Damien jumped out of the cab and opened the doors for my dinner companions to enter. I cruised around to the front passenger side and got in the door. As he drove us back to our hotels on the edge of the French Quarter I asked how long he’d been driving a cab. “Six years.” Business was up and down. He didn’t really light up until I asked about his day job: “I’m a barber. I’ve been cutting hair since I was 12. Got my license when I was 17. I just thought it was fascinating.”
“I have two chairs…over on the East side of New Orleans. We were flooded out in The Storm and I went to Atlanta…came back about 6 months ago. You do what you got to do.”
I thought about a comment the Chairman of our Board of Governors had made earlier in the evening. “I’m not worried about America.” He explained that the entrepreneurial spirit that yielded drive-through pharmacies would bring us back. He echoed a conviction shared by many of us in the field of leadership: that we will have to innovate our way out of the present recession.
While I’m not persuaded that drive-through pharmacies are the height of innovation, I think they do illustrate our compulsion to find solutions to problems, big and small. When you’re sick, you don’t really want to get out of the car to get your prescription. On the other hand, I tend to think we need to find creative ways to reduce our dependence on the auto in the long run.
Either way, Damien said it: “You do what you’ve got to do.” If only challenging times can draw out our best, we are blessed to live in times that refuse to let us rest on our laurels. Too early for gratitude, I suppose, but perhaps useful to keep our eyes lifted to a far-off light.