It's your lucky day!

It was quite a rainy morning. We were going through the monsoon season, so this wasn't much of a surprise. I decided to start my day early.

My first customer happened to be someone who was travelling to the domestic airport nearby. This was bit of a surprise because while it was technically a civilian airport as well, hardly anyone travels from there. The mystery was solved as soon as the customer got in to the car. He was an aircraft engineer and was reporting to work. I hope his work place was dry enough because there was no way he could last through the day with those soggy clothes otherwise.

My second hire came in way before the first trip ended. This happens as Uber looks at proximity to the end of the trip when alerting of new hires as opposed to the end time. I was still new to the whole process and accepted the hire without thinking twice. Even before I finished the ongoing hire, I got a call from the new customer,

"What exactly is the route shown to you? You have passed the easiest turn. But you can take the next turn and come to the location." It was a lady and the voice seemed a bit young.
"Sure madam. I am still dropping off the previous customer. It will take about ten minutes to get to you."
"Ten minutes??" the frustration was palpable.
"Yes madam, if it is too late... you can cancel..."
"No, no you come. But come quickly. We are in a hurry."

There were two more calls before I could pick them up. Even on my way to the location, I was wondering if this one was going to be walking in to trouble. I had half a mind to cancel off the trip. It was still raining and I decided against my doubts thinking that however it would turn out to be, they won't be able to get a taxi at this point without further delays.

My customer, or customers turned out to be three school kids. It's the oldest of them who had called. Their mom who was also clearly annoyed, came up to the car to drop them off and asked me to ensure that they are dropped off quickly and safe. I nodded in silence. Their school emblem was embroidered into the uniform as is the general custom of Sri Lanka. I knew where they were going, I could drop them off without trouble.

Once we started the ride, the passengers too seemed to be quite intent on getting to school as well. Just to be clear, I had never been that enthusiastic to get to school when I was schooling. If anything, I would've tried to ask my parents if I could stay home because it was raining too much and probably the teachers won't turn up. Theses were clearly a different breed. I could hear them opening their bags and rustling of paper; they probably pulled out the books to read.

"How do you define operational expenditure?" one of them suddenly asked. The other two were trying to answer it and get it refined. Then it hit me, they were going to an exam. That's why they were frantic about getting to school on time. Then it hit me again, this was no ordinary exam, given the age of the kids, this was probably the ALs, one of the more pivotal exams in a student's life and the final exam they would face in the regular school system. I decided to clear my hunch;

"Erm.. are you sitting for the ALs?"
"Yes, today we have a paper in the morning. You got late to come!", they were still mad at me for getting late.
"What time are the exams madam?"
"9 AM. When do you think we will get there?"
"I will get you there by 8:30 madam."

I remembered the times when I had to face an exam. Those were the most stressful times for me and the anxiety I had was unbelievable. I was determined not to let them get late to their exams.

As we finally stopped at the drop off, I looked at the app. It looked different.

"How much for the trip?" one of them were pulling their purse out to pay me.
I looked at the app again. In my haste to pick them up, I had not started the trip and driven all the way. I looked back at them with a smile.
"I have not started the trip madam."
All three of them looked back at me in puzzlement.
"It's your lucky day. You got a free ride. Best of luck with your exams!"
"Oh.... well thank you!"

I could see them smiling as they walked into the school. I hope they actually did have a good go at the exams!

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