The saga surrounding my situation with certain cab drivers continues from my last post; however, I would like to take the opportunity to mention that not all cabbies are unwilling to admit service animals into their vehicles. In fact, the majority of taxi chauffeurs are wonderful. I’ve had drivers not only stop for me and Honor, but also help us get settled. I even had one cabbie, whose car was plastered with pictures of his beloved rottweiler all over his dashboard, proudly proclaiming that dogs of all careers were welcome in his car be they service dogs, retired, or family pets. But I’ll get back to the bristling tale of my prior post.
With Honor curled up on her towel and me buckled into my seat, my cabbie put the yellow car in gear and took off. During our ride, he treated me to a 20-minute lecture on why he refused to pick up guide dogs. Interspersed among the various pronouncements of the cleanliness of dogs, or rather the lack thereof, my cabbie interjected apologies and pleas for my understanding. I elected to remain silent in part because I wasn’t able to understand nor was I willing to forgive, and in part because I didn’t wish to escalate the tension already extant in the car. I was, after all subject to the mercies of my sighted driver who I could only hope would take me to my desired destination. Luckily, we pulled up to my apartment, and the sermon ended.
A couple of weeks later, Honor and I, again, stood before the Federal Courthouse on a cold and snowy Chicago evening trying to hail a taxi to take us home. We were not the only ones waiting, there were 4 or 5 other people who were there before us. So we milled about patiently for our turn, stomping our feet to keep warm; however, quite unexpectedly, a yellow cab appeared directly before us. The cabbie popped out of his car waving a gloved hand, calling out for the “lady with the dog.” I assumed he meant me insofar as I was usually the only blind person with a dog that hung out at that time looking for a taxi. I immediately informed him that others were there before me.
“No lady, I have to take you and your dog, the others can wait,” he pronounced. “Don’t you remember me? I took you home the other day. Remember the judge and the policeman who yelled at me?”
I was stunned. I didn’t know what to think or say. I, of course, remembered him. He guided me to the back seat of his car. I absent-mindedly pulled out Honor’s towel and he helped me spread it over the back seat. He did not help Honor hop up, but he did help me get in behind her. “Thank you,” was all I managed to say as my brain tried to reconcile this particular change in attitude.
Once Honor and I were settled in the car, my cabbie got behind the wheel and headed towards my home. Before I could ask, he told me the reason for his remarkable about-face.
After our last encounter, my cabbie explained, he was quite upset. He immediately contacted his religious leader for advice. His spiritual counselor admonished him for having refused to aide not only a disabled person but also the service animal entrusted with the duty of caring for that person. He informed my driver that guide dogs were blessed by God and to deny them is to deny God. But that wasn’t enough for my chauffeur, he then sought the opinion of his mother.
“Oh my God,” he proclaimed. “My mother says I will go to Hell if I refuse to help a blind person and their dog!” I could hear the fear and panic in his voice as he repeatedly asked for my pardon. His mother told him that the only path to redemption would be if he found me again and drove both me and my dog wherever we needed to go for free. He then asked for my blessings.
I could tell this cabbie was sincere and I was quite moved by his contrition. For what it was worth, I agreed to pray for a blessing for him and I forgave him. I tried my best to pay him for his services, but he refused. When we pulled up to my apartment building, he asked me the name of my dog.
“Honor,” I said. He laughed and bade us farewell.
I met this cab driver several times after that. He never accepted payment from me, though I was able from time to time to leave him a tip from Honor. Each time we rode in his cab, I’d spread out Honor’s towel, she’d curl up happily on top of it, I’d get a safe ride to my destination, and my cabbie would drop us off with a smile and an “until-next-time.”