Wednesday, June 25, 2008

A failing heart

I got a nice run out to Spring Valley, up in the hills. The fare was $48.20, and I nearly had to resort to bullying to get $50 in all. When the guy, a young dude in his 20s, gave me $50, I said, "I can have all of it, or you want some back?" He said: "Oh, man, it was a long ride." I pulled out two singles and held them out, and he said, "You can keep them."

I went to the bottom of the hill (Jamacha Rd), and went through the drive-thru at Rally's, and ordered a medium coke. At the window I handed over $2.04 and got a huge bucket of soda. The damned thing wouldn't fit in my cup holder. A medium can't possibly be that large, can it? Not to dwell, but who the H drinks that much high fructose corn syrup? No wonder Americans are fatter than hell.

As I'm struggling to find a place to set a cup of soda almost as large as a coffee can, a woman came to the passenger window and asked me to "drive up the hill" for $5. It was three blocks for $5. I finished paying for the soda and was about to explain that I'm going the other way -- I'm one of few cabbies who won't pick up out of my zone. Then I noticed she was gasping for breath -- an elderly African American woman. "I can usually walk, but my chest pains are coming, and I can't make it."

It struck me at that moment that I would do anything for this woman, but there was nothing to do! Why can't medical science fix this woman? We can place a man on the moon, but we can't fix a simple pump? I knew as I drove up the hill, listening to her gasping breath, that she would not live much longer.

Her: My chest pains (gasp) are bad tonight.

Me: Do you want me to take you to a hospital?

Her: No, I can make it (gasp). I have nitro medicine at home (gasp).

Me: If you change your mind, just say so, and I'll get you to a hospital.

We made it, and she got out and handed me $5, which I declined. After I drove away I pulled over and turned on the light to inspect the back seat. I do that as a matter of routine, to see if any personal items got left behind; it's easier to return them now than later. There was a five dollar bill on the back seat.

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