Thursday, December 24, 2009
There is a Santa (and he drives a yellow cab)
A few weeks ago, we had a benefit wine tasting for CST (I'm pretty sure you heard about it...). Afterward, we caught a cab back to Brooklyn. Since there were four of us, I sat up front with the driver. As we worked our way toward the Manhattan Bridge, the cab driver asked me where we had been. I told him we'd been at a benefit for my dance company. We had a brief conversation about the performing arts, including how he knew a lot of artists. When he expressed interest in the show, I asked him for his email address to keep him posted. He told me he didn't use email and gave me his mailing address instead. I told him I'd do my best to notify him of the show.
Then he said to me, "you need to get yourself a 501(c)3." Not words you expect to hear from your cab driver, even in NYC. I told him that I was fiscally sponsored, so I could benefit from tax-deductible contributions. He then said "My accountant told me that I may need to make some contributions to take off of my taxes." He gave me his phone number and the address of a newsstand he owns, telling me "Call me after Monday and I'll have a check for you to pick up. Make sure you bring me a receipt."
I waited a week (okay, 10 days) to call him. I had a lot of excuses. I was busy, I had a cold, I kept forgetting. But it stayed in the back of my head. Finally I picked up the phone and dialed. I got his voicemail (thank goodness). I left a message, "Hi, this is Jeramy. We met in your cab on December 6. You mentioned that you might like to make a donation to my dance company. Well, I'm just following up on that. Call me back. Okay, thanks." I kinda figured nothing more would come of it.
Then he called back and left a message, twice within an hour. We played phone tag for a day. Finally, on Friday, logistics were worked out. He asked me to pick up a check at the newsstand on Tuesday. But I would be away for the holidays by Tuesday. I asked a friend to pick it up. Then he called back to say the check was at the newsstand and I could pick it up. Then he called back and said "Do me a favor. Bring any printed material you have that I can spread around. I know people." On Saturday I headed into the city to go to the newsstand. It was closed. I called the friend who had the original pick-up duty. On Monday he picked up the check.
Some would say (have indeed said) that this was a lot of legwork for a $100 contribution. I disagree. Here's a guy who undoubtedly works hard for his money. He's willing to support the work of an artist he doesn't even know. Sure, he "needs a deduction." But who really "needs" a $100 deduction? And if that's all he needs, he could find a much more convenient way to do it. I think he actually thinks that artists, emerging, independent, whatever-the-term-is-this-week artists make our city more livable. And he wants to support that. And I want to support that. And I hope this story makes you want to support that (and to be nice to your cab driver).