The Praise

Trip distance: 8.90 km Earnings: 622 LKR

It was another Saturday evening. The last customer I dropped off was a perfect example for a "useless" deal. The customer was waiting outside a popular cinema hall in Colombo and I received the hire nearly 1km away from him. As I got close to the location, I called the customer to check the exact location. This area is a network of one-way roads. If I mixed up the location with a mistake as simple as going to the other side of the road, I would have to drive around. The customer confirmed the location he was in and I continued to ask if they wanted to crossover to the other side of the road because they were travelling to that side. The answer was a curt "No". It was fascinating to see that they actually wanted to travel only 1.5km. Had they decided to cross the road over, it would have taken me a 500m less to pick them up. 1.5km to pick them up for a 1.5km travel. Great.

My last hire for the day came from a famous hospital around the area. When I stopped to pick them up, I could see it was an old lady with someone who could possibly be her domestic helper. Their drop off was towards my own home. I decided that this would be my last trip for the day.

Long time ago, my father had a surgery at a state hospital and I called and booked a cab to pick him up from the hospital. Since my mom was there to attend to him and we didn't have a car anyway, this was a safe and a viable option. However after he got home I got to know that the driver has been quite indifferent to his state. My attempts at the time to escalate the matter to the owner of the particular cab service wasn't fruitful. This incident was running through my head when I picked the customer up. It was also the first ever customer I picked up from a hospital. I tried to be extra careful in my driving.

Halfway through the process we broke in to a bit of a chit-chat. And as always, the ice breaker was "have you been doing this for long?"

"Not that long madam, it's been just over a month," I replied.
"Ah ok. And the vehicle is yours?"
"Yes madam. I do this on a part time basis. I have a full time job. Some days after work or may be on a weekend, I do a bit of driving."
"Ah ok. You drive very well,"  the lady opined. This was in fact high praise for me. Among my friends, I am known to be a horrible driver. I chuckled.
"Thank you madam. You must be the first to say this," she chuckled back.
We continued some more chit chat.

I remembered that I had a friend around from the same area as she was living in and spoke a little more about the past. How there were no taxi services like now. How going in the bus was the most common thing to do unless you had your own vehicle and even then. How kids used to come home from school and wait till 5 o'clock for the TV stations to start broadcasting so they can watch cartoons. How neighbours used to interact with each other in the past and how now everyone seems to be busy with their work, just keeping to themselves. This was no different to any chat you would have with your elderly neighbour on a weekend evening, sipping some tea; if you can imagine doing that.

When the time came to end the trip, I bid her good night. I could see that she seemed to be happy. She might have been living alone, and this may have been a chance for her to have a conversation outside of her regular circle. The domestic helper too seemed to be happy and bade me goodnight. I drove back home.

The actual surprise came up the next day. As I was checking my profile, I noticed that one of the customers have left a note:

"The trip was very good he is very polite good mannered personality with a great attitude and a person with safe driving. Thanks for people of this nature in your company."

I smiled looking at it, none of my friends would ever believe it. But then again, it felt great to have made that persons day.


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