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Lesson Learned
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Tears stung my eyes as frustration broke through my giddy, excited state. I’d been determined to keep a happy attitude in order to still the fear of traveling alone. It proved harder than I thought once the van driver started yelling at me. All alone at the airport in a country I’d never been to, I couldn’t find the place where the driver had told me he’d pick me up. After fifteen minutes of waiting at the wrong place, I received his angry phone call and heard his rapid yelling in Spanish. I got myself to the second floor, the right place, and waited at terminal B.

I was alone with my failure for six hours in the back of a van, filled with people I’d never seen before and would never see again. Then I remembered the resolution I’d made to myself a long time ago. Learn something positive from everyone you meet. Now that's a fairly easy thing to do, under the right circumstances. It’s easy to find the positive in the man waiting in line with you at Starbucks, who tells you his compelling life story, or the woman at the supermarket who handles her screaming toddlers with patience and expertise. Not so easy to do when a complete stranger is yelling at you for not doing something you didn’t know how to do. Or when the old man sitting next to you in a beat-up van is asleep a mere inches away from your face.

Time passed, and the old man woke up and we got to talking. I learned that he was extremely smart, and knew, and was accepting of, cultures that weren’t his own. Lesson learned:  Be less self-centered. The old man was dropped off at his desired location, and then so was everyone else but me. I was left alone with my “best friend,” who had yelled at me.

Impromptu Tour

I moved closer to the front and he asked me if it was my first time in Puerto Rico. When I answered that it was, he proceeded to give me an impromptu tour, even in the complete darkness, as he drove me all the way to where I needed to go.

I learned so much, and not just about Puerto Rico. I learned that he lived an hour away from where he was dropping me off, and had a long way to go before he finally got home to his family. I learned that driving me all the way up the mountains usually cost more, but he wasn’t going to charge me any more than the standard rate, and that he was a man true to his word. He didn’t even accept a tip, no matter how much I insisted.

I realized that, whether it had been my fault or not, I had made him late, delaying him, and everyone else on the van, from getting home. He could have scammed me, dropped me off at a bus station instead of taking me all the wayto my destination, and I wouldn’t have known that he could have done better. Lesson learned: Don’t ever, ever, assume that everything about a person can be determined by a first impression… and get better at learning life's lessons. 

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By Raquel Levy. Copyright © 2010 by GraceNotes. All rights reserved. Use of this material is subject to usage guidelines.

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