As you might have observed, many new immigrants try the one job that’s legally available to them driving a taxi or a sedan for a car service as an independent contractor. Once they learn the city layout and learn to speak English a relative or friend will explain how to become a driver.
In my case after a strange illness that almost killed me I discovered I had no job and a friend said he could get me a job driving for a car service at the airport. Since I was driving my wife crazy hanging around the house she pushed me to go try it out for a few weeks to earn some extra money. I first had to get a hack license and do some training while they checked out my driving and criminal record, but within days I was put in the holding line behind a string of black Lincoln town cars and taxies in what is called the holding area at the airport. Now transportation drivers are a breed unto themselves, you surely have met a few in your lifetime and have discovered they are a diverse microcosm of our society. At first I felt out of place, an outsider, thrown into a competitive atmosphere where dog eat dog prevails. I dug in isolated in my black cocoon ready for my first ride and my first encounter with a customer.
One old timer found out I was a rookie and came by my car to give me a few pointers. “Rule number one” he proclaimed “If a dame jumps in your cab, takes off her shoes and starts to tickle your ears with her toes, she ain’t got the fare!”. Another driver asked while we waited endless hours for a ride, if I really liked this new job, “Yes I think I’m going to love it.” I said, ” Well let me tell you why! You can work when you want, Go where you want and do and say what you want. And every other job you’ve had in life, you got fired for doing any one of those things. ” There was some real wisdom in that statement.
The following stories are in no real order. I’ll write them as I remember them. They are wonderful people from all over the country from all walks of life with only one thing in common; they shared a few minutes with me and made my new job the best experience I have ever had. I found it fulfilled a need deep within me I was not aware of, to help and serve others as we found our way to their destinations entertaining each other with stories, wisdom and tales from our lives.
My First Ride On My First Day
After waiting in line for my turn for two hours, I was finally sent to Delta to pick up my first customer at the Delta loop. There he was a man in a wheelchair. I helped the man into the backseat and loaded his luggage into the trunk. I then folded his wheel chair and put it in the trunk. When I got in the car and started driving he asked if I had put his wheelchair in the trunk. Well we better turn around and go back to the airport. I think it belongs to Delta.” He said. Feeling stupid I turned back to the airport. The passenger then tapped me on the shoulder again, “Young man if it had been one of those purple ones from Continental, I don’t have one of those!” This became my first story and started me on a path towards a whole new writing career.
The man with a pearl of wisdom.
My second customer was an elderly man who asked if I was married. I told him my wife was amazing for not only dealing with my sickness but she had just gone through a tough emotional ordeal with me almost dying and shown more character than I had ever imagined or had given her credit for. The man laughed, and then said, ” I see you don’t understand what women are like?” “What are woman like?” I inquired. “Women? Women are like tea leaves, you don’t know how strong they are until you throw them into hot water!”
I thought to myself now there is a real pearl of wisdom from the back seat and on my return to the airport started to write a story I called “Pearls From The Back Seat.”
The drivers at the airport were quick to pick up on my stories and came by my car to tell me their own peculiar stories. Most of their stories you could not have printed but some were classic and I have included a few here, mixed in with mine. I found the old time professional taxi drivers had wisdom and wit unlike any men I had ever encountered.
The Palm Beach Socialites
I was told that two women in Palm Beach needed a black limo to take them to a restaurant. I was directed to pick the first one at a Palm Beach address. The lady was dressed in her finest with a large studded diamond broach on her lapel. She directed me to a second house two streets over and waited for the second passenger. When she got in the car she immediately complemented the first lady inquiring about the broach. “Is that new?” she asked, “This oh this is a new lure I’m trying out tonight. The two lures I wore last week at dinner just weren’t working. All they attracted were two barracudas that I had to fight off. By the end of the evening all I had reeled in was a shrimp of a man that was so small I had to throw him back.” The other lady responded, “I know what you mean, last week I got a few good lines and a few nibbles but this season has been really lousy. I haven’t seen anything this season over 6 figures.”
