A Tale from My Christmas Past

One year in college, I was stuck at school until Dec. 23 because of finals that must have been scheduled by Scrooge or the Grinch. Christmas was around the corner but I wasn’t feeling it. I was trying to cram a whole semester’s worth of astrophysics into my aching brain.

The dorms had cleared out and my roommate Lennie and I were the only ones left in our building. On Dec. 22, after many hours of studying, Lennie and I decided to take a break and finally do some Christmas shopping. We splurged on a cab to take us into town. We couldn’t really afford it but it was too cold to stand outside and wait for the bus.

When the taxi arrived, we were surprised to see the driver was a boy about our age. His name was Bobby. On the way to the mall, we learned it was his birthday but he was working a double shift to earn extra money for a Christmas present for his mom. He’d been on the clock since six o’clock that morning and it was about seven p.m. when he picked us up. Lennie and I said he should do something to celebrate his birthday but he insisted he’d prefer to do something for Mom.

We told Bobby to wait when we got to the mall then ran inside to See’s Candies and bought two boxes for him and his mother. We ran outside and gave him the candy with our cab fare. “Happy birthday,” we said. “And merry Christmas to your mom.”

Bobby stared at the boxes for a long moment, then turned off his meter. “I’m not charging you for the ride.”

“What?! You’re working late to earn money, not give out free rides!” Lennie said.

“The candy didn’t cost that much!” I said.

He refused our payment a second time, then said he’d wait to take us home.

“Stop being ridiculous. If you won’t take our money, then go pick up someone else you will accept it from. And we might take awhile.” Lennie and I thanked him, made sure he drove off, then went inside.

Two hours later, shopped out and ready to leave, we called for a cab and—surprise—Bobby pulled up.

“We’re not getting in if you won’t take our money!” I said.

“And I’ll just tell my dispatcher not to send anyone else if you call for another cab because I’m already here!” Bobby retorted. It was dark, snow was starting to fall, we got in.

Once we were settled, he turned around and offered his box of See’s.

“We can’t eat that. It’s your present!” Lennie said.

“Which means I can do whatever I want with it and I want to give you some,” Bobby said. Man, he’d be good in my Debate and Argumentation class, I thought. Bobby kept insisting; Lennie gave in and took a piece of chocolate. I might’ve taken two—only to make him happy, of course.

Bobby started driving us home, his meter dark and silent.

“Turn it on!” Lennie said.

“Think of your mama!” I added.

“It’s all right. I finally made what I needed tonight. I’m off after this.”

So he drove, taking the long way home, making detours through neighborhoods so we could look at Christmas lights. We ate candy, talked, he said his mother was the most amazing woman in the world, raising him as a single parent since he was a toddler. He hoped to someday go to college and start his own business, maybe buy Mom a nicer car.

When he finally dropped us off, Bobby said, “This birthday was happier than I could’ve imagined. Thank you.” I didn’t know how to respond, overwhelmed by a feeling I hadn’t had a few hours earlier.

Luckily, eloquent Lennie stepped in. “Thanks for giving us a gift, too, Bobby. And your mom already has the best one.”

He gave us a business card and said to call him if we ever needed a cab again. We never did, but I still have his card, yellowed and frayed at the edges, the printing faded but the memory still clear after twenty-three years.

25 responses to “A Tale from My Christmas Past

  1. What a beautiful experience,PCN ~ filled with kindness and generosity of spirit from all of you, not just Bobby. I’m guessing he remembers that night fondly too. Thank you for sharing this.

    • I tend to remember people more than they remember me. One time I saw a guy I hadn’t seen since 5th grade (he looked exactly the same). I was so excited I ran up to him and started talking, assuming he’d remember me. He didn’t. In fact, he looked scared and backed away from me slowly.

      • Merry Christmas to you and yours, dear PCN! Thank you so much for not only being my source of intelligent commentry, interviews and reviews on all things pop culture, but also for your fun, smarts and friendship. I hope you have some time for R&R as well.

  2. Wouldn’t it be really, really cool if Bobby read this post? I love this story…the essence of what Christmas is all about.

    This year I’ve been reminded repeatedly that I have many friends who embody that essence every day of the year. I have a feeling Bobby does as well.

