It was past midnight on a moonlit, humid summer night in Portland, OR. Working through college I was driving Broadway Cab a few nights a week. It had been really slow which was common on the warm summer nights. If it rained then we were really busy.
I had the cab parked a half block off of Powell in a block long restaurant parking lot. I had pointed the taxi towards Powell and had my front windows down a few inches and was finishing a greeting card for my wife. The dispatcher was silent and the night air was starting to disperse the humidity. Like the song, The Sound of Silence I could have fallen asleep it was so quiet. Then I heard it.
I rolled my window all the way down to better hear it. There it was again someone was screaming over on Powell. Then a louder scream and I realized I had to check it out. Leaving all the cab lights off I rocketed across the parking lot towards the noise. At the last minute I pulled all my lights on and was barely 6 feet away from a large 4-door station wagon. And there was the screamer … the back door was open with a man dragging a young woman into the car by her hair. Right before my eyes the deed was done. They had the woman in the car and then the car shot up Powell.
I had just witnessed some type of kidnapping and was frantic to do something. I knew if I didn’t follow them this woman would likely not survive the night. My conscience shouted do your best.
So I yanked my steering wheel and sped up to catch the car before it was out of sight. Up Powell we sped and I had the cab phone in hand and called the code for needing immediate police assistance. The dispatcher switched me to a different channel and wanted to know what was going on. I told him and said, “Tell the police I’ll keep following this Station Wagon so all the police need to do is catch up to me then go on past me and pull their car over.”
I suspect I had only gone about 10 or 12 blocks and then the police car was right behind me. I gestured to the car in front of me and the officer responded in just a couple of seconds and whipped around me and pulled the car to the curb.
My last memory was seeing the two men in handcuffs and, once she was freed, the young girl running up the street... still shaking and screaming.
A week or so later a fellow cab driver was executed by a shot in the back of the head. Then the murderer fled the scene. Fortunately a bystander was able to provide a good description and the police gave out an artist’s sketch. They also said it likely was a gang initiation hit.
A few days later I dropped off a fare near Lloyd Center when the dispatcher gave me an apartment address nearby. When I got there a tall thin young man came towards the cab. Whenever my fare was a young male I always preferred they sit in the front seat where I could keep my eyes on them... trying to prevent any criminal action. I jumped out and opened the passenger front door. But he had other plans.
He slammed the door shut and shuffled around, hands in his pockets, and opened the back door right behind my seat. Instantly warning bells sounded in my mind. He’s up to no good, be careful Larry.
I asked for the address he wanted me to take him. He snapped, “Just drive.” Red-flag warning I’m thinking. “Sorry, I’ve got to have an address or we don’t go anywhere.” He muttered an address and I pictured it in my mind. It was a vacant lot on Union Ave. Another red-flag warning. I drove towards it rocketing all my senses to full alert. I prayed to the Lord to please protect me and direct me out of this danger. I was scrambling to think of any way out of this. All my life I’ve trusted that when our prayer reaches His throne He gauges the urgency and provides the absolute best solution... and rapidly so:
“For My thoughts are not your thoughts,
Nor are your ways My ways,” declares the Lord.
“For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
So are My ways higher than your ways
And My thoughts than your thoughts.”
(Isaiah 55:8-9, NASB)
As I drove north on Union I saw a traffic signal ahead. It was red. So as I slowed to stop ~ I saw it. The first car across the intersection waiting to go south towards us was a police car with two officers inside. The Holy Spirit directed my action. I whipped my Taxi sideways in the middle of the intersection ~ which blocked the Police car and I jammed my transmission into Park, jumped out and threw the back door open and ordered the man out of the cab. And as he did the police officers took over from there and he got to ride in their vehicle.
Sometimes unique and special occurrences happened back in those Taxi days. Here’s one. It had snowed in Portland and quite a bit of the northern Willamette Valley. Taxi Drivers worked long, long hours as desperate people rang our company’s phone off the hook. It was not uncommon for riders to have to wait several hours to get a ride.
