Niagara Gazette

Columns

June 14, 2014

LETTERS FROM THE ISLAND: Getting a lift from acts of kindness

Niagara Gazette — Dear Mainland Pedestrians — Like grandfather, like grandson. Doug’s Pittsburgh namesake is in trouble for augmenting his earnings by chauffeuring strangers. He drives for a quick-pickup concern called Uber. Around here it’s known as Lyft. Pink mustaches adorn its cars.

Since it involves apps, tweets and PayPal, we’re largely clueless, knowing only that folks agree to employ their own vehicles to transport those suddenly in need. It’s right up Doug III’s alley. He’s inherited two generations of passion for getting around. Long before Uber and Lyft, he was hustling a network of friends to airports and such for a reasonable return.

Last month he got a little surprise in the mail, a “citation” for providing a public convenience without certification. The Keystone Gestapo conducted a “sting,” hiring undercover operatives to take rides and then singling out the undocumented providers. He’s had one court appearance so far. We sympathizes with conventional cabbies who undergo rigorous scrutiny, and their desire to protect their hard-earned turf, but still it makes us wonder if Doug the Elder might be next.

He’s addicted to hitch-hikers, especially if they’re not hitching.

For example, one blustery December Sunday about three years ago, driving solo, he beheld a woman shivering in a Plexiglas lean-to in Buffalo, waiting for a bus that might not arrive ‘til the next eclipse. She was rosy, jolly and frost-bitten, Mrs. Claus in a babushka. He leaned out the window and shouted, “Like a ride?”

“Are you going to hurt me?” she asked.

“Hey,” said Doug, “you’re younger than I am, bigger than I am, and stronger. Are YOU going to hurt ME?”

She got in. It would have taken an hour and another transfer to reach her destination. There, she hesitated, contemplating a bundled-up hug, then chastely bounded from the car and up porch steps, crying “Sophie, Sophie, I’m here …”

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