When you drive a cab in a city, it does not take long to realize that people live in motels. They are security guards, factory workers, cabbies, bartenders and waitresses. They live there because they need to live somewhere. When you have no credit and not enough money in a bank account for a security deposit and first month's rent, it is sometimes the only viable option short of a homeless shelter. The manager does not care about your credit score. He just wants a photo ID and the weekly rate paid upfront.
The problem is, once you get in the cycle, you cannot get out. For what amounts to a studio apartment (at best), you are paying what many pay for a nice one bedroom apartment. Add to that the cost of all the eating out since most do not have a kitchen and you are now paying what some pay for a two bedroom apartment or even a mortgage on a modest house. The expense makes it difficult to save money. Nearly impossible for some. They live in a constant state of survival for a variety of reasons. Some are single, some are couples, some have kids and some have beloved pets.
Cabbies take them to work, laundromats, grocery stores and even the occasional night out. We talk to them about life and how things are going. Some get under your skin and you really hope that the reason you don't see them anymore is because they got a lease and a real address.
There was a waitress like that in the back of my cab a few times. She was young, shy and ever so hopeful. She lived in a motel. She loved her job, she loved her co workers. She loved all the free coffee and the fact the manager would let her take home food. When she spoke, her voice always danced if such a thing is possible. There was nothing but positive energy despite harsh living circumstances. There were dreams and passions and energy and love for everyone.
I finally asked one night. How did you end up living in a motel?
She spoke of the controlling and abusive husband. She spoke of the beatings and the verbal abuse. She spoke of the manipulations that affected her self worth and diminished her dreams and vibrancy. She spoke of the desperate escape to a women's shelter in our city that has helped many victims of domestic violence and rape. They took her in and they restored her self worth. They helped a woman who has been isolated from her family for years and afraid of everything risk it all to fight for freedom and a new beginning.
That would be the last conversation we would have. I learned through the grapevine that this waitress does not live in the motel anymore. She lives with him again. He sometimes comes to her place of work and will grab her cell phone, look through it and say horrible things to her. The light that reignited in her is dimming fast.
There is hope, though. This young woman works at the pancake house that Saint Noble frequents. Saint Noble is her friend and talks to her while she goes there to dine, draw, read and pay retail for community. She shares her age and her wisdom and her unconditional love as kindling to keep the dying embers of hope alive in the young waitress.
The people that ride in the back of cabs late at night seem to know each other.