The taxi 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.

The professor and the jar

A professor stood before his philosophy class and had some items in front of him. When the class began, he wordlessly picked up a very large and empty mayonnaise jar and proceeded to fill it with golf balls. He then asked the students if the jar was full. They agreed that it was.

The professor then picked up a box of pebbles and poured them into the jar. He shook the jar lightly. The pebbles rolled into the open areas between the golf balls. He then asked the students again if the jar was full.  They agreed it was.

The professor next picked up a box of sand and poured it into the jar. Of course, the sand filled up everything else. He asked once more if the jar was full. The students responded with an unanimous “yes.”

The professor then produced two cups of coffee from under the table and poured the entire contents into the jar effectively filling the empty space between the sand. The students laughed.

“Now,” said the professor as the laughter subsided, “I want you to recognize that this jar represents your life. The golf balls are the important things–your family, your children, your health, your friends and your favorite passions–and if everything else was lost and only they remained, your life would still be full.

The pebbles are the other things that matter like your job, your house and your car.

The sand is everything else–the small stuff. “If you put the sand into the jar first,” he continued, “there is no room for the pebbles or the golf balls. The same goes for life. If you spend all your time and energy on the small stuff you will never have room for the things that are important to you.

“Pay attention to the things that are critical to your happiness. Play with your children. Take time to get medical checkups. Take your  spouse out to dinner. Play another 18. There will always be time to clean the house and fix the disposal. Take care of the golf balls first–the things that really matter. Set your priorities. The rest is just sand.”

One of the students raised her hand and inquired what the coffee represented. The professor smiled. “I’m glad you asked.

It just goes to show you that no matter how full your life may seem, there’s always room for a couple of cups of coffee with a friend.”

The mother and the son

After 21 years of marriage, my wife wanted me to take another woman out to dinner and a movie. She said, “I love you, but I know this other woman loves you and would love to spend some time with you.”

The other woman that my wife wanted me to visit was my MOTHER, who has been a widow for 19 years, but the demands of my work and my three children had made it possible to visit her only occasionally. That night I called to invite her to go out for dinner and a movie. “What’s wrong, are you well?” she asked.

My mother is the type of woman who suspects that a late night call or a surprise invitation is a sign of bad news. “I thought that it would be pleasant to spend some time with you,” I responded. “Just the two of us.” She thought about it for a moment, and then said, “I would like that very much.”

That Friday after work, as I drove over to pick her up I was a bit nervous. When I arrived at her house, I noticed that she, too, seemed to be nervous about our date. She waited in the door with her coat on. She had curled her hair and was wearing the dress that she had worn to celebrate her last wedding anniversary. She smiled from a face that was as radiant as an angel’s. “I told my friends that I was going to go out with my son, and they were impressed, “she said, as she got into the car. “They can’t wait to hear about our meeting.”

We went to a restaurant that, although not elegant, was very nice and cozy. My mother took my arm as if she were the First Lady. After we sat down, I had to read the menu. Her eyes could only read large print. Half way through the entries, I lifted my eyes and saw Mom sitting there staring at me. A nostalgic smile was on her lips. “It was I who used to have to read the menu when you were small,” she said. “Then it’s time that you relax and let me return the favor,” I responded. During the dinner, we had an agreeable conversation – nothing extraordinary but catching up on recent events of each other’s life. We talked so much that we missed the movie. As we arrived at her house later, she said, “I’ll go out with you again, but only if you let me invite you.” I agreed.

“How was your dinner date?” asked my wife when I got home. “Very nice. Much more so than I could have imagined,” I answered.

A few days later, my mother died of a massive heart attack. It happened so suddenly that I didn’t have a chance to do anything for her. Some time later, I received an envelope with a copy of a restaurant receipt from the same place mother and I had dined. An attached note said: “I paid this bill in advance. I wasn’t sure that I could be there; but nevertheless, I paid for two plates – one for you and the other for your wife. You will never know what that night meant for me. I love you, son.”

At that moment, I understood the importance of saying in time: “I LOVE YOU” and to give our loved ones the time that they deserve. Nothing in life is more important than your family. Give them the time they deserve, because these things cannot be put off till “some other time.”

Myren på jobbet

Der var en gang en myre. Myren gik glad og tilfreds på job hver morgen for at arbejde. Myren var flittig og var glad for sit job. Lederen, løven, var overrasket over myrens flid, iver og effektivitet når nu myren arbejdede helt uden en leder. Løven tænkte, at når nu myren var effektiv uden en til at lede og fordele arbejdet måtte myren kunne være endnu mere effektiv, hvis der var én til at lede og fordele arbejdet.

Løven ansatte derfor kakerlakken, som havde en fin lederuddannelse, og var kendt for sine grundige og gennemarbejdede rapporter. Den første ændring kakerlakken gennemførte var, at lave et arbejds-skema, hvor myren skulle dokumentere sit arbejde. For at holde arbejds-skemaet opdateret skulle der naturligvis bruges en sekretær, hvorfor kakerlakken ansatte edderkoppen. Ederkoppens arbejdsopgaver var at holde arbejds-skemaet opdateret, at holde styr på arkivet og at svare på henvendelser på telefon og mail.

Løven var meget begejstret over de rapporter som kakerlakken skrev, og løven bad kakerlakken om at udvikle sit arbejde. Nu skulle der ud over de fine rapporter også udarbejdes diagrammer over produktionen og trends og udviklinger skulle analyseres. Alt den nye dokumentation kunne løven præsentere overfor sin egen chef, tigeren, for at vise, hvor godt og effektivt afdelingen arbejdede.

Kakerlakken var nu tvunget til at købe en computer. For at understøtte IT-driften oprettede kakerlakken en IT-afdeling, og ansatte herefter fluen som ansvarlig for IT-afdelingen. Der blev nu også købt computere til både fluen, ederkoppen og løven, og fluen fik fra første færd travlt!

Løven mente også, at det var på høje tid at ansætte en chef til afdelingen, hvor myren arbejder. Løven ansatte derfor kleggen, hvis første handling var at købe et skrivebord, en ergonomisk stol og en computer til sit kontor. Kleggen skulle naturligvis også bruge en personlig assistent for at kunne fremstille de ønskede planer for optimering af arbejdsgange og budgetter, og kleggen ansatte derfor stankelbenet.

Arbejdspladsen som myren arbejdede på var ikke længere den samme dejlige arbejdsplads. Alle var irritable, og der var ofte indbyrdes konflikter mellem medarbejderne. Kleggen foreslog derfor løven, at der blev nedsat en arbejdsmiljøgruppe, som skulle dokumentere arbejdsmiljøet, og komme med en anbefaling til optimering af arbejdsmiljøet. Resultatet af denne dokumentationsproces var, at myrens afdeling havde høje omkostninger, og at produktiviteten var faldet drastisk.

Løven ansatte nu uglen, en velrenommeret konsulent med speciale i forretningsforståelse og forandringsledelse. Uglen blev bedt om at analysere de eksisterende data, og fik derudover tre måneder til at ganske virksomheden. Resultatet var en stor og meget omfattende rapport, hvori konklusionen kunne opsummeres til at; “Der er for mange ansatte..”.

Gæt hvem den første fyreseddel blev uddelt til? Ingen andre end myren. Rapporten viste, at han led af mangel på motivation, havde en negativ indstilling til arbejdet, og at produktiviteten havde haft en nedadgående kurve fra første rapport.