Big Al the electrician and his wife Alice
Two tourists got in my car and immediately said, ” Hi! My name’s Al this is my wife Alice, I’m an electrician and we’re down here on vacation because I told Alice that one day after she had turned 40, one day I was going to take her to Florida and trade her in for 20 year olds.” Ha! Ha! Then his wife chirped up and said, “It’s OK I feel safe enough, because I’m the only one who knows he’s not wired for two-twenty”.
The CEO who saved his company
I picked up a gentlemen heading to the airport. I asked how was his stay in Florida. “Great, fabulous! I was in big trouble back in New York, my company is a family company and had been handed down through three generations to me. It was failing fast. I had no idea how to save it! I went to all my friends asking for advice and help but no one could give me any answers how to save the company. Finally I went to my minister and asked for help. He instructed me to come to Florida, go to the beach with three things; a chair, a folding table and a big book. He told me to put the book open on the table and sit in the chair. I was to watch the wind blow the pages of the book until it stopped turning pages and when it stopped go to it and at the top right hand of the page would be the answers to my prayers. When it stopped I looked over and there It was in big print on it’s own line. Chapter Eleven. Yes this was a good trip.”
The Yiddish speaking Haitian driver
A guy from New York gets off a flight and in my car. ” You have a great service here at the Airport. Last time I was here I used your service and got a Haitian driver that asked me where I was going in Yiddish”. “Did you have to correct him”? I asked. “No why?” he said, “Great because he thinks were teaching him English”.
The next ride I won’t ever forget. The man was in his 70’s dignified and a bit upset at something. After telling me his destination, I remarked that his development was one of the nicer Boca Raton developments in south Florida.
“Thank God you speak English and know where I’m going!” He said in a stern voice. “I’m sorry I just came from New York and going to the airport, I had a foreign taxi driver who didn’t speak any English. I was so worried we might be going to the wrong airport I got myself all stressed out,” he said. ” That’s OK I’m an artist and writer, I’m probably more intelligent than the average taxi driver.” I responded. ” An artist? In New York we have an artist by the name of Koenig.” “William Koenig? Sure I’ve seen his work.” “Well what did you feel when you looked at it?” he asked.” I’m not sure, all I can say is I felt very…. aesthusic about it when I saw it”, I replied.
“aesthusic? There’s no such word as aesthusic where did you get that word?” he asked. “I made it up, there’s no word to explain the feeling of having enthusiasm for the esthetic value in a work of art. So I put those two words together and got aesthusic ” I explained. “Oh! Now I see, you never went to college?” “Excuse me!” I blurted out. “I know you never went to college, for if you had they would have killed the independent creative spirit, that allowed you to come up with a word like that,” he said. “What do you base that idea on?” I inquired. “Well son, I’m a Harvard professor and I kill that independent creative spirit every day. I like your word though. So now you are going to have to buy yourself a Webster dictionary in about two years because I’m going to have that word put in there. It’s a good word. Thank you”. True to his word, two years latter I found my word in the new dictionary with a slightly different meaning. Having the enthusiasm for the beauty of something. I thought he felt aesthusic about my word.
The Research Scientist
Several days went by without any interesting stories or rides till late one evening. A couple got in my car wanting a ride to the Sheraton hotel on Singer Island. They were from MA and asked if it was on the beach. After I explained it was on the best beach in Florida he made a remark, “The guy’s back at the university are going to be envious when I get back with a tan.” I inquired, ” Are you a professor?” ” No I’m a research scientist working on the gnome book mapping all the human genes and figuring out what each one does. If you’re an artist or a crook it’s because of your genes.” He explained. ” I had read about that and understood there were two groups trying to map out that book.” I said. “Yes, I’m with the team at the University of Massachusetts”. I dropped them off and got back to the airport.
