South Portland, Maine — Sometimes in life we are ready to write good people off as having no value without seeing the positive side of them. Such was the case when I was ready to send my Uber rider, Carolyn, to the one-star penitentiary.
On Dec. 27 at 11:55 p.m., I received a ride request from Carolyn at the airport. When I approached the pickup area by baggage claim, a lady standing near the curb talking on her cell waved to me so I thought this must be Carolyn and I stopped my vehicle there. It was very busy and a policeman came to my window. "Her bags aren't up yet, so just drive across the street into to the holding area and she'll come to you when she's got her bags." I said, “Okay,” and quickly moved into the holding area assuming that this lady was Carolyn.
About five minutes later my Uber phone rang and it was Carolyn.
“Where are you?” the voice said in a most angry manner.
"I'm in the holding area and can drive around to pick you up.”
"Don't bother. I see where you are and am coming to you,” (Uber riders see exactly where their driver is on their app).
I got out and there was a woman approaching who was different from the lady on the curb. "Carolyn?" I asked as I opened the rear passenger door for her.
"Yes" she replied with venom and her body movements matched her tone of voice.
After closing her door, I got in the driver’s seat and swiped the Start Ride bar on the driver app and saw the ride was estimated to be 15 minutes in duration and about 6 miles in length.
"I'm sorry about the confusion,” I said. "I told the policeman I was waiting for a Carolyn. He told me you were getting your bags and he asked me to move into the holding area.”
“I don’t travel with bags,” Carolyn said indignantly. In my mind I'm carefully planning my response: “You don’t travel with bags? Neither do I. Now get out and find another Uber.”
Bite your tongue, Ted.
Fortunately, I didn't spit out that response.
I turn on the radio in the hope that this would diffuse the atmosphere.
John Lennon's song "Nowhere Man" is playing.
He's a real nowhere man, Sitting in his nowhere land
Making all his nowhere plans for nobody,
He's as blind as he can be, Just sees what he wants to see....
"Turn that radio off and I don’t want to hear your voice,” Carolyn commanded.
As I turned from Congress Street on to Steven's Avenue, I said to myself, "What a b****!"
This lady's a real nowhere man. She's a nobody as far as I'm concerned and I began to debate whether I would rate her one or two stars (the rating system is 1-5).
With no radio and no talking allowed, the silence is deafening to me. I break the silence by singing to myself in my mind:
She’s a real nowhere man, sitting in her nowhere land,
Making all her nowhere plans for nobody
Making all her nowhere plans for nobody…
As we neared Forest Avenue, in my mind, I'd written Carolyn off as totally worthless in this life. The ride couldn’t end soon enough, and I began preparing for the brief but potent verbal confrontation that I would initiate upon the completion of the ride.
Ted, bite your tongue.
While I'm debating with myself whether or not I should continue to bite my tongue, I thought back to a hearing at the legislative conference room in Guam where Sen. Dennis Rodriguez was managing a contentious public meeting with irate constituents. He kept his cool, was able to bite his tongue at key places in the hearing, and as a result the meeting was a success.
I reminded myself that successful people in life know when to bite their tongue.
Within the car, the sound of silence was deafening.
All of a sudden, the uncomfortable quietness was broken by Carolyn in the back seat. "I am so sorry,” she blurted out. “I was very much out of line and rude. I apologize. I was very tired. Would you forgive me?"
What? I can't believe what she just said.
"Of course, no worries,” I replied, very much camouflaging the angry thoughts I had just been having.
As we turned onto Allen Avenue, I tried to think of something to keep the conversation going and just then we were passing my church.
"That's the SDA Church where I attend,” I said.
"Oh, I just saw the movie Hacksaw Ridge last week and I really respect you folks for living your life according to what you believe,” she said.
What did I just hear? She is complimenting me for my religious beliefs? If she only knew the thoughts I was having...
As the ride came to its completion, Carolyn handed me a $5 tip and said, "Thanks so much for picking me up at the airport. Let me be the first to wish you a Happy New Year.”
"And a Happy New Year to you too, Carolyn!” as I swiped 5 stars into the rider rating.
I immediately listed two New Year’s resolutions:
When I'm tempted to respond to anger in kind, always remember to bite my tongue.
Always remember that everybody is a somebody.
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Theodore Lewis, former CEO of the Guam Memorial Hospital, is now based on Maine, where he is exploring Uber adventures and collecting stories about life. Send feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org