Wednesday, April 7, 2010

It's Not Always About the Money....

The Saturday between Good Friday and Easter turned out to be a very busy day in LA. It was one trip after another with barely a moment to catch my breath.

After dropping a young couple at one of the hottest clubs in Hollywood I began to weave my way through the heavy traffic intent on drifting back towards the Valley. 

On nights like this I like to spend my the early evening picking up customers in the outlying areas of LA, bring them to Hollywood or Downtown, then repeat that process as many times as possible before the clubs, restaurants, and bars begin to close. 

Then I reverse it.

Stuck at a red light I saw a Police officer glance my way then walk up to my passenger side window.

Officer: About how much would it be from here to Carson?

Being approached (or flagged) by the Police is a very common occurrence. Tonight it happened twice! L.A.P.D.'s motto is "To serve and protect…" This often means helping someone out of a predicament by facilitating safe transportation. 

Earlier in the evening I took three drunken passengers safely home while the officers chauffeured their friend to his temporary overnight accommodations.

Me: Is this for you or a partner, or…

Officer: No, it's for this young lady over there.

He pointed toward the sidewalk at a sobbing girl holding a bus scheduling while talking through her tears to his partner. He went on to explain that she was an exchange student from Brazil who missed the last bus back to Carson and she doesn't have enough money for a cab.

Me: Do you know where in Carson? Oh, does she have any money?

He didn't have the details but I agreed to help.

After warning me that she was upset and difficult to understand because of her thick accent, he turned to get her. I pulled out of traffic to the curb.

He returned and explained to her that I would help. She said thank you and handed me a paper with an address in Carson.

I entered it in my GPS so I could estimate the price. She began to cry again because she didn't have enough.

Me: Don't worry you're going to be okay. Do you have any money?

She pulled out every dollar and said, "This is all I've got for the month."

I took some, and told her to keep the rest.

She was still quite upset as we started down the 101 South so I tried to engage her in conversation. I said the wrong thing.

Me: So how was your night? (I meant before missing the buses)

Girl: This is the worst night ever! I'm so afraid. I thought I was going to die. (Now tearing up again)

Me: You're okay. You're okay. You are okay. You're SAFE. I'm going to get you home okay no problem.

This is going to take more talking.

I found out why she was so scared. This was only her second or third day in the US.

She came to the US to take English classes and "improve her opportunities." She had studied architecture in Brazil but found she didn't like it. She now believes her true passion to be acting.

She was calming down now.

We transitioned from the 101 South to the 110 South and her eyes grew big.

Girl: What is this? Where are we?

Me: This is Downtown, Downtown LA.

Girl: It's beautiful.

I made a decision to detour and take her through some of downtown. She stopped crying as I explained what I was going to do.

Girl: It's okay that I was crying. I'm a girl. If I was a boy it wouldn't be good.

I pointed out several buildings as we went North on Figueroa. She shifted in her sit looking out the front then the side window straining to see the top of each building as we passed.

She began to smile a bit.

I pointed out what I call 'Cadillac Tunnel.' (The 2nd St Tunnel)

We turned to go east towards the Performing Arts Center.

Me: Have you ever seen the Disney building?

Girl: Disney? Like the headquarters?

Me: No. It's the Disney Hall.

Girl: Oh, you mean the Walt Disney Concert Hall.

It came into her view just as she finished the word Hall. Her smile became bigger. After taking a few pictures she said, "You're so kind. Thank you for bringing me here."

She was smiling now. 

I asked if I could take a picture of her happy smiling face.

Girl: Sure.

Me: I know you told me before but how do you say your name?

Girl: It's Taynara, (pronounced Tie-nar-rrraa) but it's hard to say, you can call me Ty. 

I drove past a few more sites that I hoped would cheer her. We ended the Downtown tour at LA Live. After Ty took pictures of both the Staples Center and Nokia Theater I headed back to the 101 South.

Ty: You are so nice Paul - I was so upset when I missed the bus. It was the worst day and now it's one of the best. Now I know I was supposed to miss the bus.

She was smiling and I was smiling.

The rest of the ride was filled with conversation and laughter, until I started to exit the freeway into Carson. I could see tears begin to well up in her eyes. 

Ty: Can I make a confession? 

Me: Sure

Ty: I feel bad - can I tell you the truth about something...or do you just want to leave it as it is?

Me: Ty, you can tell me anything. It's okay.

Ty: My accent is less - I was scared and I really needed help from the Police, so I made my accent heavy. I thought the Police would be more sympathetic more likely to help me. After I got in your car I just kept up the heavy accent. Now it feels like a lie. I'm sorry!

Her heavy accent had faded as the ride had passed, but I didn't see it as a lie. She needed help and did what she felt she needed to do to get sympathy from the police. I admire her for telling me the truth.

Ty is an extraordinary young lady and she will achieve all she desires in her life. In talking with Ty I saw a brave, strong young lady.

She is what makes driving a cab so great; turning a trip (just a job) into a ride (a great experience).

2:44 AM
Ring-Ring Ring-Ring

I recognize the Caller ID.

Me: Hello Wisconsin! Hello Minnesota! (More on Sarah , Genevieve & the roses at another time)



  1. PS. Ty was quick to find my blog and write a comment. (Look Here) I am so happy that we are able to stay in touch!

  2. Thank you for sharing, Paul! Beautiful. Confirms what a wonderful man you are. Proud to call you my friend.