Sunday, March 8, 2009

On giving ... (part two) ...

When I was driving a taxicab full-time, it seemed as tho someone was always asking me for money. If I stopped for gas, some panhandler would come up to me and want to wash my windshield or help me fill my tank. If I was just sitting at a cab stand, someone would ask me if I could 'help them out'. If I were to stop at a store for groceries and someone saw me get out of the cab, I'd be asked for a dollar or two to tide them over - either that or bus fare.

Cab drivers are always being hit up for money. Why? Cab drivers have money! It's basically a cash business.

I made at least two bank deposits every day; between 10am and noon, and then again just before the branch closed at six. If I had cash on me from the night before, there'd be a deposit just as soon as the bank opened. I knew just about where every branch of my bank was located in the city of Houston. Mine was a familiar face at probably ten different drive-throughs.

The cab stand at Hobby Airport was perhaps the worst offender. No panhandlers, but other cab drivers would approach me. There would have been a death in the family, and money was needed to help with funeral expenses. Someone was ill or had a stroke and couldn't work. There'd been a wreck. Any number of reasons, mostly good ones, but over the years - it was a combination of many different things occurring that brought on the change - I found myself hardening. I even told a friend once, "I think I've lost some of my humanity."

The cab-driving community is a family, but you have to pick and choose those whom you wish to include as close members. Otherwise, they'll just suck you dry! Does that sound harsh or inhuman? Well, if it does, then I guess it is, but I needed to make money, not give it away! After all, that's why I was out there 24/7. I was trying to get my townhouse paid off and get myself out of debt as much as I possibly could while I was still 'young' and had enough energy to work that hard.

I almost always gave if it was Freeman who asked me. Who's Freeman? One of the hardest-working people I've ever had the privilege to meet. While almost all of the other cab drivers (including myself) were idling away the hours at Hobby reading, napping, playing chess or dominoes, or just sitting around shooting the breeze, exchanging/debating the latest news or just plain gossiping (and yes, cab drivers are among the world's worst gossips!), there Freeman would be washing cars, selling pickup tickets, barbecuing, providing ice and soft drinks ... you name it, he'd be trying to make money doing it.

Not the brightest bulb in the universe - he didn't understand where his name came from, for example, but he was honest as the day is long and would literally have given you the shirt off his back if he thought you needed it more than he! He always had a good story to share about whom he was collecting for, and made me feel as tho I were an integral part of his family.

Once, many years ago when I was teaching full-time, I was asked to contribute to the United Way campaign in my school. I'd heard about the good that United Way had done in my community and was fully intending to make a contribution. However, when the 'collector' approached me with his hand out smugly saying, "We've always had 100% participation," something went 'ding ding ding ding' in my mind, and I found myself filled with animosity and resentment.

He didn't say, "It's for a good cause." Nor did he say, "They've added 'so & so' or 'such & such' to their list of worthy organizations to be helped this year, and I feel honored to have been asked to approach each of you and tell you about the difference this group is making in --------'s lives."

I didn't feel as tho I was being 'asked'. Rather, it felt like I was "expected" to contribute and was being dared not to! I took the dare and declined, thereby ruining the school's "100% participation" record.

It's all in the asking for me.

Let's go back to what I posted yesterday. This story is so poignant and the children are definitely innocent victims here and certainly very deserving of any and all funds collected for their upbringing and education, but my first reaction - particularly when I read that the union was involved - was, "Are those 100,000 cabbies being coerced into 'giving' or are they giving because they want to?"

1 comment:

Craig Peihopa said...

I liked this post. I think Freeman is my kind of people.
Cabbies are the worst gossips ha?! I really appreciate your insights and life lessons Goldenrod.