I spent yesterday much like many Americans did. Watching the Superbowl while enjoying a few libations with good friends. Watching the score change quarter by quarter and checking my “squares” to see if I had any big winnings. Re-watching the commercials of the brilliant and highly paid advertisers thanks to my Tivo later that night. It has all become part of the lore that is “The Big Game” and all the entrapments and excesses that come along for the ride. At halftime I decided to jump in a cab and head home, partly because I was exhausted from a weekend of dining and enjoying wine and partly because just wasn’t feeling “The Big Game” like this year.
I waited on the corner of Ashland and Irving Park for about ten minutes until finally a nondescript white sedan cab pulled up and I jumped in the back seat. I told the cabbie where I was headed and added that he could either take Lakeshore Drive or Ashland depending on what he thought would be best based on his experience and then he said, “By the way this is my first day on the job and you are my first customer.” Really? I suppose I could have questioned my bad luck and wondered about my safety, but I took a quick peek at him through the gap in the partition and he could not have looked more excited. I mean seriously he looked like a kid who just walked up the concourse at Wrigley Field for the first time with his Dad, or a college graduate as they crossed the stage to grab their diploma. There was a subtle smirky smile on his face and he leaned forward into the steering wheel as if he couldn’t wait to get his first fare underway. The joy on his face was so refreshing that I couldn’t help but be grateful for this unique experience. I thanked him for sharing this piece of information with me and asked him his name. He told me his name was Samir and he was from Morocco.
Over the next fifteen or so minutes I had what certainly must have been the most enjoyable cab ride of my many years in Chicago. I learned that Samir had moved here two years ago. That he was renting the cab from a friend. That he was single but had many family members back in Morocco. That he needed to save enough money to buy a Garmin because he did not know Chicago streets so well yet. And I learned that he worked for the Peace Corp for his last three years in Morocco training American workers to adapt to the new culture they were living in after coming to Morocco. All the while Samir had an earpiece in his ear and he was intermittently chatting with me and somebody else on the phone, but not like those cab drivers that ignore you and are in a full on conversation with someone else. Samir seemed to be reporting his location, very quietly and very discreetly to the person on the other end of the line while still engaging me in wonderful conversation. Eventually my curiosity got the best of me and I asked him if he had to report to a dispatcher about his location since it was his first night. He said no that was not the case, but rather that he had a friend who was native to Chicago and knew the streets very well who agreed to stay on the line with him for his first few nights in order to give him turn by turn directions and make him feel more relaxed in his very new situation. The only word I could think of in response to that was “Wow”. Wow that he had on his first day given me the best cab ride of my life. Wow that his innocence and honesty was so refreshing that it inspired me. And Wow that he was lucky enough to have such a good friend that would do that for him through the night, on Superbowl Sunday, while so many others waddled in their excess and gluttony. Just Wow!
Tonight after work I put my normal “must go to yoga” modus operandi to rest and decided to have an impromptu bite to eat and glass of wine with a friend/coworker. We exchanged stories about our ordinary lives that were definitively more extraordinary than we probably might have realized from the outside looking in. After dinner I stopped at one of my favorite little wine shops to grab something and noticed a bottle that another friend had recommended to me a few weeks back. I texted a photo of the bottle to said friend with a sort of “look what I found” message. He responded by reiterating how much he liked it, yet added, “I’m all wined out from the weekend so nothing for me until Friday.” In response I texted, “That was my plan too, but I guess I failed.” His reply was more meaningful than I’m sure he even intended.
“Failure is apparently another word for success!”
Minutes later as I got ready to turn into my parking garage off of Wells Street down by Roosevelt I noticed a kite in the sky off to the right. There were a number of things that were out of context about this extraordinary sight. It was pitch dark. It was well below freezing and the wind chills were in the teens. The backdrop was not some grassy park in the summer, but rather a gravel topped parking lot off the river with the fog enshrined Willis(Sears) tower in the distance. It was both beautiful and surreal all at once. I watched for a few minutes and saw a couple in down coats and hoods. The “holder of the strings” was a man with a glowing light shining off the top of his cap like a miner. The “thrower” was a girl who kept running out to the kite and tossing it in the air, only to see it flutter into the sky for a few seconds before it crashed back into the gravel. They went on with this ritual for about fifteen minutes, and I sat in my car and watched. It looked like they were sharing a good bit of laughter and ventually they gathered up their string, jumped on skateboards and kicked their way north up Wells Street. I couldn’t help but wonder if they skated away with a feeling of failure or success?
When Samir dropped me off last night I gave him a generous but not exorbitant tip. I thanked him for sharing the story of his first night on the job with me and then told him that I would likely blog about it at some point. He asked me for my blog address because he would like to let his family back home know that his first night driving a cab in Chicago was a success. I borrowed his pen and wrote down the information. Then I told him that he inspired me to remember that in every ordinary story there is something extraordinary to be told. I’d say that Samir is on a path to great success, regardless of what labels we might want to put on what that means. And I know that I will always be richer for the coincidental and random experiences of the last 36 hours.
It guess always pays to see things for more than they may seem and when possible to think outside the box(kite)………