A ride to remember

| Staff Columnist

The cab driver wanted me to know that he wasn’t a cab driver.

“This is only temporary,” he assured me before we even made it to Forsyth. “It’s only for a little while.”

He wanted me to know that he had been laid off from his real job four months ago. He wanted me to know that he was actually a construction manager; he had been with his company for 11 years. He wanted me to know that he had only taken this job because he could earn more from driving a cab than collecting unemployment.

He wanted me to know that he had a college degree.

He wanted me to know that he was raising two kids who were not happy to give up satellite television but, after all, “We needed to cut back.” He wanted me to know that he was a good father.

After the layoff, he told me, he had sent out hundreds of applications for management positions and didn’t land a single job. “It’s this economy,” he explained quickly, in case I thought that maybe he was just wholly unqualified.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, Missouri’s unemployment rate is hovering around 9.5 percent. In the St. Louis metropolitan area, that number rises to 9.8 percent.

Nearly one in 10 St. Louis residents is unemployed, but the numbers mean nothing until that one person is driving you to the airport, telling you how he was booted from the job he thought he’d have for life.

You’re supposed to love your job—doctor, lawyer, teacher, construction manager, whatever. You’re supposed to be excited to get up in the morning and go to work. The construction manager/cab driver/father of two/college graduate had gone to school, made a decision and entered the workforce.

But what happens when you’ve done everything you’re supposed to and you still get stuck driving a cab when you wanted to do something else?

This cab driver/construction manager was working at a job he did not want. Because of his unexpected career change, I found myself in the back of his cab thinking about what might happen if one day, everything went wrong for me, too.

I might fall apart at the setback; I might become so embittered and disillusioned by the real world that I would proceed to waste away at a job I hated, everything in my life discolored by the hatred.

Or I might be like this cab driver/construction manager/father of two/college graduate who spent less than a month receiving unemployment compensation before he decided that action was better than no action.

I hope life goes as planned. If not, I know now that there is life after failed plans. That it might be better to try doing something you hate than doing nothing and hating yourself.

Maybe the driver just wanted me to know that he was more than this person behind the wheel. More than the layoff, the futile job hunt, the television channels he’d had to give up. More than this cab, this ride, this otherwise forgettable moment.

Maybe he was just looking for sympathy.

Either way, it worked. I left the guy a $20 tip.

Kate is a freshman in Arts & Sciences. She can be reached via e-mail at kemarcal@artsci.wustl.edu.

  • anonymous

    I really enjoyed reading this. These are many of the questions I’ve been asking myself over the past couple of years. The real world is way too close for me to say. However, I feel that this cab driver/construction manager is what life is all about. We can sit around or we can take action. I think his attitude of it only being temporary is very helpful. When riding a horse, if you get thrown off the saddle you just have to get right back up.