Yesterday was one of those surreal business travel days where you end up in a haze of travel by late afternoon – planes, trains and automobiles, indeed. One specific event, however, capped it off.
My morning alarm went off at home at 5am, and out the door I went to catch a 7am flight to LaGuardia. Upon arriving at the airport, I discovered that my flight had been cancelled. After traveling so much for so many years for work, I seem to actually be getting used to cancelled flights these days. Mildly fearing I’d miss an important meeting, I was faced with making a quick decision: go to Avis immeadiately and just a rent a car and get down there, or wait in a long line to see what transpired. I elected to roll the dice and wait my turn in line to see if I had a shot. Good choice. I ended up on an 8:00am flight, no real problems. It was also a gorgeous day to be flying – nothing but sun.
From LaGuardia, it was an uneventful ride to Penn Station, where I met up with a co-worker and we hopped a train to Long Island. Again, uneventful. However, the next stretch of roughly ten minutes proved to be the centerpiece of the day, and not for any good reason. We stepped off the train and headed over to a cab stand, where they actually make you share a cab with others. Initially I was mildly agitated by this, as we just wanted to get to the place we were going. However, upon thinking about it I concluded this was acceptable, in an age when conserving gas and energy is going to become essential sooner than most think it will.
Joining us on the cab ride was an older woman, who sat in the front and a Middle Eastern woman, who sat with us in the back. So far, so good. We all cited our destinations and off we went. The Middle Eastern woman got on her cell phone and was speaking in a foreign language – most likely calling someone to let them know she was en route. After about a minute, the cab driver half-turns and actually says “Hey, shut up. I hate that foreign crap.”
Did you just pause? We certainly did. Both my co-worker and I looked at each other in amazement, mentally asking each other “did we really just hear that?” We did. As if that weren’t incredible enough, another minute went by and the cab driver blurted out in a very frustrating tone: “We’ve got a camel in the back seat there.”
We just couldn’t believe what we were hearing. It was just pure hatred and ignorance from someone in a very public seat. I was hoping and praying that the woman was paying too much attention to the person on the other end of her cell phone to hear this sad excuse for a human, but I’ll never know. We arrived at our destination, where, I might add, I paid this sad sack the exact fare and not a cent more. I was actually preparing in my mind what I wanted to say to him, but in the end quietly stalked off, not saying a word. In retrospect, I really regret not saying anything. I wanted that woman to know that most of us are compassionate, accepting people. I now fear that maybe she thought we just didn’t care. We did. Very much.
However, as we got out, she just continued talking on her cell phone, so I am going to try and believe with all my heart she didn’t hear a word the guy said. Look, I’m no fool. Sadly, these people exist and they walk among us every day, that’s just the way it is. I wish they could comprehend how sad their existence is and how hurtful a few sentences can be. I suppose they’re entitled to think and feel what they want, that’s their right. But to vocalize it like that? Just stunning. And so, so sad. Not to mention dumb.
Anyway, after our meeting, it was back in a cab to LaGuardia, back on the plane to Boston, back in my car and home by 6:30, with a nice traffic jam on the Mass Pike to top it all off. I really should just open an ice cream stand.