Perhaps you may recall the blog post in which I told the story of the cab driver who was in trouble for something and how I called his agency to compliment his skills and kindness. Here’s that post. The story was picked up by Tempo Magazine here in Abu Dhabi.
I’ve often wondered what the outcome was for the driver. He was very nervous after getting a cryptic message on his monitor that said he had to report to headquarters or his meter would be turned off because a customer had lodged a complaint. I was worried, too. I didn’t want him to lose his job. Some other cab drivers maybe, but not this guy.
I resigned myself to never finding out what happened because, in seven months here, I haven’t once had the same driver twice.
That was January. This is April.
Today our whole family overslept. The alarm was on, but the sound was off. Allan rushed David off to school. I showered and ran downstairs to find a cab. I was grateful that there was no queue for taxis, and the lone cab in the area was headed in my direction.
“Khalifa University,” I said when I got inside. “Muroor Street.”
“Madam,” said the driver. “Do you remember me?”
How could I forget? It was Robert, who hails from Uganda. I’d called his boss to put in a good word for him after that monitor message freaked us both out.
“What happened after you dropped me off and went to the head office?” I asked.
“The complaint was about the other driver who sometimes drives this taxi,” he explained.
“Did the boss tell you I called?”
“Yes, he did, and thank you so much.”
At this point, and I kid you not, “Hero,” by Enrique Iglesias, came on the radio. I was glad I had my sunglasses on because I started weeping. Not because I’m some kind of hero, but because Robert and people like him are the heroes.
He left his home country so he could send money back to support his family. He probably lives in a labor camp on the outskirts of town. Undoubtedly, he gets grumpy passengers day and day out. Yet, he still thinks to ask me if I need air-conditioning BEFORE I ASK, and he gives me a choice of roads to take. He drives carefully — doesn’t tailgate and doesn’t slam on the brakes. I can see his perpetual big grin — reminiscent of my father’s — in the rear view mirror.
Robert tells me that he wondered if he would ever see me again. Then, when he saw me cross the street this morning, he came right to get me, hoping I’d remember who he was.
I asked Robert to give me his cell phone number so we could call for rides sometimes. He said that he would be happy to pick up my family any time.
“What about this Friday morning at 5:30? I am going to be in a swimming race! I need to get there early!”
Robert’s smile tripled in size. “You are swimming in a race? That is amazing. I bet you will win!”
And so it was settled. Day after tomorrow, Robert is taking David and me to Emirates Place for my first race in at least five years. The inaugural race of my new sober life. (Three weeks to the day since I gave up alcohol.) Yet, at the same time, a return to what I do best — swim.
Robert said he would like to watch the swimming competition, but duty will call. I knew what he meant. Drivers have a daily quota to meet.
I’m thinking of telling him to leave the meter running. When I get out of the water, I’ll pay the fare. And then my hero can take us home again.