Venetian traffic

The Taxi Trilogy: Finding Inspiration in a Las Vegas Taxi

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This is part 1 of a  3-part series about memorable cab rides I’ve had over the years. Thanks go to Lisa Egle of Chickybus fame for the inspiration for sharing these stories after I read her story about the only female taxi driver on Isla Ometepe.

I spend a lot of time in cabs when I travel. For me, it’s usually the quickest, most hassle-free way to get to and from the airport. I don’t know if people who drive cars for a living are naturally predisposed to talk, or if I’m just predisposed to listen–or both. I do love a good story; perhaps they sense that? In any case, I’ve heard some of the most interesting stories over the years from people who drive me around the cities that I’m visiting. Today’s story comes from my most recent trip to Las Vegas.

Las Vegas Strip

Las Vegas Strip

I’ve ridden with some bad cab drivers in Las Vegas, like the one who longhauled me and then deposited me outside the tour lobby at the Flamingo (an alley!) late at night so I couldn’t report him to the valet, and the crazy, rage-filled guy who nearly drove up onto the curb to get around a traffic jam. And I’ve ridden with  some fun cab drivers, like the guy who sang “She’s a Lady” to me on the way to the Mirage. (Only in Vegas!)

But the most inspirational cab driver I had was an older Indian gentleman who drove me to the Palazzo from the airport on my last trip. I wish I’d thought to ask him his name. It was amazing how much he shared about his life during that brief cab ride.

He asked me where I was from and when I told him “Vermont,” he sat straight up in the front seat and got visibly excited. This came as a surprise to me. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve told people I’m from Vermont and they have no idea where it is—or even that it’s one of the 50 states! But he knew all about it.

He told me he loved Vermont, because he wanted his youngest daughter to go to “Burlington College for Women”. I was a little perplexed by this, because Burlington College isn’t a women’s college, and it’s a very small liberal arts college (around 300 students total). No offense to Burlington College, but I couldn’t figure out why he would want to send his daughter all the way across the country to go there. I thought it more than likely he had the name of the college wrong. I didn’t say anything, though.

He then went on to say how much he admires Vermont’s socialist Senator, Bernie Sanders. He wrote Bernie a letter once and was so excited that Bernie hand-wrote him a letter back! He felt that said a lot about the Senator. It wasn’t until well after my cab ride that I realized the Burlington College connection made absolute sense: Bernie Sanders’ wife, Jane, was President of the College until late September of this year.

But it wasn’t his love for Vermont that inspired me. It was what he had done with his life.

Venetian traffic

Traffic in front of the Venetian

He had around six children, he said, including the daughter he wanted to come to Vermont. He told me the names of all the schools the older children went to (let’s just say they were very smart kids if they got into these schools). They were all very good at math, because he had been a math teacher in his previous life. His two youngest, he told me, were adopted. It turns out they were the children of his close friends. Their parents, tragically, were killed in an accident, and he and his wife adopted them. I felt a lump in my throat when he told me that.

I asked him how he came to be driving a cab in Las Vegas. This was just a part-time job, he said, while he was going to school. He was actually from Houston, he continued, but he had come to Las Vegas to go to law school. His lifelong dream had been to become a lawyer. But he had become a math teacher first, and then procrastinated. Time passed, and he raised his family, and one thing or another kept him from pursuing his dream. But now, at this late point in his life, when most of his children were grown, he was finally doing it. I was impressed by that.

It just goes to show you, it’s never too late to pursue your dreams.

What an inspiration he was on so many levels—the love and generosity he showed by taking in his friends’ orphaned children; his tenacity in not giving up on his long-held dream of being a lawyer; his fearlessness in starting over again in school, in a new career, in a new state; and his openness in sharing his story with a complete stranger.

I’m such an introvert that I’m always in awe when people so freely share the details of their lives with anyone, let alone total strangers. What does it say about me that I have people I consider friends who don’t know as much about me as I know about that cab driver after fifteen minutes in a cab with him? The inspiration I got from him is that I need to learn to open up a bit more with my friends.

Have you met anyone during your travels who inspired you the way this cab driver inspired me?

Read part 2 of the Taxi Trilogy, A Silver Lining in Orlando, and part 3, Feeling the Power of Survival in New Orleans.

13 thoughts on “The Taxi Trilogy: Finding Inspiration in a Las Vegas Taxi

  1. Sharon in UK

    Nice story, have to be honest in all my travels around the world I try to avoid taxis , I like the challenge of working out the public transport system and I think its very easy to be ripped off – got long hauled in France once in a remote place & in Vegas going to airport !!
    Got taxis everywhere in Singapore as really cheap , reliable & fun – also heard some great stories.
    Tokyo best taxi to date , door opened automatically !!!

  2. Gray

    I always use public transport once I’ve checked into my hotel, Sharon, but I can’t seem to pack light enough to take a public bus to my destination from the airport. You know nobody wants my 24″ suitcase taking up space on the bus. 🙂 In other cities, I often take shared shuttles to and from airport. But in Vegas, I just want to get to my hotel as quickly as possible. I might try it sometime, though–just to say I did.

  3. Lisa @chickybus

    Thanks for the mention here….and wow to your story. I love it! I’m so inspired by immigrants who work hard to make their dreams for their children come true and I love it if they still have the energy to make their personal dreams come together somehow. This guy sounds amazing–love his story, which is very inspiring. Thanks for sharing it!

  4. Gray

    Thanks, Lisa! You know, I’m not sure he was an immigrant. He may have been 2nd generation Indian-American. But in any case, yeah, he was really cool.

  5. Nate

    That’s an amazing story! If only all the cab drivers could be like that, I might actually use them again instead of just taking the bus everywhere.

    I haven’t had anything quite on par with that, but I did once get a driver in his 70’s who had lived in Vegas his whole life, with his parents moving there shortly after Hoover Dam had been finished. He told me about how he used to watch the mushroom clouds from nuclear tests, how he got to see Sinatra and BB King perform, and how he’d met Jay Sarno, Bob Stupak, Bill Bennett (the casino mogul, not the politician), and Steve Wynn at various points in time. He also talked about how much of old Vegas had been lost to the megacasinos, and why that was a good thing in some cases.

    What struck me was how this guy had such a full life with so many great experiences, all without leaving his home city. I’ve traveled all over the place, and I’ll be damn lucky if I get to see even half of what he has. It really put things in perspective for me. Definitely not what I was expecting to get from just taking a ride downtown!

  6. Gray

    That’s a very cool story, too, Nate. He saw the mushroom clouds from the nuclear tests?? Whoa. I’d be worried about which way the wind was blowing! 🙂 I know what you mean–some people seem able to pack a lot more living into a lifetime than the rest of us. Good for them.

  7. JoAnn

    I’ve ridden a taxi a couple of times in Vegas but didn’t have anyone talkative. The first time, I was sitting in the front seat while my brother, sister-in-law and her brother were in the back. I really wish I had sat in the back seat. The driver was making me nervous. He couldn’t sit still. I swear he was on something.

  8. Gray

    Isn’t it amazing, Elise, that you can learn so much about someone in such a short period of time? It was an unforgettable taxi ride for me, that’s for sure.

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