Over the past few weeks, I’ve gotten to the point where I wanted to just leave Facebook behind. I have a fairly light social media footprint when it comes to Instagram, Twitter and Pinterest. But I do hang out in the Facebook precincts on a fairly regular basis, so fairly regular that my boss has occasionally asked me how I’m enjoying retirement.
Sadly, there has been a lot of vitriol spewed on the pages of friends (and even strangers) who manage to show up in my newsfeed, and I really didn’t like the negativity. I would post something fairly innocuous about women, for example, and some wiseacre would make a crack about Sarah Palin. Or, I’d link to one of my columns on the Pope, and I’d have people questioning why I stayed in a church that “protected pedophiles.”
The last straw came when I commented about Ben Carson and how much I liked him as a human being, but would probably not vote for him as President. Some woman who we’ll call Gloria because that was, in fact, her name, said she could never vote for a racist.
It’s hard to actually block someone while you are hitting your IPhone, but I managed to do it.
The following night while lying on my bed and scratching my doggie’s tummy with one elbow, I posted an off-the-cuff commentary about an incident that had happened earlier that day. I thought it was a decent “slice of life” mini-essay, clicked “submit” and then went to bed.
When I woke up the next morning, it had been “liked” over a hundred times, along with dozens of comments like “thank you so much for posting this wonderful story” and “please don’t leave Facebook Christine, we love your humor and kindness.”
Clearly, this was not the comments section on the website of your local newspaper.
By the end of the week, the post had been shared over twenty times and “liked” close to three hundred times. I know that’s not a lot by George Takei standards, but for me, it was phenomenal.
It also showed me that people are searching for good things, for reasons to smile, for moments where politics are irrelevant and hating one president or another is simply the sign of a barren imagination and a wizened heart.
So here’s that posting, for those of you who are not my Facebook friends:
Tonight, instead of the bus, I treated myself to a cab ride home. My driver wore a turban, and a tired smile. “Where you need to go ma’am?” I said, “just a few miles down the road, not far from the Llanerch Diner.” I could have sworn his smile sunk even lower around the sides of his mouth. “OK, ma’am,” and he opened the door for me, almost chivalrously, and off we went.
“How are you tonight,” he said, in a heavily-accented voice. “I’m fine, just exhausted,” I sighed. He said, “You’ll be home soon. Just down road.”
I asked if he was from Punjab, and he sat up straighter and said, “yes, but I’m a U.S. citizen now.” Glad I hadn’t told him I was an immigration lawyer, I asked how long he’d been here, and he said, “since 1981.”
“Did you ever go back?” I asked. And he shook his head, sadly, and said, “I wanted to go back so many times at the beginning, but I just worked and worked and didn’t have time or money.” He paused. “Then, I got married, had sons, lots of bills. So no go back.”
And then he said, shoulders slightly slumped, “No family there now. Mother and father gone, brother in Dubai, sister dead. No reason to go back. Anyway, this home.”
We neared my street.
He asked if I had a family. I said I did, but that my mom had passed away last year. He said that when his mother died, he felt his heart go over the ocean, back to India. Those were his words. He said he wished he hadn’t worked so hard, so he could see her one more time.
And there I sat, eyes wet, wondering how in the hell I’d picked this sad cabbie. I’d been tired, yes, but until I walked into his cab, not suicidal.
And we pulled up to my front porch filled with pumpkins and witches and wreaths studded with Candy Corn, and he turned around and said, “Your mum teach you to make pretty home.”
And, not telling him that it was my sister who made this magical tableau, I thanked him and gave him a very, very big tip. And the tired cabbie kissed my hand.
We’re all fellow travelers. Sometimes tired, sometimes sad, sometimes grateful. The times when gratitude drops into our laps, without warning, are the best.
Flowers is an attorney and a columnist for the Philadelphia Daily News, and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org