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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 unawareβ€”beautifully wrapped in what others may consider a small one.

A true story by Kent Nerburn

{ 112 comments… add one }
  • Toneelenz18 July 26, 2013, 3:30 am

    What an inspiring story πŸ™‚ Being able to at least experience the kindness of other people you don’t even know, even before reaching the end of your life, without expecting any reward. I guess we must be sensitive to other people’s needs & desires. Because who knows, maybe we could be the last person to grant their wishes in such unexpected circumstances.. I would love 2 share my blessings and help other people, so may God bless us even more.

  • Virendra Shahaney July 10, 2013, 12:27 am

    The cab driver was a real hero who found himself that night… We all come across moments of opportunity everyday in life where we can do small heroic acts but we refrain from doing them or just say “Why should I, I have my problems!” But that is not the right attitude towards life… we need to embrace every little opportunity to help others…

  • Yuzrey June 19, 2013, 3:59 am

    Wonderful story indeed.

  • Doninic Chibuike June 18, 2013, 2:52 pm

    Those things that don’t matter in life are what turn back to be the basis for our justification. It is very pathetic that ofte times we tend to neglect them!

  • Ashish kale June 8, 2013, 3:16 am

    So touching story …..

  • Prema Dalvi June 3, 2013, 12:26 am

    Wonderful story … humble and touching πŸ™‚

  • Maya May 17, 2013, 1:30 am

    Beautiful. Heart touching.

  • Varun May 16, 2013, 10:40 am

    Thank you bro that was really a good one.

  • Gabriel May 3, 2013, 1:59 pm

    I was deeply moved… Thank you very much.

  • Mano April 25, 2013, 4:59 am

    I like it some moments are priceless help someone then feel it.

  • Mehul March 30, 2013, 2:16 pm

    Just loved it. I hope every person should be kind enough to help others and understand their situation as their own. Great story Kent πŸ™‚

  • Nagendra G March 28, 2013, 4:47 am

    Great story….I’m touched…

  • Areeba Qasim January 24, 2013, 4:48 am

    A wonderful story….now I am feeling that I was lost while reading this amazing story…..such stories with great moral should given in the newspaper so that the people who are not having the facility of internet can aware of these stories and moral… Thank you for the wonderful story… I enjoyed a lot πŸ™‚

  • Kamalpreet December 23, 2012, 11:57 am

    Such stories make me out of words and I just imagine that moment and get lost into it. Tears were about to come but I somehow stopped them. Thank you for sharing such a wonderful story Kent. !!!

  • Githui December 18, 2012, 5:47 am

    May God bless him for the service he gave to that old lady. Surely God will pay him.

  • Estefany Betancourt November 24, 2012, 12:42 am

    This story reflects the heart that very few people still retain, because the routine professional lives each year, but this story gives us hope in that somewhere in our city can be a person with equal or greater kindness this driver.

  • Vivek November 19, 2012, 6:41 am

    A very nice story =)

  • BARB November 8, 2012, 10:56 am

    A real heart melt story. I really like it. Hats off 2 u!!!!!!

  • SHELZ October 24, 2012, 1:55 am

    I seriously loved this story. It’s really mind blowing and there’s no doubt that it is a heart breaking one. Hats off to you…

  • ASHISH KUSBHAGE September 11, 2012, 8:05 am

    Great story….

  • Shereen September 6, 2012, 2:03 am

    Kent, Seems good hearted people are still there… πŸ™‚ Nice one…

  • Manik Sood May 27, 2012, 5:47 am

    Really Hearttouching …. salute for the taxi driver

  • Ravi May 3, 2012, 2:34 am

    Hi Kent Nerburn sir, thanks for sharing your one of great experiences but it is heart touching and very inspirable, to show the kindness. You did a great job in old woman’s last journey. Wonderful. I am proud of you sir. All the very best. Again thank you.

  • Lito Sanchez April 27, 2012, 6:44 pm

    I came and raised from a father who worked his entire life for public utility cab as a driver, coins he count for a whole hard day for our living – I salute and highly praise my father’s job and all others like him who work religously. .this story reminds me of him. . am proud of him!

