You spend a lot of time apologizing to cab drivers when you have a small child: "Sorry about the screaming," "Sorry about the cracker crumbs," "Sorry about the flying rattle," "Sorry about the..."
"Cacchetta?" this one asked cheerily soon after I had bundled my child and her scooter out of the rain into his Fiat Multipla. Mortified, I sniffed the back pockets of her dusty jeans, and had unequivocal confirmation of the nuclear disaster.
As I was about to launch into an apology, I caught his smiling eyes in the rearview mirror. "Don't worry, I have a toddler too. Look, isn't she sweet?" Taking the photos he handed me of his very pretty two year old, I asked the usual: "What's her name?," "What are her favourite expressions?" and so on.
He was surprisingly willing to chat -- about his wife's reluctance to have a second child ("She's not sure she has the energy for so many children." Is two so many?), about the high costs of childcare ("If I were an immigrant it would be free, but since I make an honest living, it costs me a fortune." Hm) or about how much he loves horsing around in bed with his little princess.
Towards the end of the ride, however, I was taken aback when he declared that he must remember to buy a present for his daughter before heading home. "No, it's not her birthday," he said, "But she expects me to bring her something every day after work. If I come home empty-handed she cries."
Wait a moment. Was he serious? "If not a little toy, then at least a chocolate egg or a sweet, otherwise she is so sad..." I could tell he knew that he had got himself into a terrible tangle, but he didn't see how he could avoid her tears now.
All I did was ask whether he had considered coming home with nothing and having her look forward to him, her Daddy, rather than his gifts. Immediately he began nodding sheepishly and said he was adamant that was exactly what he would do from now on. Even if it meant suffering through her tears at first.
The Taxi Daddy had come to realize on his own, what we so often forget:
Kids need people. Not things.