Mingwei Gu

writings on business, meditation, technology, markets, sci-fi, organizations

26 Sep 2020

All About Dignity

All he cared about was his dignity. Even at the cost of his soul.

Jim’s daughters had said that about him many years ago. It had hurt to hear, but he had nothing to say in return.

He was thinking about that conversation as he stood on the curb next to his taxicab. His shift was almost done, and he was taking a much needed break.

A man in his fifties, Jim was dressed in pressed tan khakis and a green zipped pullover. He sported a bowler cap to cover his balding head.

He held out his cigarette over the grassy patch and tapped it. And he pulled it back to his mouth to take a long puff. It was four in the morning and he felt the chilly quiet in the air. He looked down the side street, lined on either side with three to four story apartment buildings. He smelled the bread baking in a nearby bakery. Maybe one or two airport fares and he’d be done.

He leaned on the side of his cab. Jim admired his handiwork: the fresh coat of wax. He was proud. It took the better part of an hour last weekend and he liked how it looked. The taxicab was his livelihood. It meant everything to him.

But it also pained him to remember that his car had nearly been totaled last year. He had just dropped off a customer when a pair of hooded men approached and pointed guns at him. They pulled him out of the driver seat and drove off with his cab.

How dare they take his cab! Don’t they know this car was his living? They might as well take his home! He was angry thinking about it.

He later found out the men had robbed a bank. They had crashed his cab into a tree and run off in the woods. When Jim went to the impound to pick up the cab, it was riddled with bullet holes and had dried blood stains in the backseats.

And the police and DA hadn’t been much help either. They’d told him all criminal charges had been dropped against the robbers in a plea bargain. And they wouldn’t even tell him their names to file a civil suit. He wouldn’t get the justice he deserved.

He had decided to never let this happen to him again. He was a working man and deserved respect. Nobody would ever threaten his livelihood. Never again would they treat him like a nobody.

Jim had asked his cousin restore his cab and to install an anti-theft system. Sure if he triggered the system, the engine would shut off and it’d send the coordinates to his phone. That much was standard.

But what he loved most about the anti-theft system was the upgrade, which was, strictly speaking, not legal. The upgraded system would also emit a high pitched noise not unlike the bang in a flashbang. The manual said the highest setting would cause slight bleeding in the ears. Jim had asked for the highest setting.

He felt the remote in his pocket and gently ran his fingers over the buttons. Never again. It would serve them right to have their ears bleed.

He dropped the cigarette and twisted it with his foot, when he heard a screeching noise from the left. Jim turned his head and saw a black car squeezing out of the alleyway. He didn’t think a full size could fit through there. It took a right turn and sped down the main street, narrowly missing his cab.

He heard running footsteps coming from the alleyway. By the time he looked up, a man in full evening wear ran up to him. And said in a British accent, “Apologies. Interpol. I need your vehicle”

Before Jim had a chance to respond, the well-dressed man pushed him aside. Jim fell backwards and nearly knocked his head on the ground.

The well-dressed man got into Jim’s cab, and sped off in the same direction as the other car. He heard the sound of gunfire ricocheting off metal.

“Damn him,” Jim cursed.

He stood up again, dusted off his pants.

He rummaged in his pockets and pulled out the anti-theft remote. He stared down the road, motioned his thumb over the trigger.

Never again. And he pressed down.