This morning I was walking through a different part of Iloilo City and wondering the best way to get home without hailing a cab, when I saw a group of tricycle drivers sitting in a back lane behind a supermarket.
I was soon convinced to pay 50 pesos by an enthusiastic driver with a great big smile (and absolutely no teeth), who ribbed his comrades about getting a good fare, then insisted we take his reliable shortcuts to avoid traffic.
Conrad (though he didn’t tell me his name until we’d arrived at our destination and I’d paid the fare) knew everyone.
In a crowd of bumper-to-bumper traffic (that he was expertly dodging) he knew girls on motorbikes, store owners, and trike riders. Everyone was greeted with great big smiles, and they responded with friendly banter. I was really enjoying myself.
After taking me through a maze of back streets (traffic traffic ma’am) he slowed down a bit as two kids in school uniform raised their arm expectantly. Without stopping the tricycle he handed over 20 pesos to the taller student then swung away suddenly in another direction.
“They’re my cousins‘ he explained. “They are very poor, but because I am a driver I have money to share with them.”
“When we share what we have God will bless us more.”
In that moment my critical cynical brain began invading my thoughts (I’m sure you know what I mean) and I’m ashamed to say all my internal prejudices bubbled up to the surface. I was super impressed at his generosity because (I remember thinking) he probably didn’t have very much money.
But Conrad was not even remotely tuned into my limiting beliefs.
“I drove a pedicab for 15 years, and last year I got my driver’s licence. I bought this tricycle and now I can go anywhere.”
“Did you buy the tricycle yourself?” I asked. “With the money you earned riding the bicycle rickshaw?”
“Oh yes,” he said earnestly. “I do not waste my money, I put it in the bank.”
Conrad kept chatting away with such exuberance, just hearing him talk made me happy. I smiled with such appreciation as I imagined him in lining up in the bank to deposit his money — and making everyone in the queue happy too.
“You have to save for things. Like if you need to get checked by the doctor, or go to the hospital. If you have no money they will not attend you.”
“Do you make more money now — on your tricycle?” I asked.
He burst out laughing.
“Of course, you can go very far with a motor.”
“And you don’t have to push the pedals anymore,” I laughed “It must be very relaxing not having to pedal everywhere.”
“Oh but you still need your exercise! You have to take care of your body. Now I’m not riding anymore I jog around my Barangay every morning at 4am while it’s still cool.”
Conrad told me where he lived, that his uncle in Manila had taught him to drive, how much he loved his tricycle, and how he walked people’s dogs in the afternoon to earn extra money (and also for the exercise).
When we arrived outside the supermarket where I was going, instead of dropping me off on the road he drove me right up to the entrance — and waited patiently as I fumbled through my wallet looking for 50 pesos. He didn’t pester me for a tip, he just politely introduced himself as Conrad and asked my name.
“Mel” he said, “Look for me on the road, I will be your driver again.”
And so for 50 pesos Conrad taught me everything I ever need to know about having a fulfilling life, being a nice person, and running a successful business:
- Be nice to people.
- Share what you have and give others a leg up when you can.
- Save at least 10% of what you earn.
- Don’t expect others (or the government) to take care of you.
- Love your body and get enough exercise.
- Don’t get lazy when your life gets easier.
- Diversify and create multiple income streams.
- Learn the names of your customers.
- Be memorable.
Conrad is everywhere. He could be your taxi driver, waiter, or the person next to you in the queue. And he’s wiser than all of us.
We make value judgements everyday about people based on what they wear, what they drive, and how they look — and we don’t every realise it. I thought I was someone who believed in the possibility of everyone, but Conrad made me realise I don’t. Not yet anyway.
But I’m working on it.
[note: a pedicab is a side-car attached to a bicycle (top photo), whereas a tricycle is a side-car attached to a motorbike (bottom photo)].