On a recent vacation I decided to ask people I met along the way for one piece of advice on life. If they were to encounter the 17-year-old version of themselves, what advice they’d want to give them. I only talked to a few people, but I definitely didn’t know where this was going to lead.
Taxi Cab Driver – Chicago, IL
To start it all off, I had this adorable, little, older, Russian woman as my cab driver. We were chatting for a little bit and I decided now would be a good time to get this little project underway. So I asked her, and she genuinely didn’t have one. Threw a couple at her, and she said not those. She was at a pure loss for words. For the next five minutes she tried to think of one. Started thinking maybe this wasn’t the best idea for a project. Told her she’d better have one next time I find myself inside her cab. She said she was going to think about it and absolutely would.
As we pulled up to the departures terminal, she finally thought of one. She said, “Enjoy every minute of life.”
I was surprised, figured she’d just given up. I eagerly had to ask her what enjoying life would be. Said she would love to travel, that she just loves beaches. I hope she gets to. So if you ever find yourself in a 303 Taxi, like, at 3 a.m. on a Sunday, ask for her advice on life and maybe tip her a couple extra bucks.
Taxi Cab Driver – Las Vegas, NV
My Middle Eastern cab driver was just delightful. A smaller, dark-haired man who was more concerned with the person in his taxi than he was about a Bluetooth headpiece—pleasant change of pace from the typical Chicago cab drivers. Eager to continue my story I thought I’d ask him. His response, shockingly similar to my little Russian doll, “Enjoy your life minute-by-minute.” Not gonna lie, I was a little amazed and disappointed. Hoped everybody’s response wasn’t going to be the same.
Prompted him a little more to talk about enjoying life. Told me he takes off one month a year to just shut down and vacation. How heroic! Works his 9-5 and then takes a month off to just do nothing. You…you keep that up Las Vegas Taxi Driver. You’re the hero to a lot of corporate people who would love to have a month off to just shut down and do nothing.
Airport Worker – Detroit, MI
After a fiasco with the people at Hungry Harry’s Pizza, I managed to start talking with a guy on his break also enjoying some pizza. The fiasco is nothing big. They told me I could come up when they called my number — I told them, “I’m not a number, I’m a human being.” And when they called my number I just stared and cleared my throat loudly.
When they called my name, this other guy said that was his name, too. Took my chance to ask him and Joe, from the Delta Airlines at Detroit Airport said he’d tell his younger self to, “Not to be so proud.” Said it ruined a lot of things for him. He was really sincere about it, so of course I pried a little further.
Told me his ego ruined a lot of things in his life that he really wished he could change. Asked him if he was done being too proud. Told him I’d see him around and went on to board the last part of my flight home.
Airline Pilot – Somewhere over Michigan
Alright, hold on, I know what you’re thinking. And it wasn’t the pilot flying the plane. I’m not a 5-year-old kid asking for a tour of the cockpit. I mean, if they offered, I wouldn’t say no. Though, we’re post 9-11, I’d need hella clearance to get inside that door at any time.
What happened was, I was in a row of three seats together. The middle occupied by this rather grumpy dude who was not amused by me.
I was talking to the guys behind me in line (they were around during the Hungry Harry’s fiasco) who now happened to be seated directly behind me, joking around. He wasn’t having any of it.
But before the plane took off, I took this opportunity of sitting across from a pilot for the next 45 minutes to ask a question that’s been bothering me for years:
Me: “Excuse me, Pilot?”
Me: “I’ve got a quick question.” Pointing out the window at a plane across the way. “Really? We’re cool with just three wheels to put this thing up and bring it back down? Trucks will have like 18!”
For those who have also ever wondered this, he explained it in a way that sounded like it made sense, so I’m cool with it now. I trust the guy.
Anyway, grumpy dude in the middle started chatting a bit with us about 20 minutes into the flight, but I thought I’d take this opportunity to snag just one more quote for my project.
So I interrupted and asked this 60-year-old, white-haired, balding man (just, your stereotypical airline pilot — straight out of something like, Catch Me If You Can). His response, “The people you meet are not by chance. Everything has reason and purpose.” Pointed to the three of us in the row and said, “Even this. This has a purpose.”
“Alright,” I thought. I can work with this. Wrote it down and figured there had to be someway to tie it into my sweet babushkas, “Enjoy every minute.”
Financial Aid Advisor – Chicago, IL
As the three of us continued chatting, the grumpy guy (looked to be in his late 20s) started telling us a little more about himself. This is when the pilot and I come to learn that he’s been connecting through flights flying home from South Florida and that his 24-year-old little sister had just died in a boating accident over 4th of July weekend.
I think that very basic human emotion of empathy derives from a very selfish place. I thought of losing my own 24-year-old little sister. How unfathomable something like that seems. How…that is something that happens to, “somebody else,” but now here was that “somebody else.”
Turns out they both lied down to take naps together. He woke up to go watch fireworks with his family and left her sleeping. When she woke up later, she decided to go out on the boat with her friends. He said if he had woken her up, she would have come with them instead. And I just…I don’t even want to imagine that feeling. He knows it’s not his fault, but how do you not go back to that moment and wish you’d done just one thing differently. He looked at me and told me if I needed another quote for my project it was, “To cherish every moment. Tell the ones you love them all the time.”
It was one of the most beautiful, and raw things…I just…you never know where stupid little projects are going to take you. So, if Craig happens to come across this, maybe he can smile knowing he happened to inspire at least one other person to take time away from their busy schedule and tell someone they loved them. So maybe we do live for every minute, tell people we love them, not be so proud, and who knows, maybe we will all come to find out that, “everything” does happens for a reason.
Filed under: Tips for Life