“I’m really not a cab driver,” he confessed, as he negotiated a sharp left on what felt like two of the cab’s four wheels.
“You can’t imagine how surprised I am to hear that,” I said drily, clutching the armrest for dear life. “So what is it you really do?”
I’d stepped off the train into a rare-ish sunny Seattle day. I’ve always been in love with the sound and movement of trains, and since the Portland-to-Seattle run takes about the same time for half the price of flying (and delivers a much more relaxed passenger), I’d quickly opted for Amtrak when my clients gave me the choice.
Three and a half hours of drowsily gorgeous scenery later, I was in Mohan’s cab in downtown Seattle, wondering if I’d survive to make the trip back home.
But Mohan smiled as if popping a wheelie in a Ford was a regular thing. “I am not a cab driver, I’m an IT engineer,” he said proudly, “Very highly skilled, with a four-year degree in network engineering. I have my Cisco certification and everything.”
The cab screamed to a stop at an intersection, and he looked at me in the rear view mirror. “I ran a very large company’s networks in downtown Seattle,” he said, “They were very large indeed, a lot of responsibility. A lot of stress.”
His cab was spotless. The leather seats gleamed with polish and his dashboard was arrayed with more wireless gadgets–multiple GPS receivers, an iPhone, cellular modem for his laptop, meter–than I’d ever seen in a cab. And he was the first tie-wearing cab driver that I’d seen in a very long time.
“One must maintain a certain standard, even so,” he’d said stiffly, when I’d mentioned it.
“The economy, you know. I’m sure you’ve heard this sad story many, many times,” he sighed, “They said I was the best, I got performance bonuses all the time, but the company lost too much money. They outsourced network operations to cut costs and I was made redundant.”
We started up with a jerk–I grabbed the armrest again–and he said, bitterly, “They outsourced me. Me!”
“I went back to India. I thought, they are outsourcing my jobs to India, I might as well go back there and do my same job. I was there for awhile, but I got homesick. My friends, my apartment, my girlfriend, all of that is in Seattle. There was nothing for me in India. And they don’t use so much Windows, which is my specialty.”
“And,” he added, sighing, “Really, there is some recession there, too. Things are not much better in India.” So he came home.
“It’s more than two years now that I haven’t been able to find a job, and one must do something, you know. So I decided to drive this cab.”
While he zoomed along we talked of networks and layoffs and lovely spring days. “One thing I can say,” he said, “IT jobs pay a lot of money and they are very exciting, but they are also very stressful. Very, very stressful. I am surprised at how much calmer and happier I am driving this cab.”
We screeched into the hotel portico, and as I got out I wondered if his passengers were calmer and happier…but that was perhaps uncharitable. “So, you’re happier driving a cab? Does that mean you won’t go back to network engineering?”
He handed my suitcase out of the trunk, snapped his heels together, bowed and shook my hand. “Happiness,” he said solemnly, “isn’t everything.”