On my personal scale of frantic before a flight, I was only a 5 on a scale of 1 to 10. I was running a bit late in the cab to LaGuardia for a 4:15 p.m. flight to Cleveland. I often take this flight and know that traffic can raise my meter. Still it is hard to get out of the office, and I don’t like to give the airlines any more of myself than they already take. “Take off your shoes.” “Take off your belt.” “Keep your boarding pass in your hand.” These commands alone add two more points to my frantic meter. If traffic or other difficulties present themselves, the meter can go to 12 at security, with barely a nudge.
On this particular day, In my haste I left my wallet on the back seat of the taxicab at the airport. I disembarked at 3:15, knew I was a little late, and was conflicted about whether to go back into the wallet to give a decent tip. What I had already in my well prepared little hand was not enough. So I took the time, elevating the meter a point, got out a decent tip and handed it to the driver. I took my receipt and placed my wallet on the seat, but I didn’t grab it again as I left. This was a triple exchange but I only managed two of the parts. Clearly I was too relaxed to triple check, as I usually do, for phone, wallet, keys, and all the other little things that follow me around and keep my frantic meter so well employed.
I discovered what was missing at the electronic check in. I went through all the absurdly packed bags – mine are only packed nicely on the return trip – and there was no wallet stuck in any odd pocket or place. I looked at the crumpled thin paper taxi receipt in my hand and realized what had happened.
On it was a number of the medallion of the cab. I rushed outside to see if there was any chance the driver was still there, taking another fare. The drop-and-pick-up soft shoe isn’t legal, but all New Yorkers like the little economy involved. The cab was not lucky that day and was gone. I threw myself on the mercy of the baggage handlers, who knew exactly what to do. I was not the first person in this situation, nor will I be the last. The true wonder is that any of us travel at all and arrive anywhere with all of our person and/or stuff intact. I would imagine a minimum 80 percent retention rate of traveling crapola if I had any sympathy for human beings or common sense. That we manage to get from place to place with our self, our money, and our stuff is actually an act of great heroism approaching a miracle.
Sure enough, if you call 311 and give them the medallion number, they give you a number in Queens, which directs you to another number in Queens, which gets you to the driver with the medallion you have on your skinny piece of paper. By now my flight is set to leave in 45 minutes and I still don’t have a ticket.
The driver is in the line to pick up a new fare DOWNSTAIRS! All I have to do is haul my sorry ass down there, into the line, with my baggage, and find him. It is raining and I am late. But I do it. When I get to the river of yellow standing in front of me, I think I am finished. My frantic meter is at 10 and climbing. But there he is. Standing in the rain, waving at me, with my wallet in his hand.
“Do you mind if I hug you,” I ask. We embrace. Others stare. I give him another $20 in gratitude and relief out of my wallet, now back in my hand.
I have just enough time to check in, get through security, and make
ContributorRev. Dr. Donna Schaper
The Rev. Dr. Donna Schaper is Pastor at the Orient Congregational Church and the author of 37 books, most recently IheartFrances: Love letters from an unlikely Admirer.