To a late-night motorist driving past, the softly-lit Seattle parking lot full of lime-green taxi cabs appeared lifeless and still. In reality, lively conversation was commencing.
"Ahhhhhh. It feels so good to be scrubbed clean from the day's dirt!" Number 4631 sparkled and sighed with contentment.
"My tires are tired!" quipped #4652.
"I hope they don't take forever to fix the ding I got on my rear fender this afternoon," another whined.
The dozen or so cars had just been serviced after long hours of roaming the congested city streets and hauling its citizens to and fro. Several of their company were still out working, but this was the slowest period of the day. They regularly used this "downtime" to chat while waiting for the next shift of cabbies to come on.
One of the newest in their group spoke up. "Did I ever have an unusual ride earlier this evening! I picked up a young couple over on Melrose, and as they climbed in the man shouted, 'Harborview Hospital! And step on it!' The white-faced woman with him whimpered dreadfully as we wove through rush-hour traffic. I felt sorry for her and was doing my best to get them there quickly, but the poor thing's moans got louder until the male passenger yelled for us to pull over and help him. I tell you, it got exciting then!" The taxi was silent for a moment's reflection. "Soon the woman's cries were replaced by a baby's wail, and you can be sure I took extra-special care in delivering them gently to the hospital after that." Pride tinged his voice.
A few of the cars murmured their happy congratulations before another jumped into the discussion.
"My story isn't quite as dramatic, but I made a tense run out to the airport with a middle-aged man rushing to his dying mother's bedside. He was on stand-by to grab the next available seat to Denver, and my heart went out to him as he prayed aloud for her with tears flowing freely. He kept repeating over and over, 'I'm so ashamed I've neglected her these past few years. Oh, God, I'll do anything You ask if You only get me there in time to tell her how much I love her!' The cab choked up a bit in the telling and paused to compose himself. "Finally he got on his cell phone and was still trying to secure a flight when we pulled up at the terminal unloading zone. I sure hope he made it."
Several of his companions compassionately uttered their agreement.
The next speaker had a smile in his voice. "My favorite fare today also took place at the airport. I had the great privilege of transporting a serviceman returning from a tour of duty overseas back home to his wife and toddler. It looked like the entire neighborhood was out to welcome him with signs and joyful shouts! Someone started singing "For He's a Jolly Good Fellow" as he ran into the arms of his family, and I joined in the celebration by honking as cheers erupted all around."
Four or five of the listening cabs honked themselves in tribute to this soldier and his safe homecoming.
A taxi at the back of the park piped up. "I win the prize for having the rudest passenger! He hailed us as he came out of a fancy skyscraper and barked at my driver to rush him across town to a big law firm. He phoned someone and gave them a lengthy and vicious tongue-lashing about not having a report on his desk this morning. A few words he used nearly turned the air blue, and he angrily banged on one of my windows with his fist. I was so disgusted that I hit a couple potholes on purpose to jostle him around. He didn't even leave a tip when he leaped out at ride's end."
A couple cabs grunted their disapproval of this man.
More stories followed about wide-eyed tourists, a nervous college grad heading to an important job interview, and a politician practicing a slick speech as he hurried to a rally.
Finally, a taxi dubbed "The Philosopher" took his turn, "Some people are kind, others are cruel. We carry both thankful passengers and thoughtless ones, but our job is to faithfully serve them all, helping them safely to their destinations. Ours is a high and honorable calling, my friends."
One by one their shiny hoods rose in solemn salute.
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