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how a cab ride made me a better healthcare professional…

February 17, 2012

With the amount of travel that I do for work, I spend a lot of time in the back seat of taxicabs. Each cab ride is different, but strikingly similar. The cabs are usually yellow or white. All of them, publish the fare calculations prominently on the door in a format reminiscent of a quadratic equation I recall being unable to solve in high school. I’m not sure why. The fare is the fare and even the driver can’t tell you what it is until you arrive at your destination and the meter is read.

Taxicabs rarely smell good. Some have the lingering odor of the cabbies last meal, while others have been permeated with the smell of cigarette smoke. To round out the taxicab experience the driver either takes advantage of my captivity to impart his view of the world or the radio is playing. If it’s the radio I am subjected to, than it is usually blaring either an angry repartee between two adversarial parties on issues of either religion or politics; or ethnic music of a culture of which I am not a member, but is to the drivers liking.

It’s an experience like no other. You must temporarily suspend your world and be enveloped by the world in which your cabbie lives. I can’t think of another customer experience that requires so much of me. Or perhaps I should say requires me to suspend so much of me.

This week I expected nothing different, but it ended up being very different. It started out as expected. The cab was white. The fare calculation was prominently displayed on the door. As I reached for the door handle, I wondered whether it would be talk radio or music this time and prepared to disappear into the driver’s world. But when I opened the door, it was quiet. The quiet of the interior pierced ever so gently by the soft spoken driver greeting me politely and inquiring about my destination.  I was unnerved.

Following my acknowledgement of the drivers greeting and the necessary communication about my desired destination, the ride started out in silence. I was tempted to ride quietly, but found myself commenting on the unexpected rain we were riding through. I didn’t expect that comment to yield more conversation, but it became the seed of what turned out to be one of the more pleasant conversations I have had recently. We actually bantered pleasantly about a variety of topics that we both found interesting. Our worlds converged.

I was fully present as was he.

Reflecting back on that pleasant and regrettably short cab ride, I find myself wondering if I always allow those I encounter during the course of my work to be fully present.  Do I allow our worlds to converge or do I pick the radio station?

 I think I’ll make sure to “tune in” going forward…(PUN intended!)

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