It hadn’t been a good day cabbing. I was having trouble with my car. A mechanic at the shop; who was fired a few days later, had refused to even look at the transmission problems that I described to him on this Saturday. It was UAB’s graduation day and I had seen many scolars walking around campus in their UAB green robes and mortar boards.
I had picked up a few customers but the bulk of the students had already skipped town for the beach. My best customer had been a guy who lived in Chattanooga that had graduated from UAB by taking online courses.I had taken him and his girlfriend to a graduation party on a side street off Overton Road in Mountain Brook. My transmission problem continued to get worse. Every time I started off after stopping for a traffic light the car would feel like it was falling apart the first time the automatic transmission shifted gears. With some difficulty I was able to drive it back to the shop. Everyone was gone home by now. There’s a lock box with a key to a spare cab to use in times such as this.
The spare cab wasn’t a great one but it wasn’t the worst one I had ever driven either. Business was still very slow after I switched cars. After sitting and waiting for probably over an hour without a dispatch, I got a call from the folks I had dropped off at the party for a ride back to their hotel. Thank goodness! I was glad to get anything at this point and this would be about a $20 trip, nothing to sneeze at when business is this slow.
It had been raining off and on all day, it was now long after sundown and the rain was pouring. It was raining harder than it had rained all day. Overton Road must be the curviest road in the entire metro area. Some curves seem like you’re about to drive in a circle, then it will turn the other way and curve around severly. There are few if any street lights along this stretch of the road, on this night it was black dark. While driving around one of the sharp curves, I heard a sound that no one ever wants to hear, especially on a night like this. The sound of a flat tire is unmistakable. At first I was trying to run other possibilities through my mind, but I soon had to accept the reality that I would soon be out on the side of the road on this God-awful night changing a tire.
It took a while to reach a stopping point. There were no side streets for what seemed like a mile. I was creeping at about 5 miles per hour while feeling the pressure of a line of cars bearing down behind me. Finally I came to a side street. The stress I was feeling eased considerably when the cars behind me were able to get around. I sat there for a few minutes relieved that I had stopped but dreading the soaking I was about to recieve. I finally got out, took the minimalist jack out of the trunk and began to get it secured behind the front passenger tire. I wasn’t wrong about getting soaked, after about two minutes I was soaked to the bone in the pouring rain. Just then a pair of headlights pulled up and stopped behind me.
The two men that jumped out of the car were dressed a little like Mormons. They were wearing clean, neatly pressed white shirts, black dress pants and black leather shoes. I didn’t think for one second that they were Mormons. They were both sporting ZZ Top like beards down to their chests, one black, one red. The first one asked “do you need help?” He didn’t wait for me to answer, he squat down and took over the job. The other one joined in and they were both fully involved with the job of changing my tire within a minute. When I looked down, I could see that the crowns of both their heads were covered with blue yarmulkes. The Birmingham metro area has a fairly large Jewish population for a city in the deep south. There are two large synagogues in Southside on Highland Avenue, a large Jewish Community Center on Montclair Road and two synagogues right here on Overton Road.
It was still raining hard and the job they were doing was filthy. They didn’t seem to mind at all. In the meantime a Mountain Brook policeman had stopped to see what was going on. He stood in his raincoat and held the flashlight as these two bearded young men continued to do the job. I took this opportunity to call my customer to tell them what had happened and to make sure that they hadn’t caught another ride. They were still at the party and still needing a ride. Great! I thought. ‘I’ll be able to finish what I came here to do”.
When the job was over the two young men introduced themselves. One was the son of the rabbi at a nearby Chabad Temple. The other was a rabbi himself, visiting from another city. I later learned that Chabad is a branch of Hasidic Judaism and they are usually considered orthodox Jews. I shook their grimy hands with my grimy hand and offered them a contribution to their temple. They refused and said “this is just what we do”. I drove my customers back to their hotel and then decided to call it a day. It had been rough and rocky but ended with a good feeling about humanity.
copyright 2013 R.W. Walker
*All views and opinions are strictly those of R.W. Walker. These views do not reflect the views of any cab company.