  • Jaycee-Licious April 18, 2012, 12:32 am

    Very inspiring story to make us realize that we are not here just only to make money but to help our fellows also πŸ™‚

  • Thippesha India April 16, 2012, 4:15 pm

    Very, very good story. Hats off.

  • Anna March 29, 2012, 6:15 pm

    Attitude matters… Money can’t buy anything.

  • Sadik March 22, 2012, 5:06 am

    Really nice……….. I like it very much…

  • Arvind March 16, 2012, 11:59 pm


  • Neesh March 5, 2012, 11:13 pm

    Really heart touching…

  • Dikchen March 4, 2012, 2:11 am

    It has always motivated me to do better.

  • Gill February 29, 2012, 11:23 am

    Beautiful story.. I’m just speechless!!!

  • Angshuman December 20, 2011, 4:39 am

    Really good. Hope we all can do the same thing what the cab driver did.

  • Amelia November 18, 2011, 8:50 pm

    Hi, I am copying this story to write for an exam of my life.

  • Hinata November 17, 2011, 1:11 am

    It was a wonderful story, it was so touching.
    it turned me speechless….
    I just could say, wonderful story…

  • philip November 7, 2011, 6:24 am

    great story..

  • Akarsh November 1, 2011, 2:28 pm

    WoW. Great. Million thanks 2 the cab driver for his patience and courtesy. We must imbibe these qualities in our life. We are human beings so love must be the important ingredient of our life.

    A nice moral indeed for all of us to follow. Thanks for creating such a motivational website.

  • Manas October 18, 2011, 11:23 am

    heart touching,………… know I am crying right now

  • Jgangmei October 8, 2011, 6:10 am

    I love this story thanks kent it inspire me a lot, in the end kindness rocks, cheers….

  • Lorenzo September 6, 2011, 3:34 pm

    It was a great story I didn’t know what it was about until now its sad.. πŸ™

  • Jenifer September 6, 2011, 1:16 pm

    The thought of that woman’s life almost gone, it’s inchanting hearing how she spent most of it and while you read this story you can’t help but feel like life is so short. Think about how you spent your life. Did you do something special or live your life well before it passed you by. Stop slow down, breath and live a life worth living.

  • Aroonkumar June 24, 2011, 1:36 pm

    I felt very light when I read this story. I’ll make myself and others to follow the same as this person, the driver.

  • Rajkamal June 6, 2011, 5:44 pm

    Wonderfull !

  • rohit June 6, 2011, 1:44 pm

    Thanks for the wonderful story. I would try to be a better person from this day…

  • shray May 31, 2011, 6:00 am

    Oh great story. Keep it up, you will surely become a millionaire in your next life. You are great. You have a good heart and may God bless you.

  • roonham May 29, 2011, 8:14 pm

    this is a very good moral story… it shows that you may have a life full of happiness but to give moments of joy to someone elderly can be a very gratifying feeling. also, that money isn’t everything in life…. sometimes wat you do for sumone else and get their blessings— well that could be great reward. so help people and please dont always look for something in return because something unknown to you could be given to you as a reward in the face of a blessing.

  • Eshaani Patel May 14, 2011, 12:54 am

    a very nice story =)

  • k.rengma May 13, 2011, 10:25 am

    its a good moral story. money is not everything in life. thank you so much.

  • ver_kris May 8, 2011, 6:58 am

    Soo touching story.. I paused for a moment after I read this.. I admire you Kent.. thanks for a heart warming experience shared to us..

  • Loran March 31, 2011, 6:06 pm

    What an amazing and inspirational story – we just do not know the impact that our kindness will bring, do we? Please think on and recognise every opportunity to be kind and show kindness, if we all do the same-the world will be an amazing place!

  • Seshu March 16, 2011, 4:27 am

    MInd blowing, really very touching line………

  • arnesbury Taxi Cab March 7, 2011, 4:44 pm

    Wonderful story, its a great feeling to make someone happy, there are few moments in life which we can never forget.

