Recently I took a cab from Manhattan to NY’s LaGuardia airport. By the time I reach my destination I’m usually feeling quite lucky to have escaped the ride with my life, but this trip was different.
As I walked down 45th Street on an incredibly warm and humid day, I did the usual hand/arm gesture (no not that one) that people do when trying to hail a cab. Within minutes a car came swerving over to the curb. The cabbie was a young man with a thick long beard looking a bit dishevled. In a low voice he asked where I was headed and put my luggage in the back of the car…and we were off…and that’s when the extraordinary happened.
The first thing I noticed was as soon as we got into the car he put the windows up and cranked up the air conditioning. He turned around and in soft but strong voice said, “good afternoon sir, how are you doing today.” I replied back “fine”, and he asked where I was headed. I told him Denver at which point he asked what I did for work. After I answered I asked about him.
He told me he was Palestinian and had just graduated from City College in NY with his pre-medical studies degree. He told me of his passion to find a cure for cancer, “it’s been too long that we’ve been fighting that disease, and I want to get my PhD in an area that focuses on finding a cure for cancer.” This young man was really surprising me.
I asked him if he was driving cab full time. He drove 3 days a week and taught motorcycle riding lessons on 3 different days working 6 days a week. He told me how many people he’s met along the way and how lucky he felt to have met so many different, and for the most part kind, people.
I complimented him on his work ethic and determination to contribute in a positive manner within the medical community. He then shared with me what he felt was the secret to life’s success. The secret that separated the ordinary from the extraordinary people. That secret was time.
Please explain I asked. He said, “It’s simple. Life is all about making the most of the time you have. The saying ‘ the early bird gets the worm’ is so true” he told me. “My shift starts at 1 pm. I do that on purpose because most of the taxi companies have a shift change right at 5 pm which is odd when you think about that being the time people are getting out of work. Next time you try to get a cab at 5 pm notice how difficult it is to get one. I start my shift at 1 pm so I’m always available during the heaviest hours…right after lunch and at the end of the day.” The right place at the right time.
“When my competition is resting, I’m working. When they’re eating I’m working. When they’re changing shifts I’m working. It’s all about time.”
This young man was incredibly perceptive relative to the ways of the world well beyond his years. His casual demeanor, intelligence, and thoughtfulness gives me hope in future generations. Willingness to work hard, have a goal, and stay focused are all essential elements to success. He has these. It wouldn’t surprise me if years down the road when we do eventually find a cure for cancer that it’s his face on the cover of the front page of the paper.
He was right. It’s all about being in the right place at the right time. Had I flagged down a cab earlier I would have missed the opportunity to meet such a wonderful human being. Time smiled on me that day.