, ,

Last Saturday night, before I did the really dumb thing at 3am, I did the pretty cool thing at 1am.

So, everyone’s heard of the magnanimous cab driver story. Well, sometimes, I love my job for the little things it allows me to do feel at least one iota as magnanimous. Ok, maybe love is a little strong.

Anyways, after dinner, I hopped into a cab and saw the back screen still stuck on the previous meter. A couple furious taps and furtive glances at the driver and still no change. Potential for a free ride? Then the driver says in a (surprise!) non-Middle Eastern accent: “don’t worry about it…if it doesn’t work, it doesn’t work.” Double surprise! “If it’s not meant to be, well it’s not meant to be. You’ll get a free ride.” Slightly creeped out tbh.

I weakly protest until I realize that the guy is an 60-year-old Asian man. “Look, I’ve been here since ’62…and not a single day has passed when I thought I belonged at home here. If we Asians didn’t take care of each other, those guys certainly wont.” And then, “Cheng” proceeded to tell me his life story.

Fifteen minutes, two passed red lights, and three honks later, I sat at the entrance to the bar in silence as I thought about the greatest series of life events that I’ve ever heard from a cab driver this side of the Pacific. I only had one question, but I was too scared of the answer to ask: is it enough? It is enough at age 70 to be just driving a cab…after all he’s been through, after all the dreams and hopes he’s had over the last 50 years?

In season 4 episode 9 of One Tree Hill, Nathan asks Haley if his life at that moment is enough. If “this was the best it ever got” for him, would it be enough for the rest of his life?

I come from a slightly different background than a lot of my peers at work – I studied finance and knew pretty much exactly what I was getting myself into. I had no illusions of actually learning or building my career at this firm. For me, banking was a stepping stone to bigger and better things. It was never going to be enough. In fact, why I picked banking over easier jobs was because I couldn’t let myself settle for a 9-5 (and also because I failed my case interviews). And when I had the option to go for a cozier bank, I kept looking until I got what wanted. Even though recruiting was a struggle for me, mediocrity was not an option. That’s why it’s so hard to say good bye.

So when I look around and think about why I feel so antsy these days (other than the huge bandage on my neck), I think it’s because I’m so scared of stagnating. At age 24-25, if you’re not moving up, you’re sliding down. There are hundreds of people who would kill for my job in this economy (I get calls and emails from prospectives every day), but for me I can’t wait to move onto something better.

And yet, as the wise cab driver’s story showed me, maybe it’s enough to just have a loving family and a steady paycheck. Maybe you don’t need to reach the top and sacrifice what I’ve sacrificed in this job already.

But then, without this job, I might not be able to expense a $10 tip on a $5 cab ride…