An Unusual Taxi Driver
By Tommy Paluchowski in Zambia
Ring, ring, ring… My cell phone interrupted my Internet browsing.
“Sir, we have found the problem with your vehicle. You can come now to pick up the broken part to use as a sample to buy a replacement,” the cheerful voice on the other side informed me.
“Already?” I asked.
“Yes, and if you come down now, we might finish working on your car today.”
“I’m on my way,” I said, trying to sound upbeat.
In reality I was annoyed with that interruption to my program. Today, in order to beat the morning traffic I woke up very early. I drove a long distance from one end of town to the industrial area on the other end. Then I walked to the nearest shopping mall, where I did some quick shopping. Finally I ordered breakfast and was looking forward to relaxing and enjoying the free Internet service provided to the customers of the café.
Most importantly, though, I was hoping to take it easy. I have Parkinson’s disease and the tremors had started to occur already. The best way to make my tremors cease, I’ve learned, is to take a short break and repose. It seemed there was no time for that.
While trying to stay calm, I paid my bill and gathered my belongings.
“Taxi?” shouted a man from his car, when he saw me coming from the mall.
He was parked strategically, at the spot closest to the main entrance. I was a bit surprised that he only stuck his head out without coming out of his vehicle. Besides, wasn’t this parking space reserved for disabled drivers?
We proceeded to negotiate a price that seemed fair to both of us.
When I opened the back door I saw a crutch lying on the back seat. I placed my shopping next to it and sat in front.
After starting the engine, the driver promptly reached out for the second crutch, which was neatly placed by his right-hand side. Skillfully, with his right hand he placed the crutch on the acceleration pedal, pushing it down. The car moved out of the parking spot and we were on our way.
Surprised, I looked closer at the driver’s legs. His right leg was missing from the knee down.
He is a one-legged driver, I told my startled self. But that was only the beginning of my amazement.
We were coming to a traffic light signaling red. To stop the car, the driver lifted up his left leg with his left hand and swiftly placed it on the brake pedal. Then the lights turned green again and the taxi driver, with his left hand, removed his leg from the brake while at the same time pressing the acceleration pedal with the crutch in his right hand. His movements were well coordinated and the car moved smoothly in the morning traffic.
As I sat there digesting what I saw, I heard, “Excuse me, sir. Do you mind if I ask you something?”
“No, not at all. Go ahead,” I answered.
“Do you go to church?”
“I am saved. Thank you for asking.” I admired him for doing his best to be a witness with the opportunity he had. “Can I ask you a question?”
“Yes,” was his friendly answer.
“How long have you been a taxi driver?”
“Three years,” was the short reply.
Then, realizing what I was after, the taxi driver continued, “I didn’t want to end up begging on the street, because there is no future in that and I have a family to support. Besides, a man has to have some respect or he can’t live with himself.”
How quickly my life came into focus. I was complaining about my little tremors due to my illness and my interrupted schedule for the day, while here was a man who hadn’t let his misfortune interrupt his life. I felt so very blessed all of a sudden. I could walk unaided. I had just finished a good breakfast. I could afford a taxi ride. My vehicle was being worked on and hopefully I would have it back the same day. I had it easy.
Just then the short ride was over and we reached the garage. “Thank you! God bless you and keep it up!” I said to the taxi driver.
It’s a wonderful life, my heart sang.
I had the blues
Because I had no shoes
Until upon the street,
I met a man who had no feet.
—Attributed to Denis Waitley