Friday, December 27, 2013

Her last ride. A lesson on patience from a New York City taxi driver.

Her last ride changed a New York taxi driver forever.
This story isn't just about patience; it’s about doing great things. Things that some might consider a waste of time. It’s about staying human in the face of all the dehumanizing forces which have surrounded us. It's a story of how a dying woman changed a New York taxi driver's life forever.

The taxi ride that would change his worldview.

“I arrived at the address and honked the horn. After waiting a few minutes I honked again. Since this was going to be my last ride of my shift I thought about just driving away, but instead I put the car in park and walked up 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 90's stood before me. She was wearing a print dress and a pillbox hat with a veil pinned on it. She looked like somebody out of a 1940's movie. She had a kind smile.

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 knickknacks 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 to be treated.'

Her last ride is one of remembrance.

'Oh, you're such a good boy, she said. When we got in the cab, she gave me an address and 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 to die.

I looked in the rear-view mirror. Her eyes were glistening. 'I don't have any family left,' she continued in a soft voice..'The doctor says I don't have very long to live.' 

I quietly reached over and shut off the meter.

'What route would you like me to take?' I asked.

For the next two hours or so, 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 down in front of a particular building or corner and she would sit staring into the darkness, saying nothing.

The trip comes to an end as she enters her last residence.

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 small hospice where people go to die. 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,' I responded.

Almost without thinking, I bent and gave her a hug. She held onto me tightly.

'You gave an old dying woman a few hours of joy, a last gift' she said. 'Thank you.'

I squeezed her hand, and then walked into the dim morning light. Behind me, a door shut. It was the sound of the closing of a life.

She gave me the gift of patience and love.

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?

Reflecting back, I don't think that I could have done anything more important in my life that day. That lovely woman gave me the gift of seeing the world through her eyes. I take nothing for granted now. I treasure every moment and every person I meet.

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.”


I loved hearing this story as the year comes to an end. I hope you did too.

Nancy Burban 2013

Funeral fund


  1. This is a very touching story. It's really sad to see these people go through life until the end alone. Being a taxi cab driver does let you take a glimpse into the lives of different people. Some will make you laugh and other stories, like this, will make you cry. This story definitely made me teary-eyed and touched me.
    Grady Mann

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  3. time is of the essence...take it and share it.

  4. It's so important to consider the depth of what others are going through. Often the elderly are not considered as they should be. They still have dreams and goals and their feelings are just as strong as anyone's and maybe more. We can learn so much from them and they need others so much.


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