Be the “Loose Change” You Want to See in the World


I was feeling pretty blue after the pink-city fiasco last Thursday.

Then yesteimages-12rday, there was a misinterpretation snafu at work — not worth mentioning in detail. I found myself suffering from a bad case of expatitus volatilus: sudden weepiness, excessive sleeping, and wishing to be tele-transported home but conflicted by a commitment made to host country and company.

Sometimes the only option is just to trudge ahead through your muck, and wait for clarity to come. At least that’s what I decided to do today. Trudge.

I got a cab quickly this morning. Well, I almost didn’t get it because the light was on, which indicates the cab has a fare. But the driver stopped next to me and ushered me inside. He was a convivial fellow, from Uganda. We chatted about East Africa for a minute or two before he realized his meter was still on from the last passenger. He turned the meter off, then turned it back on. Unknown-3

“What’s going to happen?” I asked him.

“I will have to pay the difference,” he said, a bit dejected.

“How much is it?”

“Three dirham,” he said. (That’s $1, roughly a full day’s wages in his home country.)

So we trudged along together, both feeling the weight of our own troubles.

About half-way to work, a message came on the driver’s little monitor screen. Here’s what it said: YOU HAVE CUSTOMER COMPLAIN. PLEASE COME IMMEDIATELY TO TAXI OFFICE. IF YOU AREN’T HERE IN 20 MINUTES, YOUR FARE MACHINE WILL TURN OFF/FROZEN.

Both the driver and I read and reread the message. Finally, I said, “What does it mean?”

“Not good. I will have to pay fine,” he answered.

We sat in silence the rest of the way to my work. (Only 10 minutes in case you were worried.) I sensed his weighted worry. Not only is he down 3 dirham for forgetting to turn off the meter, he’s now in for even more since a customer complained about his service.

I’ve ridden in about 200 cabs since moving here. And I’ve had some crazy, scary rides, as well as drivers who have asked me some very inappropriate questions — yet I’ve never lodged a complaint. This morning’s driver was exceptional:  kind, courteous, safe and sweet. Plus, his car was spotless. A good driver, and guy! Who could complain about him? I thought about how someone had complained about my work the previous day. Sometimes the good guys get a bad rap from people who misread a situation.

I felt badly for us both. More so for him.

We arrived at Khalifa University, the mood in the car very low. My fare was 19 dirham.

“Here’s 22 dirham,” I told him. “I will cover those 3 dirham for you.”images-11

He smiled, and thanked me.

“Now,” I said, “Give me the phone number of your company, and I will call them and tell them how amazing you are.”

He wrote the phone number down, as well as his id number.

I called that company before walking into my office. I raved about the good service of my driver, the cleanliness of his car, his safety and professionalism. The man on the other end said that it would be noted in my driver’s files.

Instead of trudging into my cubible, I strode to my desk. Because no matter what happens between 9-5, my real life’s work is to find a way to lift someone up ESPECIALLY when I have been let down by others.



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