I have journals for both of my boys. In those journals I have written some experiences I have had in my life, I also write down stories about them when they were babies and over the years. I have written quotes and other inspiring stories I have come across that have somehow touched me. I want my boys to know bits about my life too so I try to choose carefully which stories to share. And this one about the cab driver, is important to me. It was a unique, brief encounter all about kindness from a stranger.
The year was 2005 and I was in my second year of university. Dressed in my usual jeans, trainers and green corduroy jacket, I had taken the train from Barking to West Ham and stood waiting for the Jubilee line. I looked up at the time schedule, 15 minutes. That was very unusual and I felt my underarms become heated and my heart started to pound. I had to change trains again, but the DLR only came every ten minutes and I would definitely miss my deadline! There had to be another way to get to Prince Regent Station on time. I quickly walked, okay it was more like half running, out of the station to the pay phone by the ticket booth. There were numbers for cabs everywhere. I dialled a few mini cab numbers but the waiting time was too long. I had a deadline creeping up fast! So I called for a black cab. They were posh and pricey but I was desperate. A shiny black cab pulled up and I ran to the door. In a possibly stressed tone of voice I said to the driver-
“To the university please! I need to be there before 4 o’clock! I don’t know how to get there from here on the roads.”
Calmly he replies- “No worries!”
My watch said it was already 3:47. I looked out the window. In my head I thought, black cabs are notorious for taking the long way or driving slow just to cash in! How annoying that I always take public transport and don’t know the roads! Here is another time living in London when I missed having a car! Somehow having car meant more independence. Relying on public transport meant that I was constantly at the mercy of them keeping time! I said a prayer in my head that this will turn out ok.
The driver disrupted my negative, yet hopeful, thoughts with-
“What’s your essay on?”
That was a surprise. I looked at him. Middle aged, brown hair, pleasant face. It was then that I noticed the cab was very clean as well and had no bad odours. It took a second to think of a reply but he went on before I spoke-
“My daughter is in college, deadlines can be stressful. Don’t worry though, I’ll get you there.”
He was calm and his voice sincere. He spoke to me the way any girl would want a father to speak to her. And he was being kind to me. An unpleasant, stressed out stranger. His words helped my heart stop beating so fast. He drove on roads I had never seen before and pulled up to the backside of the main building, a side I never saw because I am not a part of the car world.
He spoke again-
“Just go and turn in your essay, I’ll wait here.”
I quickly glanced at the money meter then opened the door and ran down the long hallway to the main desk. I couldn’t believe he trusted me! A young, possibly dodgy, university student! He was just going to wait for me? That was going to be so expensive! Darn Jubilee line and tube delays! He seemed nice though and if he trusted me then maybe I could return the favour and trust him back. I handed in my essay to the lady at exactly 4pm! Relieved, my steps slowed down but I could feel a migraine growing behind my forehead. I walked to the cashpoint on the opposite side of the building from where the cab was supposedly still waiting. Taped to the cashpoint were the dreaded words “out of order”. Are you kidding me? What luck today!
I ran back to the cab and he was parked in the very same place. I was not even sure if he was allowed to be there but he didn’t seem to care. Apologetically I said-
“I am so sorry but their cashpoint is out of order! Can you just take me to Barking station? There’s another one right inside.”
He reached over and turned the meter back on. I thought he was going to charge me for waiting and all the time of his I was taking, but he was only charging me for the driving. I sat back in the cab seat. The trains were delayed. The cashpoint was broke. I barely made the deadline. And I have been a wreck. In the midst of my challenges today, God sent me this particular cab driver. He pulled up to the side of Barking station where other cabs were also parked, I got out and the smell of cigarettes and fried chicken hit my face making my migraine worse. Again the driver patiently waited for me as I went to that cashpoint.
After such a hectic afternoon, he only charged me £25! Despite my previous bad luck of events, I then felt very lucky!
There was that moment where I wanted to hug this stranger who no longer felt like a stranger. I wanted to tell him that I hoped to see him again! I wanted to tell him that I hoped God would bless him forever for being so kind to me. But I just said thank you several times and we said good bye. He drove off, and I walked back to the station and headed home to share this story with my family.
I think about these encounters often and want to document them. I feel the most important thing he did for me that day was not getting me to the university on time for my deadline, but he instilled in me an experience of hope. Hope for kindness. Hope for good. Hope that there are people who are fair in these business dealings with me. Any true story that demonstrates kindness from strangers is a story I want my children to know.
Photo credit (cab)
Photo credit (UEL campus)