An inspiring act of kindness in Chicago

Every so often, we have  an experience that reaffirms our belief in the goodness of people. This morning, it was my turn.

I have spent the last several weeks running to six conferences, presenting five papers and delivering one keynote speech in three different time zones! It has been quite the month and I am quite tired. So this morning, as I was cabbing it from the Dana Hotel on N. State St. in Chicago to the Sheraton Towers Hotel, where IABC 2012 World Conference is being held, I did a very silly thing.

This morning, I was rushing to get to the Sheraton Towers to be in time to hear Robert F. Kennedy speak about the importance of good communication. As I leapt out of the cab, I realized that I had forgotten my conference tag in my hotel room, without which I wouldn’t be admitted to any sessions, for security reasons that I appreciate, of course. I took a short cab ride back to the Dana Hotel and again, leapt out to rush to my room and grab the tag. I thought I would say a word to my colleague, who was leaving to return to Canada, so I reached into my pocket to grab my cellphone. No phone. Oh oh.

Getting a little worried, I dumped all the contents of my bag onto the bed and emptied all of my suit pockets. No phone. My anxiety mounted. As most of you probably have experienced, our cellphones have become our lives. Like little turtles, we carry our digital homes with us everywhere and disappear into them regularly – in queues, in the loo, on public transport and as we walk into street signs which rudely spring up in front of us as we text and walk. Cellphones are central to our lives. Mine has my life in it. I was really worried.

So I started calling around to get in touch with the cab companies to try and track down my driver. After about 10 minutes of fruitless searching, I receive an email from my former thesis student, current colleague and lifelong friend Melonie Fullick which read:

“Are you looking… for your phone? Someone just called to tell me you left it in a cab in Chicago. I honestly thought you were playing a joke on me–Here’s his number:”

Needless to say, I quickly called the number and heard the reassuringly familiar voice of the cabbie who had taken me to the Sheraton.

“I think you left your phone in my cab, sir,” he said in a heavy hispanic accent.

“Could you come by the Dana and bring it over? Then take me to the Sheraton?” I asked.

“Of course. See you in ten minutes,” he replied.

Like clockwork, ten minutes later, there he was in his checker cab, and we were skimming through the streets of Chicago toward my destination. When I got out, I gave hime a $50 tip because he had literally saved me a priceless amount of consternation and anxiety. He took it awkwardly, commenting that I was being overly generous.

As I settled into my chair, a few minutes late for the Kennedy speech, I thought about how the world of digital communication facilitated this little everyday life drama. The cabbie found my phone on the seat and called the first number on the speed dial – that of my friend Melonie. She’s in Hamilton, Ontario. She then sent me an email in Chicago and gave me the cabbie’s coordinates. I called him and was relieved to be reunited with my phone.

All in a space of twenty minutes. Isn’t technology amazing?

And isn’t honesty inspiring? I think it is.

Heartfelt thanks to David the cabbie for being an honest fellow.


PS. A word about IABC 2012. This has been a great conference. What a pleasure to connect and reconnect with professional communicators from across the world. On Sunday night, I went to the Canada Party, which was an amazing night. Last night, my colleague Terry Flynn and I “crashed” (well, ok, we were actually invited) the European/Asian/African IABC Party and had some lovely conversations about how professional communication is changing in those regions. 


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  1. Very nice story, Alex. I’m glad that you had a good experience with the Chicago cabbie.

    One note: If the CABBIE says you overtipped, then you probably did! 🙂

    Thanks for the kind words about Chicago and the IABC World Conference. We are thrilled to welcome you and our fellow colleagues from across the world.

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