Every now and then, a stranger crosses our path, sometimes just for a mere moment, and we catch a glimpse of greatness. We catch a glimpse of what it means to serve others with a glad heart, a lively spirit, and personal integrity. We catch someone ‘getting it right’ and we want to share their story. So it is with George the cabbie.
I met George last weekend in Orlando, while standing in line outside my hotel, waiting to catch the bus that ran between the hotel and convention center. Buses ran every thirty minutes, and all of us standing in line were anxious to arrive in time to hear the morning keynote speaker, Marcus Buckingham. The bus came, picked up five people, then announced it was full, pulling away and leaving the rest of us waiting in earnest for another bus. Impatiently, I turned to my new friend, Lorin, and asked if she wanted to grab a taxi instead. She agreed and within seconds, we were joined by Peter from Japan and Jan from Belgium.
Quickly we piled into the nearby town car, my leg still hanging slightly out the door on the verge of doing a slight split, when the driver, George, started to pull away. We were nonetheless greeted with a smile when George jokingly assured me he had insurance, just in case I needed it. We were off, and in the span of a less-than-five-minute drive, we had all managed to introduce ourselves and pass out cards, including George. Without being pushy, George also managed to pass around a spiral notebook in which he asked us to write our name, number, and when our departure flight was.
At this point, I had been collecting cabbie cards throughout the previous few days, including one from Samuel, who shared stories of his hurricane-wrecked home, Haiti, various relief efforts, and his perception of the Americans who have extended a hand to help rebuild. “Who” he asked, “comes and serves others so selflessly, and with such love and generosity? People don’t do that much anymore, but your people do.” I liked Samuel, and though George was courteous and entertaining, I wasn’t ready to commit my transportation needs to him. Instead, I politely filled in my name and number, telling George that while I was leaving the next day, I wasn’t prepared to make firm plans.
Eating an early breakfast with my girlfriend, I remembered that I had not yet made taxi arrangements, though I was scheduled to fly out just before noon. I quickly retrieved Samuel’s card and dialed his number, to no avail. Hmmm. What other cards had I saved? Before I could even look for another number, my phone rang. It was George. “Good morning, Ms. Reed. I remembered you were flying home today and wondered if you have already made transportation arrangements, and if not, if I could be of service to you?” “Absolutely,” I exclaimed, and proceeded to give him instructions for picking me up outside of the convention center at 9:45 a.m. He reconfirmed the time and promised to call me at 9:40 a.m. to let me know he was five minutes out.
My phone rings, though I missed the call because I still had my phone on silent. I listen to the message. It’s George. “Hi, Ms. Reed. It’s George. I apologize, but I am running five minutes late. I realize that there is a line of cabs outside of the convention center, but I’m asking if you will please wait for me. I have confirmed with the airport that the lines are short and the traffic is light. I promise you will get there in plenty of time.” I called him back and agreed to wait for him. He recommended that I wait inside where it was cool, and promised to call when he was within one minute of arriving. And so he did.
He told me on the way to the airport that most people would not have waited for him, and he greatly appreciated my willingness to do so. I admit that I took a chance, and for a brief moment while I was waiting for him to arrive, I wondered to myself: should I trust his word? If I’m wrong, I will miss my flight and it will cost me hundreds of dollars and a great deal of wasted time. But if he’s being honest, then I want to deliver on my end of the deal. I won’t sell him out to someone who hasn’t earned the business. Sometimes, amazing things can happen when you take a leap of faith. Even on the little things. Like a cab ride to the airport. As he pulled up to the airport, he reminded me to stay safe, gave me a big hug and bid me a pleasant farewell.
End of the story? Not quite…
True to his word, the lines were short and I had plenty of time before my flight took off. Feet sore from three days of walking endlessly around in high heels, I got to my gate, dropped my bags, took off my shoes, and breathed a sigh of exhaustion. Just then, my phone buzzed, indicating a text had arrived. From George. “Hi! This is George. I just wanted to wish you a safe trip home.”
A chance encounter. A random cab. An unknown driver. Four initial passengers. At least two repeat passengers (and loyal passengers for life). One referral passenger. As I picked up the last text from George, I smiled deeply and thought to myself, “George gets it.” Life is so much more than just an exchange of goods and services. At it’s heart, life is about people. It’s about connections. It’s about service. It’s about living, leading and serving from the heart.
For those of you who took the time to read the tale of George the cabbie, I
thank you. To my surprise, it proved to be the most popular post I have written
to this blog. Perhaps it’s because it was a post celebrating another – catching someone doing something right. Perhaps it’s because customer service, like personal accountibility, is eroding in a world where people have become commodities, bought and sold to the highest bidder (or to the next cabbie in line). Perhaps it’s because in this age
of technology, people still crave personal connection and want to believe in the
word of another. At the end of the day, we all need affirmation that doing what
is right is…well…right.
If you read closely, you saw that the tale of George was more than
just a tale of excellent customer service. It was also a tale of personal
integrity. George could have made different choices. He could have chosen not to
call me to tell me he was running late, afraid that I might catch a different
cab instead, disregarding my schedule and how I might feel about having been
kept waiting. He could have been selling me a line about the light traffic and
lines at the airport, willing to say whatever might create the sale, though he
proved to be telling me the truth. Likewise, I could have chosen not to trust
George’s word and/or hung George out to dry and caught one of the cabs outside
when I first learned he was running late. No one would have blamed either one of
us, and many would call me naive for trusting my flight to the word of a cabbie.
Still, it is the everyday little choices we make – to trust or not, to tell the
truth or not, to do what’s right or not, that add up and ultimately shape one’s