    I’m going to try to emulate them more in 2010!

    Happy Holidays PCN!

    • It’d be really cool if he not only read this, he writes me to say he accomplished all he wanted to do and his mom is sitting pretty in a nice house somewhere.

      Oh, and you don’t need to emulate anybody. Your overly generous spirit is perfect the way it is.

      Merry greetings for festivus holidays, too!

  3. That was beautiful. Birthday, Christmas, two chicks in a cab…..what a sec, I saw this movie….LOL!!

    Happy Holidays, PCN!!

  4. Great, great memory, Elyse. Thanks very much for sharing it with us.

  5. Wow! ~SNIFF~ That was so ~SNIFF~ touching! If I wasn’t in a public place right now, I might tear up….what a wonderful story! It just goes to show that even in the worst of times or less than ideal situations, SOMETHING good can come of it. He was trying to do something nice for Mom, and ended up spending some of his birthday with new friends. You guys were trying to do something nice with the gifts, and ended up making someone’s day plus free cab fare! Thanks for sharing and have very happy holiday!

    • Wow, thanks, GMR. I think that experience was pure serendipity, with the three of us brought together to receive exactly what we needed that night.

      Enjoy your holiday celebrations!

  6. Thanks for sharing your heartwarming Christmas tale. I have a soft spot for taxi drivers (my true crime memoir surrounds the murder of a taxi driver, just before Thanksgiving 1955). Sounds like Bobby’s mom did a good job raising him. I’m sure he succeeded in whatever endeavors he pursued.
    Happy holidays!

    • Welcome, Kathleen! Your true crime memoir sounds intriguing. Did someone solve the case? Please let me know when it comes out.

      Happy holidays to you, too!

      • The case has intrigued me since I was a child, when my armchair detective grandmother told me about it. I grew up to become a cop and work in the area where the victim lived and worked. This just scratches the surface of fate that led me to review this case. I have my theory, which I explain in the book, but I leave it up to the reader to decide. It’s a bombshell! You’re so kind to ask — I will let you know when it comes out, as soon as I get an agent to represent me, and find a publisher! I’m almost done with the ms; I’m currently restructuring the material.
        Thanks so much!

  7. What a nice experience, PCN! That’s the Christmas spirit… Thank you very much for sharing this 😀

  8. OMG…you have got to write a sad-ass Christmas song about this night immediately. What a beautiful story!!

    Of course now I’m totally craving See’s Candies. But, seriously, if you don’t write this song, I will…this thing could be bigger than “The Christmas Shoes”! 🙂

    • Haha! I have no songwriting abilities so you should write it! And if it does become bigger than “Christmas Shoes,” just send me half the royalties and a year’s supply of See’s Candies.

  9. Man, what a touching
    Extraordinary story, thanks for sharing! It’s so
    Rare to see people giving without waiting for anything in
    Return, as kind and generous as the three of
    You! I love how these simple acts of pure kindness can

    Create magic encounters and links. I’ve sometimes been
    Had when acting this way, but I guess that is the
    Risk of it… Yet
    I still
    Strongly believe
    That giving is a blessing! This reminds
    Me of beautiful lyrics written by talented
    Alanis Morissette. The
    Song is called “You owe me nothing in return”.

    “You owe me nothing for giving the love that I give,
    You owe me nothing for caring the way that I have,
    I give you thanks for receiving, it’s my privilege,
    And you owe me nothing in return.”

    I wish you a wonderful Christmas, PCN!
    🙂 😉 🙂

    • Pop Culture Nerd

      Merci, Julien! Hope you had a joyeux Noel. You are much too kind. I like Alanis but don’t know that song so thank you for sharing it.

      • Hope you noticed the “Merry Christmas” written vertically with the first letter of each line (that explains the strange layout of my comment)!)! And if you didn’t, at least now you do! 😉
        Thanks for your kind words, Elyse.

    • D’oh! A BIG slap on my forehead is called for, Julien. I didn’t catch that, thought you wrote a lovely poem. That makes your comment not only generous but extra clever. Thank you.

  10. Christine McCann

    What a wonderful memory! Thanks so much for sharing it. You should write that down and keep it with the card for safekeeping.

    Happy New Year!

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