My personal car's broken and the weather's miserable enough to preclude bike riding, so here I am, sitting in the backseat of a cab and getting the customer's perspective.

My driver's a gruff-looking middle-aged guy with a Jersey accent. I've seen him around at the garage, but never really spoken to him. Our initial conversation is, of course, about business—perfunctory questions about busy-ness, hours, partners, etc.

There's a moment of silence as we merge onto the Banfield, and he asks the obvious question: Why the hell am I headed out to 82nd and Halsey?

"I'm going to visit my dog at the hospital," I tell him. "They think he's got lung cancer." I choke a bit as I say it, and feel embarrassed for the emotional display in front of a seeming tough guy.

The driver doesn't remark on it, and instead softly tells me about how he had an old dog that got cancer, and how they dealt with it. I stare out the window, mesmerized by the passing streetlights and the comfort of shared experience. I think about how much I love my 15-year-old dog. I feel glad to have given him a good life.

As we pull into the parking lot, I count out a hefty tip, and wonder if I've ever helped a fare in the way this man's just helped me. I certainly hope so, as the alternative is chilling.