A little while later I noticed a black plastic garbage bag behind my seat. Thinking it was garbage I picked it up only to find in it an expensive new 35 m.m. Camera and zoom lens. I called the hotel but without knowing their name the front desk could not help me. I pulled out of line at the Airport and headed back to the hotel. I searched the lobby the restaurant and even looked out at the beach but to know avail. About to give up I headed to the front entrance only to notice the bellman who had helped me unload their luggage. I went over to him and inquired if he could remember them. “Sure the guy’s wife had that big hat, the’re in room #320.” He said. I called on the house phone explaining who I was and that I believed they had left something valuable in my car. There was a pause then he said,” We’re not missing anything, we didn’t leave anything in your car!” I became adamant. “Sir I believe you left a valuable thing in my car and I would like you to come down to the lobby and identify it please.” “But I’m not missing anything… what is it?” Sir please take one minute come to the lobby and take a look.” I asked “OK! but right now?” he asked. “Sir I have taken time out of my day to try and return a lost item to you, would you please come take a look?” I insisted. “OK I’ll be down in a few minutes, but we’re not missing anything.” He then abruptly hung up the phone. After a few minutes he walked up to me looking at the item in my hand. “What are you doing with my camera? My wife took that off me so I wouldn’t lose it, she left it in your car? Wait till I get my hands on her”. He then tried to grab the camera out of my hands. “Sorry sir I can’t give it to you till you give a promise” I explained. That stopped him in his tracks. “What kind of promise?” he asked. “I want you to promise me that when you get back to work on that gnome book you’ll find the gene for honesty!” I explained. He stopped looked at me, smiled then said, “You’re darn right I’ll find that gene for honesty and name it after you I’ll call it the Royce Gene!” He then grabbed the camera out of my hand and stormed back to the room muttering “Wait till I see my wife!!!!” I was a bit taken back, he had not tipped me or even said thank you.
As I drove back kicking my self for being so honest and knowing he would have never figured where the camera had been left, my phone rang, it was his wife. “Thank You! Thank You! You saved my vacation I had taken it off him so he wouldn’t lose it.”
” I know but did he tell you I made him make a promise?” I inquired. “Yes he did. He said he’s going to find the gene for honesty and name it after you!”
The next two customers were a married couple in their 80s. As I left the airport the husband peered over my shoulder at my dashboard. ” Well son, you sure got a lot of mileage on this car don’t you ever trade these things in?” ” Well my car is 4 years old and has 230,000 miles on it and I’m about to trade it in and get a new one in about a month”, I replied. The gentleman spoke up “Well, I have always lived my life by a simple philosophy that you trade your car and your wife in every two years, … isn’t that right darling?” “What is?” his wife inquired. ” That I believe you should trade your car and your wife in every two years?” he repeated more loudly. “Oh yes!” there was a slight pause since she had to remember her line. “But after we got married I think he gave up driving!” she replied. We all laughed and headed home.
The Lady With the Bag
The lady had two pieces of luggage the driver put in the trunk. She was holding in her arms a soft carry-on and he offered to put it in the trunk. “Oh! No! I want to have this in the backseat with me.” As they pulled out she said, “What a lousy trip”, she had been stuck in New York for 5 hours. The driver responded, ” I’ll have you home soon mam.” “Good! When we get home I’m going to give you a shower then we’ll eat and then go to bed, ok!” There were a few moments of silence then the driver said, “Mam! I do need a shower, I could use some sleep and I am hungry, but I’m married.” …. She answered, “Driver I wasn’t talking to you I was talking to my small dog in this bag!”
West Virginia Miner
This older man got in my car telling me he was from West Virginia and he was a miner. He stated his daddy was a miner and his grandfather had been a miner but his son was not and lived here in Florida. He explained that his son had sent him a ticket to fly down and visit, but he hated Florida because of those signs that appeared everywhere he went. “What signs”, I inquired? “Them signs that say they don’t serve minors here”.
Note From Author, Royce Emley
There are many more stories that portray the random acts of kindness this job allows you to do and the pleasurable feeling of helping others. So look for chapter two of Pearls from the Back Seat. Till later! Thanks for reading