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The Last Honest Cabbie
copyright 2003 by H. Paul Shuch

Exactly one year ago, I journeyed South from Pennsylvania, to spend Father's Day weekend with my elderly father in Miami (translation: City of the Elderly Father). A combination of a Friday night departure, flight delays, and copious cancellations resulted in my arriving late at Miami International Airport (translation: Place of the Late Arrival). At the yellow curb outside of baggage claim, well past midnight, I hailed a taxi the same hue as the curb, for the $30 ride to my father's modest flat.

The taxi driver, a hard-working immigrant named Igor Sandoval, filled me in on how Miami (translation: Land of the Hard-working Immigrant) had changed in the half-century since I had grown up there. The lateness of the hour and the pleasantness of the conversation compelled me to tip generously. In the darkness of Dad's driveway, I pulled two twenties out of my wallet, thanked Senor Sandoval for the ride, and wished him a good morning. But not before he handed me his business card, and invited me to call him when I was ready for my Monday morning ride back to the airport.

Slipping that card into my jacket pocket, I promptly forgot all about it. Good businessman, I thought. Good work ethic. Good night.

After a short night's sleep, I watched with my father a shimmering sunrise over Biscayne Bay(translation: Bay of the Shimmering Sunrise), before taking him out for breakfast at the nearby Fourbucks Coffee (translation: Home of the Four-Buck Coffee). My wallet, previously primed for travel with a slim stack of twenties in front of a lone emergency hundred, greeted me with a surreal surprise: a slim stack of twenties in front of a vast and distressing emptiness.

It didn't take me long to realize how, fumbling in the darkness just hours before, I had inadvertently overtipped rather generously, handing the driver a twenty and a hundred. Determined not to let that careless error ruin my weekend with my father, I mentally wrote off $80 to charity, and proceeded to lap up my latte.

Father and I spent a joyous weekend poring over family photos (translation: Did We Ever Really Look That Young?), and, in due course, it was time for me to be winging back North. As I extricated my return ticket from my jacket pocket, Senor Sandoval's card fluttered to the floor. "What the hell," I figured, and rang his cellphone.

"I'm so glad you called me," the honest cabbie told me after I had identified myself. "Were you short some money Saturday morning?" When I admitted that, yes, in fact my emergency hundred had gone missing, he said, "I'll be right over to drive you to the airport, and to square things with you."

And he did just that. When we pulled up at the yellow curb (translation: Don't Even Think of Parking Here), this honest, hard-working immigrant pulled down the meter flag, and then slipped me a fifty.

I was flabbergasted. "Here," I said to the honest cabbie as I handed it back. "You've earned it."

I promised to keep his card on file, and to favor him with my business when next I came to Miami (translation: Land Of The Last Honest Cabbie). But that was not to be. Within months my elderly father, no longer able to care for himself, had moved to Southern California, to live under the watchful eye of my youngest sister (translation: Better She Than Me).

That was exactly a year ago. As I write this reminiscence, I'm on a plane headed home, returning East after spending a delightful Father's Day weekend in Southern California (translation: Land Where One Hardly Looks One's Age).

Dad seems to like it there. He hardly looks his age.

This year, sad to say, I encountered not a single honest cabbie.

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