As I have said, and will continue to say, as it is completely true, there is nothing like taxi to have you momentarily immersed in a complete stranger's life and predicament . If I were to mention each situation and life dilemma that passes my way I would have little time for much else, a kind of taxi Ann Landers reporting on the general misery of Homosapien existence. But this weekend, two stand out, both young immigrant women encountered on a taxi Sunday. The first was from the Philippines, stepping off a fish processing ship. The other, from Ethiopia, had just finished a long shift in a restaurant. She was my last fare of the weekend.
The young Filipino woman caught my attention because she clearly did not fit the "fish processor" profile. That was clearly demonstrated by the individual attempting to hug her goodbye as she left the ship. Being fairly attractive, with long waist length shimmering black locks, she was a target in the confined dwelling that is a ocean prowling boat. How she survived a season out upon the waves is beyond me. I asked if she was going home, which is the usual destination. She said yes yet there was a clear hesitation. She said it was her first stint fish processing, and noting her palpable vulnerability perhaps her last. Upset, she appeared to almost tremble. She made a point of expressing that she was trying to create a life, having already spent a couple of years studying to be a "radar" tech. I asked if she meant studying to be a radiology technician and yes, that was true. She again made a statement about trying to find her way, I assume meaning in the USA and Seattle. Upon answering her telephone, it was "Yes Babe" & No Babe" I will be there soon and other quick explanations sadly uttered. The fare wasn't much to the Queen Anne area motel but she gave me a twenty, insisting that I keep the substantial change. Such confusion was difficult to process. In a determined march she made for the elevator to someone she profoundly doubted, trepidation her tail wind. Such as taxi is, a family jumped in, heading for the Pike Place Market. One focus becomes another, and usually I forget but his time I didn't.
Belled in to restaurant near 12th and E. Yesler Way, I was past usefulness. Where ever the person was going, it would be my final fare of the weekend. My body ached so I got out just to relieve the discomfort. After about 4 minutes a young woman opens the cafe door and says she would be out soon. 10 minutes later she hadn't come out though I could see the commotion occurring inside the restaurant as three woman were furiously working to shut down for the night. Finally she came out and said 130th & Aurora North and off we flew. We were both exhausted so nothing else was said until I was making my left turn onto 130th having just exited I-5 when she spoke up, asking if I was turning because she didn't hear the turn signals clicking. Her question nearly brought me to a complete stop because I thought perhaps she was changing her destination, which occurs more often that one might expect. I just told her I was in the outer turn lane and completed the turn. This interaction made her embarrassed, revealing that she had been frightened that I was doing something odd or potentially dangerous. As we approached Aurora she apologized by saying her working at the restaurant (meaning the long hours) was "taking the life out of her. She gave me 5 dollars on top of the 28. She was ready to collapse, ready to sleep. She had had enough of that particular day.
Two women, two lives, two struggles. Both were emotional, attempting to interpret what had befallen them. Sure, they were in America, the place they had once dreamed and fought to enter. Now they were here. Now here was reality, bitter as it was. In the few minutes shared they felt my empathy. At least I hope so. Sometimes life as we know it is difficult to watch, and participate in. Next weekend another series of stories will enter the cab. I have, and will continue to attempt to express a shared humanity. Its the least I can do. And believe me, quite often while driving that taxi, I am at my minimum.
Also upon a Sunday evening a young man jumped into the cab heading to a check-cashing outlet., in this case the First Hill Money Tree. Every taxi driver hates the situation because too often things go wrong. Many refuse the ride. Me, I have seen this scenario many times so off we go to the closed Money Tree. A new policy has all of the local outlets closing at 7:00 PM on Sundays. With no alternative, we check out one more venue but no luck and back to Queen Anne we go. I give him my card and said call me when you can. He said, sure, sure, he will get me the twenty dollars on Monday. Finally last night, on Wednesday, he calls. I say I am in Tacoma, and he says that he is working the door at the Hula and drop by. I will. I knew he would come through. It wasn't his fault. He didn't chop down the Money Tree. I wasn't concerned. Due to my many teachers I know how to read. As it is oft repeated, nothing is more important than literacy. Obvious to me. Nothing like opening a good book.