  • shilpa goel March 5, 2011, 12:16 pm

    heart touching………taking out time for unknown elderly in todays time is marvellous

  • Raghu R February 28, 2011, 12:32 pm

    Wonderful story.

  • Jen February 28, 2011, 2:37 am

    It’s a very touching story it made me cry,really. It reminds me of my grandma who passed away 1 year ago. πŸ™

  • Lusi February 20, 2011, 9:18 am

    so inspiring… two thumbs for you man!

  • Saras February 3, 2011, 9:20 pm

    All stories are wonderful and like very much. Hats off to writers. Good website for stories’ lover.

  • Chris February 3, 2011, 9:16 pm

    May your tribe increase Kent! I salute you! =)

  • Glenn Miller December 31, 2010, 10:59 pm

    I wonder through all these stories that people read and comment on makes a difference in their lives after reading such than before?

  • Cida Alves December 21, 2010, 8:14 am

    Dear all, this story has been translated to Portuguese and here in Brazil many people say this story is theirs or took place somewhere in their town, bla, bla, bla.
    Does anyone know exactly who is the real author of this story? It is a very nice and blessing story but I would like to be able to say this to some people who brag about themselves using this story.
    Thanks and God bless you all.

  • Lili November 11, 2010, 9:27 pm

    The most beautiful inspiratinal story God bless u

  • Paul Peters August 24, 2010, 4:14 pm

    I’m still staring into space; lost in thought, humbled by the lessons in the story and moved to similar disposition.

  • Anuj Banka August 14, 2010, 12:47 am

    Thanks for giving a nice story teaching us in life a little movement can bring a lesson.

  • Cazza August 2, 2010, 7:40 pm

    That was such a beautiful story, people like you deserve to be recognized in this world. the nice lady would of felt so warm and fuzzled inside, thank you very much for sharing that story πŸ™‚

  • TaylorFAN_celeste June 20, 2010, 9:36 am

    Awwww…it was a totally nice story..very inspiring… :'( I’m really touched.

  • Farha May 17, 2010, 4:34 pm

    It’s really very amazing… I liked it very much….!

  • Peta April 28, 2010, 1:06 am

    Thanks for your story, it really made my day.

  • Avril Birdsturgeon April 22, 2010, 8:07 am

    Patience and the joy of giving are great virtues. May more people see the beauty of sharing some precious moments of their time with someone who needs the grasp of a friendly hand or a warm and beautiful smile. It makes the world a wonderful place to be in. God Bless you!

  • NVT January 14, 2010, 12:37 pm

    Wonderful story! My late father was a hardworking cab driver. He was/is my hero. I absolutely love your last line!

  • Maureen, Wisconsin January 12, 2010, 6:55 am

    Thank you for your story. Not every story has to have a monetary reward for the reader to feel some catharsis in the heart. Life demands that we reach out especially to the elderly and poor simply because they will always be with us, and it is our moral duty.
    Thanks again for your wonderful story.

  • Heather A January 12, 2010, 3:25 am

    ahh…what a great story, one that I will remember and hold in my heart. Thank you Kent for sharing. It is nice to know that there are people like you out there.

  • Deb Thomas January 8, 2010, 4:51 am

    I think all of us are given opportunities such as this in life…a chance to learn a profound life-altering lesson from what we might choose to let pass as an insignificant moment. It is about being present, aware, and making a choice to open oneself to the wisdom the Universe lays on our doorstep.

  • Ann D"Monte India January 5, 2010, 2:21 am

    That was a great deed I would have done the same & wish to tell all other drivers to be patient ,kind & ready to go the second mile. Don’t honk & go old person can jump up & run to the door ,it will take at least 4 or 5 honks before they can reach the door so wait or better still go qut & help.

  • KAMRAN December 30, 2009, 7:11 am

    It was a wonderful story.. really heart touching because that cab driver gave his one night to the lady’s last night. It didn’t make any difference to his life but that lady lived her life again in that last drive.

  • Carib December 15, 2009, 11:42 am

    Thats nice, in life its the simple things that we take for granted that often can make people happy.
    I love that story it hit home.
    Always remember is nice to be imprtant, but its more important to be nice.

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