The Day I Learned That Taking A Taxi Wouldn’t Make Me Poor

26I am that atypical person of color who is chronically early. Recently though, I realized 15 minutes before I was supposed to meet a friend for coffee across town that I was woefully unready, hadn’t even changed into clothes befitting human company yet. I texted the friend to let them know I was running late. And then I did something I would not have done a year earlier. I hailed a taxi.

Ease was not a part of my upbringing. My parents, immigrants from the Caribbean, uprooted their lives to do better for themselves and their children. And while my family would eventually benefit from their hard work with college and a comfortable home to live in and return to when we needed it, easy street was not our address. The last year has been a process of parsing what to take with me –thrift and appreciation for the sacrifices that have allowed me to stay financially solvent – and what to discard – long-suffering, penny-pinching ways that save money in the short term while ensuring a more stressful journey in the end.

Most New Yorkers wouldn’t think twice about taking a taxi. It’s right up there with complaining about the weather and inquiring about other people’s real estate. But even after many working years when I took cars to the airport and appointments, I still thought that cab rides were things rich people spent money on. And that I, as a not-rich person, was to take my licks on public transportation with the masses. Which I mostly do. Except that sometimes expediency requires unclenching my proverbial fist and spending on things that make my life easier. Over the last year, learning to spend money on myself has been a revelation. I’ve bought a new computer, upgraded from a flip phone to a smart phone after both my literary agent and my father agreed it was time, and doubled the shoes in my closet from four to eight pairs.

I got to my meeting on time. And the trip only cost $8.00. Yep, that’s the price down to the penny, and I saved the receipt. I’m still my parents’ child.

A. Naomi Jackson is a writer. Her first novel, Who Don’t Hear Will Feel, is forthcoming from The Penguin Press. Follow her on Twitter @anaomijackson.

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