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The last cab ride

Twenty years ago, I drove a cab for a living. One time I arrived in the middle of the night for a pick up at a building that was dark except for a single light in a ground floor window.

Under these circumstances, many drivers would just honk once or twice, wait a minute, then drive away. But I had seen too many impoverished people who depended on taxis as their only means of transportation. Unless a situation smelled of danger, I always went to the door. This passenger might be someone who needs my assistance, I reasoned to myself. So I walked 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 80’s stood before me. She was wearing a print dress and a pillbox hat with a veil pinned on it, like somebody out of a 1940s movie. 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 treated.”

“Oh, you’re such a good boy,” she said. When we got in the cab, she gave me an address, 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.”

I looked in the rear view mirror. Her eyes were glistening.

“I don’t have any family left,” she continued. “The doctor says I don’t have very long.”

I quietly reached over and shut off the meter. “What route would you like me to take?” I asked.

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

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 low building, like a small convalescent home, with a driveway that passed under a portico. 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.”

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

“You gave an old woman a little moment of joy,” she said. “Thank you.”

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

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? On a quick review, I don’t think that I have done anything more important in my life. 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.

A true story by Kent Nerburn

{ 113 comments… add one }
  • Tracey April 30, 2023, 3:02 am

    That made my eyes leak what a lovely man ,shame more are not like him in this world .

  • wsg August 26, 2021, 4:21 pm

    great Story. 😮‍💨

  • I LIKE YA CUT G November 10, 2020, 10:41 pm

    i do not get the moral

  • Ignatius Ihugo April 1, 2020, 2:56 pm

    I have really learnt alot

  • Santhosh November 30, 2018, 12:17 pm

    Lovely it is… These are not just a stories, Those who helped me to understand lovely lessons about human life.

    Thanking you for sharing!!!

    Please keep posting the stories… I almost read all the stories in

  • venkat uday kumar November 28, 2018, 3:44 am

    Such heart touching stories remind us to behave with patient and responsibility at every step of your life, which is the need of the hour in this materialist world.

  • Zack June 7, 2018, 1:47 am

    really very heart touching and true inspirational story.

  • Brooklyn Vijay March 14, 2018, 3:32 pm

    Oh God, there are people like Kent, who should be like a God, for the old mom. Who will not bless such driver, who made it precious not just to Mom but to me n you n all?
    Most touching one.
    I am sure, this world has many people with great loving heart like that of Kent. I am sending link to all known as at least some of them will help others. So let us be positive n need talk only about bad people. Greatest day. Brooklyn Vijay

  • Deepshikha January 18, 2017, 1:38 am

    Very nice story.. Same as I wanted to read.. Thanks!

  • Call Wafula December 31, 2016, 9:31 am

    I don’t get it! The story is very good but in the end, it kind of loses something. While I was reading , almost getting to the end, I guessed what was going to happen in the end, that the old woman was going to pass out something precious, maybe like a brand new, quite expensive car, something that matches the latter, even the title brings this out, in some way. But no!

  • Adit Upadhyay October 14, 2016, 10:00 am

    Ths Story Was Amazing

  • Adit Upadhyay October 13, 2016, 1:33 pm

    Thanks for this story. Now i can get good marks in my fa-3

  • Peta Vili June 29, 2016, 9:21 pm

    A very nice story. I would love to share it with my Sunday school teachers and children.

  • W. Hayes May 13, 2016, 8:55 am

    Wow! This story has me choked up! Wow!

  • Harshitha March 25, 2016, 11:53 am

    It was a wonderful story….everyone follow the moral of this story

  • Manothy March 15, 2016, 12:28 am

    Wonderful story 🙂

  • Lawliet September 28, 2015, 12:00 am

    A very nice story that can cheer your day to a meaningful one.

  • Jeannie September 19, 2015, 6:30 pm

    I was looking for material for a Sabbath School. I soon found myself in tears. Giving of ourselves to other is the most precious thing we can do

  • Hongzhi Wang (Lebron) September 10, 2015, 8:44 pm

    The driver is so nice. I underestand to drive a cab for a living and to work in the night are not easy. Especially, when drivers work in the middle of night, it will get too tired to be impatient. Even most people normally can not do it, I don’t think most of drivers can it either. Fortunately, the older lady met such a good driver.

  • Alfred B. Cas August 24, 2015, 9:29 pm

    I praise God for giving this world some remaining people who has a good heart. Only good tree could bear a good fruit says Jesus. Hoping to be one in four corners of where I am. May the Lord bless you more with happiness and heart to share to another one lonely and helpless people.

  • Savvas August 13, 2015, 2:28 am

    Thank you for this beautiful story… I dont know what to say, but I definitely know what I feel…

  • Bishnu May 10, 2015, 2:28 pm

    For this story I dont have a single word. The only thing I can say is my eyes are wet now…

  • Dev January 15, 2015, 8:35 am

    One of the best stories I ever read. BEAUTIFUL.

  • Hewduni September 24, 2014, 12:55 pm

    Life is so inevitable. There are lack of chances
    Nice true Story. FOOD FOR THOUGHT!!!

  • Jake September 2, 2014, 9:31 pm

    Enjoyed reading this..

  • Muhammad imran July 21, 2014, 7:52 am

    Heart touching story !

  • Mani_sunder April 16, 2014, 1:46 am

    Very nice story, got good knowledge and thought from it.

  • Argie de Guzman January 30, 2014, 5:02 am

    This one a cab driver is simply amazing. 😉

  • Chirag January 21, 2014, 8:09 am

    Good story.. touched me entirely…

  • Lynn January 7, 2014, 5:20 am

    Good story ma

  • Nagasrinivasarao November 17, 2013, 2:35 pm

    Heart touching story. You know I am crying right now. Really making me sad and inspiring me to help the people.

  • Areesh October 29, 2013, 5:17 am

    It’s really an amazing story. I like it very much.

  • Diego Tovar October 28, 2013, 9:10 pm

    Nice story. Touched my heart.

  • Aditi October 19, 2013, 9:54 pm

    I think it is an excellent and very emotional story.

  • Vishal Tripathi August 30, 2013, 5:20 pm

    Hey you did a great job….

  • Abhi August 21, 2013, 1:07 am

    The story worth reading and remembering. Thank you Kent for sharing such a nice and lovely story!!

  • Vipin August 18, 2013, 1:14 pm

    What a great story. I read and I felt the life. During the reading of the story I thought that where am I, and where should I. I love it.

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