I recently headed in for an MRI to check in on an old shoulder injury that was acting up. This is the same injury that left me drugged up in a sling all those years ago, standing in front of a saleswoman who handed me a measuring tape to size up the fridge she was trying to sell me. Even in my drugged-up state I knew a one-handed measuring tape maneuver was not about to happen. Not sure why she didn’t connect those dots, but she stood there holding out the measuring tape. I stood there dumbfounded and dazed, and took it despite myself. (Read the full story here)
But I digress.
So, my wife accompanied me to the hospital for the MRI. Doctors advised me not to drive, so I called a cab. Not Uber. A cab. We wanted to stick with pros who knew what they were doing, not thumb a ride from someone filling in some spare time for extra spending money. Anyway, we hadn’t been in a cab in years, but I vaguely remembered the cab being dirty and worn. Gravel ground into the carpet, torn seat corners, dusty. I suspect if we would have slapped the seats, a great cloud would have risen to choke us. Not that we tested the theory. Even if that dingy experience were to be the case this time, we much preferred a trained, licensed professional to some random guy with two spare seats next to his grocery bags.
As the cab pulled into our drive, the driver smiled. His name was Sonny, he said. We climbed in, noting the floor, seats, and dash were cleaner than that cab years ago. The seat edges had been gently worn and frayed from a myriad of butts and legs sliding across them, but the car was clean. As he pulled away, I glanced for his license on the dash wondering what kind of training he’s had. What kind of process did he have to go through to become worthy of paying for such a license? And why could any old Joe turn their personal car into a cab under the Uber name, and why would anyone prefer that option to a professional driver? Different strokes, I guess. Some people prefer to sell their homes privately, too.
When we arrived at the hospital, Cheryl asked if he would return to pick us up later.
“What time?” he asked.
“Around 10pm, I think,” she said.
“Sure. Just call me when you need me. I’ll be about thirty minutes away, but call and I’ll come running.”
That evening, it was 10:30 when I was ready to go. I emerged from the MRI change room and checked messages. To my surprise, there was a message from Sonny. He was waiting outside for us!
Cheryl and I happily climbed into the now-familiar car and sunk into the seats grateful the long day was over, and glad for Sonny’s pleasant conversation. He’d been in Canada for a year. Before that, he’d been an engineer in India where his family still lived. Driving cabs wasn’t his dream job, but it was work and his uncle helped him get job, and one he took seriously. That was clear enough by his thoughtful message and patient waiting for us afterward.
Conversation quieted and as we glided home I thought about the difference between a professional and an average Joe trying to make or save an extra buck. About trained, licensed cabbies and guys with spare seats for sale next to their groceries. About trained, licensed real estate agents and guys who buy House For Sale signs from dollar stores. I thought about the saleswoman who handed me the measuring tape and how high quality professional, attentive service can be hard to find sometimes. And how deeply rewarding it was to come across it. Or to give it. And I thought about Sonny and the things we had in common.
Maybe it wasn’t that hard to find excellent service after all. We’d found it in the simple frayed-edge seats of a cab.