Sunday, January 18, 2009

The Shortest Distance Between Two People

This morning I awoke to the delightful sound of a shovel scraping against pavement. Alarm clock companies should really consider adding that sound to their repertoire of annoying wake-up noises. Finding the courage to venture out from beneath my electric blanket, I tip-toed over to my window. Thick layers of snow blanketed the ground and all of the cars. This meant that my subway was probably either not running, or experiencing delays. While my parents were grilling steaks outside, I was snowed in. What a way to be welcomed back to the city.  

My flight was delayed an hour, but at least there were no geese in my engines. I grabbed a cabbie who wasn't angry about taking me to Brooklyn because, as I later found out, he was born and raised there.  While he was helping me with my luggage, some of that good old southern hospitality slipped out of my mouth and I asked, "How are you?" Instead of the expected cold shoulder, I got a slight moment of shock and a grateful,"Doin' aight. Thanks." His stereotypical Brooklyn accent was so thick that I was tempted to reply with a "Fuggetaboutit"...but I resisted and climbed into the back seat. I told him the address and we were on our way. 

Cabbies always ask you which route you want to take. This is how they figure out if they can cheat you out of money or not. If you don't know which way is faster (and therefore cheaper for you), then you'll be paying for your cabbie's gourmet dinner that night. When the cabbie popped the inevitable question, instead of faking it I decided to tell him that I'd only been living here for a few months and wasn't really sure which way to go. It was all in his hands. As he was the first cabbie who wasn't rude to me, I was genuinely interested in talking with him and continued to initiate pleasant conversation as we rode along. About 5 minutes into the ride, my cabbie grew a conscience and "suddenly" remembered a shortcut to my apartment. While he followed the route of his sudden premonition, I asked about how he liked the city, what it was like to be a cabbie, etc. We talked about Texas and how he'd visited there and didn't understand how so many foods could be fried. Before I knew it, my cabbie was telling me about his funniest and angriest moments as a driver, reminiscing about the city before the rampant gentrification, and giving me advice about the safest places to live and how to keep from getting jipped by realtors, cabbies, and street vendors.

As my strangely short drive came to a close, the grand total only a little over 30 dollars (as opposed to the usual 50 plus), my cabbie grabbed my luggage and carried it to the curb for me. And then, he thanked me. He thanked me for being friendly, for not treating him like he was beneath me and for holding a genuine conversation with him. He said had I not been a nice person, he "wouldn't have cheated ya, just wouldn'ta provided chu wit my expertise." :) 

My experience with the cabbie reminded me of a quote from the movie Crash. "In any real city, you walk, you know? You brush past people, people bump into you. Nobody touches you. We're all behind this metal and glass. I think we miss that touch so much, that we crash into each other, just so we can feel something."  Making real connections with people, no matter how small or how brief,  is so important. Try to remember to bless someone with a little bit of kindness, and you may be rewarded in more ways than one.