved.
once he calmed down, i even asked if losing the phone was the reason he was impatient with me. that subtle nudge might have done it. he clarified that it was because he had a lot of demand that day and could not waste much time with a customer. fair enough.
but surely he had changed when he dropped me off – he even unloaded the stuff for me. i sort of expected this. i paid way more than the regular tip. i wished him that he get his phone soon and left.
then, after 2 hours, he called me! this is the most unexpected part of the story. he called me to tell me that the phone was found. he called me to apologize that he was rude, that he was impatient with me.
kindness i tell you, hardly fails. but takes a bit of patience and genuineness. related post.