IT’S NICE TO BE NICE

I once printed hundreds of bumper-stickers that proclaimed: “THE WORLD IS GETTING BETTER.” This may be debatable, but after a moment’s reflection, most of my customers laughed–and for a few delicious moments, the World WAS better! Who could argue?

I gave the bumper-stickers away, requesting that they be used as bumper-stickers, not book-marks. Of course, below that cheerful message, was my business name and logo. Since I no longer have a business to promote, I have time to read and those bumper-stickers make excellent book-marks!

I also wanted stickers saying “IT’S NICE TO BE NICE!” But when I closed shop and prepared for my move to Ecuador, I had no time for such things.

In Cuenca, I take taxis when I have a lot to carry. Taxis are cheap, but I prefer walking for pleasure and health’s sake. Cuenca cabdrivers deserve a story of their own, but this one is about my most recent ride home from SUPERMAXI – our modern super-market.

Usually, a SUPERMAXI employee takes your cart, escorts you to the parking lot and hails a cab for you. For some reason no one is available to push my cart or hail a cab, so I do it myself.

There is a steep slope from the parking lot to the street. I leave the cart unattended in the parking lot.  I stand at the curb and wave until finally a taxi stops, taking up half the sidewalk and half the street, blocking traffic! I rush to navigate the slope with the heavy cart. The driver is still behind the wheel. I am thinking, “What’s with this guy? W isn’t he helping?”

A parking-lot attendant appears out of nowhere. He rescues my cart, moments before it would have crashed into the street. Next, the attendant motions assertively for the cab to pull into the parking area – like all other cabs know to do. At last, the driver gets out, looking lost, but he helps with the transfer of bags from cart to trunk.

I fasten my seatbelt as the driver sneaks into the flow of traffic. He drives with more hesitancy than a blind grandfather taking his first driving lesson. Other drivers blow their horns! I feel stressed and annoyed and all the more when, instead of turning down Gran Columbia, he remains in the roundabout and heads for the traffic on Las Americas, which is the opposite direction of where I live. Very fortunately, I have mastered the Spanish words for “no, left, right, and straight!”

Back on track, he wants to chat! Between masks, plexiglass, my poor hearing and bad Spanish, I avoid chatting with cabdrivers. It’s too exhausting! But my driver continues his efforts to communicate. I notice that his eyes are kind. I suddenly understand that he wants to know how many blocks before we will turn right, but I don’t know. I only know the turns that get me home when I see them. We continue as best we can. At the same time, I try to text a friend with my ETA so we can coordinate.

Suddenly, my driver tells me that this is his third day driving a taxi in Cuenca! He smiles proudly!  He is excited! This explains everything and I just melt! I know first-hand how stressful is the start of any new job. Instantly, my attitude turns 180 degrees.

In my apartment parking lot, he awkwardly unloads. I help. He has forgotten to turn on the meter. No problem. This stretch normally costs $2.00. I pay him, thank him and wish him, “Bueno Suerte!” (Good luck!)

I bring my groceries upstairs, but – there is a problem! My tote — containing my mother’s blue umbrella, my jacket and favorite scarf is not with me! A string of rarely used words escape my lips as I try to accept my latest loss. I bring my blue mood and the building’s service cart back to the ground floor and see Marcela, who works in the building, coming through the gate carrying something sweetly familiar in her hands – my tote!!! He came back!

It is virtually unheard of to have things returned that are left behind in taxis. I am rejoicing in another 180 degree mood change! I am so thankful that I didn’t abandon my patience! Had I been rude, would he have returned with my tote? I think not. I am incredibly blessed and proclaim loudly, “IT’S NICE TO BE NICE!”  I have a hunch that my nice cabdriver feels happy, too! It really is nice to be nice!

I may need to find a platform to promote this message after all.

CUENCA, ECUADOR — PARQUET CALDERON

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