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For 28 years, three months and twelve days I drove a New York taxi. Now if you were to ask me what I had for breakfast yesterday, I probably couldn't tell you. But the memory of one particular type of fare is so vivid that I'll remember it all my days in this world.

It was a sunny Monday morning in the spring of 1966. I was cruising down York Avenue looking for a customer, but with the beautiful weather it was kind of slow. I had stopped at a traffic light at 68th Street, just opposite New York Hospital, when I spied a well-dressed man dashing down the hospital steps. He was hailing me. Finally the man reached the taxi and jumped in. 'La Guardia Airport, please,' he said. 'And thanks for waiting.'

As always, I wondered about my passenger. Was this man a talker, a newspaper reader? After a few moments, he started a conversation. It began ordinarily enough: 'How do you like driving a taxi?'

It was a stock question, and I gave him my stock answer. 'It's okay,' I said, 'I make a living and meet interesting people sometimes. But if I could get a job making $100 a week more, I'd take it - just like you would.'

His reply intrigued me. 'I wouldn't change jobs if I had to take a cut of a hundred a week.'

I had never heard anyone say such a thing. 'What do you do?'

'I am in the neurology department at New York Hospital.'

I have always been curious about people, and I have tried to learn what I could from them. Maybe it was that this man clearly loved his work; maybe it was just the pleasant mood of a spring morning. But I decided to ask for his help. We were not far from the airport now, and I plunged ahead.

'Could I ask a big favor of you?' He did not answer. 'I have a 15-year-old son, a good kid. He is doing well in school. We would like him to go to camp this summer, but he wants a job. Now a 15-year-old cannot get hired unless his dad is someone who owns a business - and I don't.' I paused. `Is there any possibility that you might get him some kind of a summer job - even if he does not get paid.'

He still wasn't talking, and I was starting to feel foolish for bringing up the subject. Finally, at the ramp to the terminals, he said, 'Well, the medical students have a summer research project. Maybe he could fit in. Have him send me his school record.' Then he gave me his particulars hurriedly written on a piece of paper.

That evening, around the dining table, I pulled out the scrap of paper from my shirt pocket. 'Robbie,' I announced proudly, `this could be a summer job for you.' He read out the name and address and laughed loudly. My wife too started cracking jokes. My daughter joined in the fun. After I nagged, cajoled and yelled, Robbie sent off his grades the next morning. Two weeks later when I arrived home from work, my son was beaming. He handed me a letter addressed to him on richly embossed paper. The letterhead read: Fred Plum, M.D., Neurologist-in-Chief, New York Hospital. He was to call Dr. Plum's secretary for an interview.

Robbie got the job. After working two weeks as a volunteer, he was paid $40 a week for the rest of the summer. The white lab coat he wore made him feel a lot more important than he really was as he followed Dr. Plum around the hospital, doing minor tasks for him.

The following summer, he worked at the hospital again, but this time he was given more responsibility. As high school graduation neared, Dr. plum was kind enough to write letters of recommendation for college. Much to our delight, Robbie was accepted at a prestigious university.

He worked at the hospital a third summer and gradually developed a love of the medical profession. When university graduation approached, he applied to medical school, and Dr. Plum again wrote letters attesting to his ability and character. Robbie was admitted to New York Medical College and, after getting his M.D, did a four-year residency specializing in obstetrics and gynaecology.

Dr. Robert Stern, the taxi driver's son, became obstetrical-gynaecology chief resident at Columbia Presbyterian Medical Centre in New York City.

   
Answer the following questions using complete sentences
  1.

From paragraph 2,

a) at which location did the taxi driver pick up his passenger ?

b) where was the passenger going ?

  2.

From paragraph 8, why do you think the taxi driver was sceptical about the passenger's reply ?

  3.

a) From paragraph 10, what made the taxi driver feel foolish ?

b) From paragraph 11, relate the contents of the letter Robbie received.

  4.

a) From paragraph 12, what is the significance of the 'white lab coat' that Robbie wore ?

b) From paragraph 13, which word ahs the same meaning as 'respectable' ?

  5. Why do you think the taxi driver's family made a joke about the particulars written on the scrap of paper that he showed to them ?
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Answers
 

1.

a) At a traffic light at 58th Street, just opposite New York Hospital

b) He was going to La Guardia Airport.

 

2.

He thought it was possible that the man really loved his job or he was in a good mood that made him give such a reply.

 

3.

a) The passenger kept silent.

b) He was to call Dr. Plums secretary for an interview.

 

4.

a) It gave him confidence and made him feel more important than he really was.

b) The word is 'prestigious'.

 

5.

They did not believe that anyone who was capable of giving Robbie a summer job could have written his particulars on a scrap of paper.
 
 
 
 
 

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Comprehension 1

 

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