“He’s twenty years old. I try to take him outside whenever I can so that he can have some new experiences before, you know…”
This man was driving me across Tehran yesterday, when I learned that he’d lived for 8 years in America— incidentally on the same STREET as me in Georgia.
He first crossed into the United States from Mexico— paying $1,500 to be transported across the border. He wanted to go to University and be a dentist, but learned that the idea of America was much more bountiful than the reality. He worked at a factory job for 8 years, without ever being able to get a drivers license. He wasn’t able to find a foothold in society. After 9/11, he said things got much tougher for Middle Eastern immigrants. “I had a great passion for the American people,” he said. “When 9/11 happened, I had no money, so instead I gave my blood.”
Five years ago he spent a night in jail for driving without a license. He decided he was tired of being nervous all the time, and he went all out for a green card. When he was turned down, he returned to Iran.
His fee for a 45 minute taxi ride across Tehran was only $6. I paid him the rate he’d have received in America, and asked for his photograph. He was the kind of man I most admire. The kind that realizes you get one shot at life, and risks everything to make the best of it. I was sorry it didn’t work out for him.
“It was my destiny,” he said. He didn’t sound like he believed his own words though.
“Are you married?” I asked.
“Yes. I met my wife when I returned to Iran.”
“Well there you go,” I said.
As I prepared to take his photograph, he made one request: “Don’t photograph me with the taxi,” he said, “it’s a low class job.”
“It’s not a low class job,” I said. “It’s the job of people who take huge risks so their children can be lawyers and surgeons.”
Mahmoud was my driver during my time in Shiraz. Perhaps the most colorful man I’ve ever met. He speaks English in simple phrases, which always involve his name, such as “Mahmoud happy” or “Mahmoud love.” Often he just says “Mahmoud,” then points at me, and places his hands over his heart.
He is the most hospitable man I’ve ever met. If I needed to cross the street, Mahmoud became a crossing guard. He would not let me open my own car door, or my own bottle of water. At one time or another, it seemed that he offered to give me everything he owned. I once made the mistake of accepting his offer of cologne, then got sprayed eight times.
My fondest memory of Mahmoud was yesterday when we laid down to rest in a garden. Mahmoud had carefully prepared two beds using mats and blankets. I couldn’t fall asleep, so I decided to let Mahmoud rest, and went for a short walk by the river. When I looked back, Mahmoud had woken up, folded up both the beds, and was running to accompany me.
Meet Mohsin Shezad. I left my iPhone in the backseat of Mohsin’s cab on Thursday. When he discovered it, he drove back to where he’d dropped me off, and spent several minutes looking for me. When I finally called an hour later, he was all the way across town, but drove 30 minutes to meet me. Then he tried his damnedest to refuse a reward, saying: “Please sir, your fare was enough. Please sir, no.”
This man has a wonderful and humble soul.
Today I ran 6.1 miles in about 50 minutes. It’s the longest uninterrupted run I’ve ever done. I’ve run longer stuff than this but it’s usually perforated by water breaks or small walking intervals or something. But today I just ran and ran and ran. It’s not too far but it’s a start!
The best part was the end. In the beginning I had to remind myself to not run too fast or I wouldn’t be able to finish. But when I was coming back up Antelope Hills I told myself it was just one more hill and I was home so I started picking up speed. Then after cresting the hill I just started kicking and getting faster and faster until I sprinted up the hill up the court to my home. It felt good.
“I’ve got terminal cancer. They wanted to do surgery but I don’t have much time and that would put me in a wheelchair. Yesterday, I helped a kid learn to ride a bike. That’s something, right? That’s a slice of life. Couldn’t do that in a wheelchair.”