Across my career I have gleaned a lot from a wide range of inspirations, possible no source more than cab drivers! I have written about this fount of knowledge before, check out “The story of Clarissa” about an amazing early morning cab ride in Bakersfield California. I have had some amazing moments of clarity in cabs from Philadelphia to Bentonville Arkansas; fodder for future essays. Well last Friday, I found another moment of wisdom in the back seat of a cab in Orlando.
I had attended meetings at the convention center and was heading over to the airport mid day last Friday for a flight back home to Atlanta. With plenty of time, I jumped into a cab at the Peabody Hotel and headed off to the airport. As I always do, I asked the cab driver how business was for him that day. He was quick to say that business was “picking up” and that he would have me at the airport in less than 25 minutes. Pretty precise for timing, but I leaned back to enjoy the ride and the conversation.
Quickly the driver asked what kind of business I was in and I simply said “sales.” He smiled and said “me too,” commenting that while he had driven cabs in New York, St. Louis, and now Orlando, he was selling every day. What a great attitude! He started to share his “inside tips” on how he works the Orlando convention center hotels every Friday, alternating between the Peabody and the Hilton, but consistently getting plenty of airport runs or as he said “long fares.” I asked if he had a certain system, or looked for a certain type of passenger as he worked the hotels. He nodded his head knowingly and said “no sir, you need to work every fare as if it’s your best … you never know, the short fare can become the long fare.” I know a learning moment was afoot!
Of course I asked him what he meant and he shared a story from just the week before. He said that the past Friday he was in the cab line at the Peabody Hotel (just where he found me) and he was the second cab in line. He was there just a few minutes when two groups came out of the front of the hotel and asked the bellman for a cab; the first was a guy in jeans with a small duffel bag, the second was a big family with lots of luggage. The first cabby, seeing the same situation, jumps out of the cab to “tie his shoe”, trying to get the second fare (the family obviously going to the airport) rather than the guy in jeans going god knows where. The first cabbie bending down to his shoe wave my cabbie around and without hesitation, he said he moved around to take the first guy, “the short fare.” Asking the guy in Jeans where he was heading , “the short fare” said he was needed to make a flight at the Tampa Airport in 3 hours and could the cabby get him there in time. Unbelievable!!! The Tampa airport was not quite 100 miles away, yes he could get there in time but the fare would be over $150. The guy in back said no problem, they headed out, and what looked at first to be the “short fare” became the “longest fare” in my cabbies life!
I was blown away by the story and really connected to this simple point of wisdom. You never know what opportunities lay ahead. If you try to game the system, metaphorically “tying your shoes” at the wrong times, you might miss big things! I was reminded by this great story to try to approach every interaction with more openness of what “might” be possible. Whether a moment with a team member, a call on a customer, or a chat with an old friend, it doesn’t really matter. Even the interactions that seem to be nothing more than a “short fare” can become a “long fare” right before our eyes, maybe even a fare to the Tampa Airport!