the real music

Last night, we celebrated our neighbor Joanie’s 80th birthday with a little pregame at the apartment before heading to Swing 46, for the gig. We sipped and snacked and laughed. There were four of us, so we opted to take a cab up the 20 blocks to the venue.

We piled into the cab and I volunteered to sit in the front seat, since I wanted to pay for the ride. As I sat in the passenger seat, the cab driver moved some things that were in the way. One of the items was a crutch that had the round forearm support.

I looked at him and said, “My man, I don’t like to see that. You feelin’ alright?”

“Oh yes…I’m fine. It’s an old story. I had polio as a child.”

“So, this is your life? You deal with this always.”

“Yes, I do. I do my best to find the joy. When I was a child, I used to cry to see my friends playing soccer when I couldn’t. But, one day I decided to stop crying and I went out and played soccer with them and did my best.”

“Yes, sir. You probably know how to enjoy life more than most of us since you know what real obstacles are and that they can be overcome. We’ve been dealing with our own trials and trying to do the same.”

“I’m from Egypt and there I have a master’s degree as an engineer. I could make lots of money if I was willing to take bribes and be dishonest, but I can’t do that. My wife is very sick with cancer, so I came to work as a cab driver to make money to support my family. Sometimes, it’s so hard because I don’t get to see them, but I know this is what I must do. And, often, the people who get in my cab are so mean and say horrible things to me. I’m thankful to meet you, right now. My last fare was very rude and said so many horrible things.”

“Hey man….they’re just showing you who they are. It isn’t about you. Keep doing what you’re doing.”

We arrived at the venue and I pulled out my wallet to pay him.

“No…no… the passenger in the back already paid the fare with his credit card.”

I handed him a twenty.

“No, sir…I can’t take that…he already paid me.”

“This is for your family.”

He began to weep. “Thank you…thank you…I’m so glad we met, tonight. I needed this moment.”

Through my own tears, I said, “Me, too. We can’t forget how many good people are in the world. Thank you, my friend.”

The music started before the gig, last night.