MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Nearly every day the fare dictates the daily route for Blue and White cab driver, Mike Powell.
“I probably do, you know, 70 percent medical runs, and then the rest are regular fares,” Powell said.
However, Friday’s drive was planned weeks in advance.
Mike started the day at Speilman Mortuary in St. Paul to fulfill a promise given to his friend, Rocco.
“He says, ‘Would you do that for me? Would you give me a last cab ride,?'” Powell said.
Seven months ago, Mike met his friend while answering a call for a cab. Mike drove up to Valley Apartments in St. Paul to see 49-year-old Rocco waiting outside the building in a wheelchair.
“I remember the first thing he said to me, he looked at me in his wheelchair and he says, ‘Yeah, I’m sorry. I’m in a wheelchair. I don’t want to be a hassle,'” Powell said. “I immediately said, ‘There’s no hassle. I have a daughter with cerebral palsy. I’m aware of wheelchairs.'”
From that day on, Mike went out of his way to help Rocco with his errands, charging a flat fee and, at times, even doing the errands himself.
“To me, it wasn’t going the extra mile. It was normal,” Powell said.
During their drives, a friendship formed. The two shared similar tastes in music. Creedence Clearwater Revival often blasted over the speakers when the two were together. They talked politics and of their families. The cab ride becoming a daily constant in both their lives.
“We had some good times. It was a fare that turned into, you know, quickly a friendship,” Powell said.
In March, when Rocco suddenly didn’t call for several days, Mike wondered what was wrong. He went to check on his friend in his apartment. Rocco was rushed to the hospital and died 10 days later. Mike realized that final ride would come sooner than expected.
“In our minds we do feel our mortality is longer than maybe what it is,” Powell said. “So, when he asked, I was like, ‘Yeah Rocc, when it comes that time. You’re not going anywhere anytime soon. Final cab ride, yeah,’ and I joked, ‘Who’s going to pay the fare?’ and he said, ‘Can you spot me until the other side?'”
On that final ride with the ashes and urn buckled into the passenger seat, Mike drove past all their old errand stops. He even made a stop out to Blue Mounds State Park where the two would often look at the river and blast music.
This last drive could easily be a reminder of loss, instead, Mike’s reminded of the gains made with kindness.
“It’s about a friendship, a real friendship. It’s about caring that I think we’ve lost a lot of in this world,” Powell said.
Mike also plans to fulfill another wish for his friend. This weekend, he’ll send the ashes down the Mississippi.