A short ride in a taxi

I had just finished a reference visit and I got into a cab to take me back to my hotel. For the first half of the journey the driver was silent. He drove with one hand on the wheel and the other out of the window. I became aware of sudden jerky movements out of the corner of my eye, the hand that was out of the window was twitching.

Five minutes into the journey, the driver asked me where I was from. I told him and he said, “I went there 30 years ago as a kid”. He then said, “I’ve been through there on a train to an interview”. He had been to a lot of interviews in a lot of places. I surmised that these must have been university admissions interviews.

I began to get worried when he said that he had got lost going to one interview because “I’m not very good at finding places”.

He didn’t get the grades, he was going to retake his exams but he had a nervous breakdown. He got a job delivering milk. He wanted to do day release classes but his employer would not give him time off. He had an opportunity to take a job with prospects at an insurance company but it didn’t pay enough. He then became a taxi driver. His ambition now is to retire at 50.

He said, “You might think it’s a waste of a life but I know it’s not my fault”.

I asked him, “What will you do when you are free and clear”. “I have thought about counselling, I’m interested in counselling. I would like to take a counselling course.” I said, “There are always people who need help”. He responded, “But I would want to know if there was a job at the end”. I said, “I’m sure the charity sector would have opportunities which you could do if you were retired”.

He paused, took a breath, twitched a couple times, put both hands on the wheel and gripped it tightly as memories came back. “I went for a position once, they rejected me. They asked me about my family, I told them that I had a sister who was a jerk. I probably didn’t make it clear enough that I am quite capable of working with jerks and idiots without prejudging them.”

At this point he slowed down, relaxed his grip, put one hand out of the window, gave a small twitch, looked around, then said, “I’ve taken a wrong turn but I can get you there without going too much further.”

A few moments later, the hotel came into view. I was silent. He said, “You might think it’s a waste of a life but I have the satisfaction of knowing it’s not my fault”.

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