Most Fridays Jerry and I have breakfast in the Lapaz Public Market before I take him to morning class. We have a simple breakfast with native coffee. It’s our Friday treat.
So one morning a few weeks back — as we were walking out of the market — an assertive tricycle driver enthusiastically offered to drive us to the school. Now the fare in front of Lapaz market (riding a jeep) is only 15 pesos, but at that time of the morning the jeeps are usually full and it’s hard to get a ride. Tricycles cost a bit more.
So I reluctantly agreed. But not before explicitly telling him ‘the school is far Sir‘ and pointed to the emblem on Jerry’s polo shirt.
‘Doane Baptist School, Sir‘ I said firmly. ‘It’s far …’ this time pointing in the general direction of the river.
‘Ok lang Ma’am’ he replied ‘ok ah’
We walked across the road through the traffic, and when we got to the other side I couldn’t believe it — he didn’t own a tricycle at all, but a pedicab. Which is an old bike (with no gears) and a little rickshaw attached.
‘Are you sure’ I said one last time, ‘it is far.’
‘Ok Ma’am, ok Ma’am. Get inside.’ And with that rode us off in the direction of the city.
He was pedalling along enthusiastically, but when we got the bridge instead of turning to take us over the river and into the city, he just kept going straight ahead.
‘Sir,’ I called. ‘Doane Baptist . That’s the wrong way.’
Oh that poor man when he realised his error. ‘All the way?’ he shrieked. ‘All the way?’
‘Yes Sir,’ I said, ‘We need to go all the way to the Doane Baptist School.’
Now any other driver would have just thrown us out, left us on the side of the road, and ridden off — but not this guy. Clearly upset at his mistake he pushed up and down on those pedals, moaning the words ‘all the way’ as he tried to get us up an incline — and ride us over the river.
‘All the way!’ he repeated as the pedals refused to budge.
‘All the way!’ he gasped, getting off the bike and pushing us up the slope and onto the bridge
By this time the morning traffic was letting us know they weren’t happy about following us single file ‘all the way’ across a city bridge. They honked and blasted their engines. But our driver didn’t care. Not one bit.
‘All the way.’ he said with some relief, reaching a point where he could get back on the bike and pedal us the rest of our journey.
I stopped him about 100 metres from the school, (on a corner near traffic lights just where the traffic gets thick) and told him that would do. I handed him 65 pesos. He smiled.
I smiled back thinking ‘Oh, I bet he never does that again.’
But I was wrong.
Because just 2 weeks later, as we again walked out of Lapaz Public Market on a Friday morning, there he was our driver. Spotting Jerry in his school uniform he burst through the crowd calling happily ‘Ma’am, you will ride. Ma’am you will ride with me.’
I crinked my head, in a REALLY? kind of way and said ‘Sir? What? All the way?’
‘All the way ma’am,’ he said with some conviction. ‘All the way.’
With that he confidently stroke us across the road to his little pedicab, and loaded us inside. This time as we approached the river he turned that corner like an Avenger, pumping his legs so hard, and pedalling us up over that bridge with such enthusiastic force and infectious energy.
There were no cars shouting their horns at us today, and we waved to the traffic laughing along with our super hero driver.
Naturally I stopped him again on the corner about 100 metres from the school (at the traffic lights just where the traffic gets thick) and he grinned expectantly when I got out my wallet to pay him his 65 pesos.
‘Salamat Ma’am’ he shouted. And rode back over the bridge towards Lapaz.
It’s so great when you meet those rare souls who stand out for a lifetime, just for their willingness to live their lives ‘all the way’.