After a wonderful seminar, led by a scholar visiting from Yale and Princeton, and working dinner, we piled into a Lyft for the trip from downtown Chicago to Hyde Park.
When we reached the university neighborhood, the graduate students got out, one-by-one, at their apartments until, finally, the driver and I were alone.
We started chatting, and that when I learned his story.
It began when he asked who the passengers were.
“They are all graduate students, working on different aspects of international politics.”
“Ah,” he said, “I avoid politics.”
Wise move for a cab driver, I thought!
Because he had a modest accent, I asked where he was from.
“When did you come to America?”
“So, you were there during the war,” I replied. “I’m so glad you made it out safely. I hope that you and your family and friends didn’t suffer too much.”
“Well,” he said, a bit reluctantly. “I knew some people who were hurt and killed.”
Then, he added in a matter-of-fact way,
“I was kidnapped and held in a trunk for three days.”
I was shocked and, of course, sympathetic. It was all the more shocking because he mentioned it in such an ordinary way, as if these things happen all the time.
I asked how he managed to get released. He seemed surprised I would even ask since he considered the answer obvious.
“My family paid ransom.”
The kidnappers, he continued, weren’t political. They just wanted to make some money. He said he had done some work for the US embassy but the kidnappers hadn’t known that and probably wouldn’t have cared.
They were “just a bunch of criminals, trying to get into the kidnapping business.”
I said they must have been new at it if they didn’t have a safe-house to stash him.
“Yes. They were just a wannabe gang. They didn’t have a place to keep me so they just put me in the trunk.”
“Well, ” I said, “you are in America now, and I really hope you feel really welcome and at home here.”
“Yes,” he said, as he dropped me off. “My whole family feels like we are Americans now.”
An amazing story, told without drama, and a happy ending.