I stayed in the back holding the driver’s head as his body seized and convulsed, and he grasped for air. By this point, several bystanders had arrived, all men, all speaking Arabic. They began to pray over the driver, reciting verses from the Koran; one man began to play music from the Koran on his cell phone. Several asked if I was OK in broken English, as they poured water over the driver’s face in an attempt to wake him – my fingers still checking his pulse. The EMTs arrived almost 20 minutes later, and after much deliberation, gently pulled the driver out of the car.
I was reminded that I was no longer in the west.
The EMTs insisted that I be checked. I didn’t understand all that they were saying, but managed to convey to them that I was fine. One of the bystanders driving another taxi offered to bring me the rest of the way to the airport. When I got into the back of his car, I broke down and cried. I was terribly shaken, and all by myself.
The driver did not speak English, but tried his best to console me nevertheless: “I am so sorry, Madame. No worries, Madame. You are OK, Madame.” I paid him for the ride when we got to the entrance of the airport, and he carried my luggage inside. He wanted to hug me as a final comfort, but hesitated. Being a woman (and a foreigner) in another country, I don’t doubt that he wanted to be respectful. We shook hands instead.
On my way to check in, another bystander, also catching a flight, greeted and led me to my check-in counter. He waited, checked in to his flight, and then walked with me to my gate. We talked; he was from Egypt flying to Ghana for business. He asked me questions about the United States, trying to ease my distress. Before we parted ways, he advised me to order a nice stiff drink on the plane to calm my nerves. We laughed and said our goodbyes.
As my flight took off, I began to feel calm. The farther away from the scene, the calmer I’d become.
A higher power was looking over me that early morning. While I am grateful to be alive, and grateful that the driver would go on to make a full recovery, I am the most grateful for those bystanders who comforted me as best they could. Complete strangers went out of their way to ensure my well-being, and I’d like to think that this was not some random occurrence, that this would happen anywhere. No matter who you are, or the religion you practice, or the gender pronouns you use, or the language you speak, or the country in which you live, or the president of said country, kindness is universal.
Kindness is universal.
Check your horoscopes to see what’s in store this week ahead, and don’t forget to read for your Ascendant sign, too.