Driving a cab is a job that’s unlike almost any other. Again and again, you get into an enclosed space with a person you’ve never met, then navigate your way to a place you may have never been before, accept your fare and part ways, never to see them again.
But in the time between the pick up and the drop off, all sorts of things can happen. Usually, it’s nothing more unusual than a bit of small talk but as any experienced driver will tell you, you’re going to run into a weird customer eventually. When one cab driver picked up a particular fare, he couldn’t have predicted how the ride would go…
One Of A Kind
Driving a cab in New York City is an especially interesting job. Not only is the traffic particularly intense, the international nature of the city means you’re going to have customers – both locals and visitors – from all walks of life.
Made For It
It takes a special kind of person to consider taking such a job, let alone stick with it. One cabbie, Ahmed, was that kind of person. The father of four immigrated to the United States from Bangladesh 25 years prior, and spent the last 15 of those years as a taxi driver.
Seen It All
It’s safe to say that in that decade and a half, Ahmed had encountered just about every kind of situation a cab driver might find himself in. So on an August night when he picked up his first fare of the evening, he took the man’s personal question in stride.
The customer, a young man in his early 20’s named Michael, started off with some simple questions, such as “where are you from?” and “are you Muslim?” Ahmed told him he was from Bangladesh, and yes, he was Muslim…
The conversation could have gone in a number of directions at that point, so Ahmed was pleased when Michael said “Salaam aleikum” (the Arabic greeting meaning “peace be upon you”). He was apparently a film student who’d just returned from Afghanistan, where he was trailing Marines.
“How’s your Ramadan going?” Michael continued. After Ahmed told him it was going fine, however, the pleasant conversation started to take on a different tone when Michael began making fun of the rituals of Ramadan…
Silence Is Golden
Sensing the shift, Ahmed thought it best to just remain silent and get through the fare. “So I stopped talking,” he said. “And he stopped talking, too.” Ahmed was ready to just let it slide as a mildly unpleasant encounter when, as his taxi inched its way through traffic, Michael suddenly started shouting at him.
“He was talking like a soldier,” Ahmed said. Michael began to curse and shout things such as “This is the checkpoint” and “I have to bring you down.” He told Ahmed that he had to bring the king of Saudi Arabia to the checkpoint. The situation went from bizarre to truly dangerous when Michael drew a knife…
Michael Enright took his Leatherman knife, reached through the opening in the taxi’s plastic divider, and slashed Ahmed Sharif’s throat. As Ahmed turned to try and defend himself, Enright attacked again, stabbing him in the face, arm and hands.
“I beg of you, don’t kill me,” Ahmed said. “I worked so hard, I have a family.” When he was able to separate himself from Enright and get out of the car, Enright opened his door and ran from the slowly rolling cab. Ahmed was able to quickly able to flag down a nearby police officer…
I Need Help
Gushing blood, Ahmed told the officer what happened. The cop called for an ambulance and ran off after Enright, who he quickly found slumped on a sidewalk. According to that officer, Enright appeared to be heavily intoxicated as he arrested him.
As for Ahmed, he was rushed to the nearby Bellevue Hospital Center where he was treated for his wounds. Thankfully, doctors were able to stabilize Ahmed and, after receiving more than two dozen stitches, he was released from the hospital…
Out Of It
After being arrested for assault and attempted murder, Enright was in such an incoherent state that he was taken to a hospital for a psychiatric evaluation. He’d spent five weeks embedded with the “Lava Dogs,” Bravo Company of the First Battalion, Third Marines and, although that time was relatively short, it was apparently distressing enough to leave Enright with PTSD.
Enright had apparently also been suffered from alcoholism since childhood. “I failed as a human being when I attacked an innocent man in an alcoholic blackout and nearly took his life,” Enright would later say…
Out Of Character
One of the most surprising things about Enright’s attack is that he had previously volunteered with a group, Intersections International, that promoted interfaith tolerance. He had even been a supporter of the controversial proposal to build a mosque near ground zero in the aftermath of the September 11th attacks.
Shocking and Sad
Rev. Robert Chase, a representative of Intersections International, called the situation “tragic.” “We’ve been working very hard to build bridges between folks from different religions and cultures,” he added. “This is really shocking and sad for us.”
Though he ascribed a portion of the blame for the attack to his alcoholism, Enright took responsibility for his actions and plead guilty to the assault and attempted murder charges, which were both tried as hate crimes. He was ultimately sentenced to nine-and-a-half years in prison for the attack.
The day of the attack would be the last time Enright ever had a drink of alcohol. In an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting, he would describe his actions as a “horrible way to hit rock bottom.” But the psychological difficulties Enright faced were nothing compared to what he’d inflicted on Ahmed…
Scarred For Life
Aside from the physical trauma he’d experienced, Ahmed was psychologically scarred by the attack. After healing from his injuries, he tried to return to taxi driving but memories of the knife attack caused a high blood pressure condition.
Be More Careful
“It was the end of being a taxi driver in my life,” Ahmed said. “And a lot of things happened that made my life very hard, all because of this.” Speaking on the tension in the United States related to his faith, Ahmed said “I feel very sad. All drivers should be more careful.”