This book was inspired by a real-life experience with a real taxi driver…
I remember the day I met Ildefonso Barajas Guarin.
It is hot (as usual) in the lively city of Cali, Colombia. He waits for me at the airport’s domestic arrivals exit with his impeccable shirt and tie uniform.
After welcoming me warmly, he guides me to the parking lot where his taxi is waiting. I must say that was the first thing that surprised me, as most taxi drivers arriving for pre-arranged pickups wait outside the airport to avoid paying a parking fee. They come on site to pick up a passenger only when notified that the passenger is outside and ready. That approach, of course, increases passenger waiting time and affects the experience.
Ildefonso is different, as I notice that day. He asks me how the flight was, takes my suitcase, walks with me to the car, turns the air-conditioning on, and invites me to get in while he puts the baggage in the vehicle.
Once the ride starts, he proceeds to explain his service portfolio: “I have free Wi-Fi and simultaneous translation to English, French or Italian. If your cell phone battery is low, I have a variety of chargers you can use. I have a taxpayer identification number in case you require an invoice; I will also give you a receipt for the cost of the trip. I have magazines and air-conditioning. I give a 10 percent discount on rides over $15,000 (US$5) if you pay cash. I also accept debit or credit cards of all types. I have your favorite song by your favorite artist; I don’t know who that might be, but I’ve got it for you. Finally, my clients can find me on Skype, Twitter, Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram, Messenger, and Google+.”
That’s why he is the 5-Star Taxi Driver, as he calls himself. Because of his attitude and the way he serves his passengers, he has a database of hundreds of clients who request his services time and again.
Ildefonso is part of a growing group of taxi drivers (several of whom I’ve been fortunate to meet) training to improve their service. They’re supported by private and public entities that seek to transform the experience of people in a profession that faces big challenges. The training includes customer service, traffic rules, citizen security, first aid, and tourism.
Ildefonso has made a difference for his clients and has given meaning to his work. Like many of us, he has challenges, but they don’t deter him from achieving what he has set his mind to. He is proof that there’s always a better tomorrow and that we can transform our life and the lives of the people around us. You can, too, if you want to.