05/04/2012 12:53 pm ET | Updated Jul 04, 2012

Someone Else's Money

My flight to Chicago was delayed 3 hours. "Could be worse," I calmly thought. "After all, I have a great book, really just want to get there safely and this delay is out of my control."

When we landed, the pilot announced that our plane couldn't pull into the gate immediately since many other planes were delayed and those other planes were now just deboarding. Again, I was very relaxed. I still had my book and the delay was still out of my control. Yes, it was nearly 1 in the morning Chicago time, but I had slept on the plane.

We waited about 20 minutes and then finally pulled into the gate. I grabbed my luggage and rushed to get a taxi. As I saw the line of over 400 people waiting for taxis and the slow trickle of taxis arriving, it struck me that it might take longer to get a taxi from the airport to the hotel than it took to fly from New York to Chicago.

I took my place at the end of the line. Five minutes passed and line moved slightly. Five more minutes passed and the line trudged forward. Everyone started grumbling about how long it was going to take to get a taxi. One of the taxi dispatchers walked down the line from the front to the back. When she reached me I heard her clearly ask everyone in line, "Anyone going downtown who's willing to share a ride?" I immediately stepped out of line. She marched me and the other two people who were willing to share a cab to the front of the line past the hundreds who had declined the offer.

The conversation on the ride was fascinating as the three passengers and driver tried to settle on a reason for why almost no one on line would share the ride.

"Maybe most people weren't going downtown? Sharing a ride wasn't possible for them." The driver quickly jumped in stating that he is certain that the majority of people on line, with their business suits and briefcases, were going downtown.

"Maybe they thought it would be faster to stand on that 400-person line?" Ok, we laughed at that one.

One of the other passengers stated, "Americans simply don't know how to share, never did, never will. As if they didn't notice that they just shared a plane ride with a hundred strangers."

The driver chimed in again: "You three sharing a ride is good for me. I earn more money for driving downtown. It's better for the environment. It's better for you three since you arrive at your hotel sooner and you spend much less money on a taxi.... but the people who wanted their own taxi are probably spending someone else's money so you don't care."

That last sentence resonated. Most of the people standing on line were traveling for business. Most were probably going to be reimbursed by their company or organization. Saving money may not have been a high priority for them since it wasn't their money they were spending.

For me, the deciding factor was time. There were delays in my trip that I couldn't control but I certainly could save time by sharing the taxi ride. Time in life is critically important. After all, your wealth can go up or your wealth can go down, but time in life only goes one direction.

I woke up this morning still wondering what was motivating the hundreds of people to prefer to stand on a taxi line at one in the morning rather than share a taxi. What do you think?