I was exhausted and started towards home and decided maybe I should first drive through the Portland Airport and see if there was a straggler who was praying for a ride. As soon as they saw me the older couple waved wildly. I pulled over and got out to help with their luggage. I asked them where they needed to go. But they didn’t speak any English. None.
The man pulled a piece of paper out of his pocket and gestured. It was obvious he wanted me to drive them to whatever was on this paper. It was an address. But not just an address. It was 70 miles away on a rural route out of Stayton, Oregon. For several moments I tried to gesture to them it was far away and would cost quite a bit. They got in the cab and gestured to get moving.
As we headed south on I-5 we went mile after mile with them talking to each other and pointing at traffic coming northbound and they’d sometimes swivel their necks like maybe they recognized a car or truck. I began to wonder if they were going to a relative’s house outside of Stayton and had expected to be picked up by them at the Airport. But because of the snow their relative hadn’t made it and so they had to take a Taxi instead. But, try as I could, I never recognized a single word. Well that’s not true. An 18-wheeler coming north on I-5 was full of something green. They shouted, “Christmas Trees.” That still makes me chuckle.
Rather than bore you with an hour-long taxi ride let me share what happened when we got east of Salem and headed into the country roads north of Stayton. It was around midnight, the roads were free of snow but a fog was drifting in and out, and boy-o-boy was it dark. I looked at that paper again and realized it will be nearly impossible to find a rural route address as the numbers on the boxes were just not visible. So I pulled to the side of the road. It was time to ask for help. So I bowed my head and asked my Heavenly Father for guidance. In less than a couple of minutes a County Sheriff came around the bend. He immediately pulled alongside and asked if I needed help. Talk about answered prayer!
Over the next 30 minutes the Sheriff led us to the address. When we got there he said, “Oh, I know these folks they run a great Chinese Restaurant in Stayton. But their car isn’t here. I don’t think they’re home, but I’ll go check.” So he put his flashers on and knocked on the door. No one came to the door.
He said, “You know I think we should take your passengers into Stayton. There’s a hotel there and they can stay there. That’ll free you up so you can head back to Portland."
When we got to the Hotel my passengers really didn’t like what was happening. But the Sheriff was a prince of a man and, without being able to converse with them, convinced them that he would keep driving by the home and once their relatives were home he’d get them to come and pick them up.
In these COVID-19 days there is an awful amount of sickness, death, loneliness and miserable grief. In full empathy for each of you I decided to share a story that might let you smile and even feel cheered for a few moments.
The king of Gloomsville was especially grouchy, moody and depressed today. He had many court jesters whose lot it was in life to cheer the king. And of course each of the jesters had varying degrees of success to their credit. One however, was very, very good. The king nearly always roared in laughter at his words and antics.
But on this particularly gloomy day in Gloomsville the king was very depressed, moody, grouchy and ill tempered. In a sudden utterance he summoned all of his Court Jesters…except his favorite one. He moaned, “I am so downcast, moody and depressed. I order you to make me laugh or I'll have you put to death." Try as they might…the King not only failed to laugh…he didn’t even crack a smile. Horrors. He had all the Court Jesters put to death. All except for his favorite jester.
The King summoned his favorite Jester and gave him the same charge. Make me laugh or you die. Having never seen the king this depressed before the Jester gave it all that he had, going far beyond what it normally required to get the king to laugh. But, this time nothing worked. The King then spoke the fateful words, which seemed to make him even more despondent: “Then you must also die. But, because you’ve been my favorite and best jester I will allow you to select your manner of death. Take just a moment and tell me how you want to die.”
The Jester pondered just a moment, “Your majesty… I select… as my cause of death… old age!” And the King laughed.
Have you and/or your children ever heard the Laughing Song by the late George Younce? Click on this link and enjoy... be sure to let your children listen to.
Perhaps you find it hard to chuckle, let alone laugh. Sad reports of many people giving up during this pandemic.
But there is something to turn it all around.