Uber driver Hadi Abdollahian thought he was signing up for a three-hour drive to suburban Buffalo Grove, Illinois, when he picked up a passenger Sunday night at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport.
But the Iranian refugee didn’t think twice when he found out the actual destination was Buffalo, NEW YORK, some 500 miles and eight hours from Chicago. After all, the passenger told him it was an emergency: He had to work in the morning and he had missed his connecting flight. There was no other way to get there in time.
“I’m a man of my words and if someone says it’s an emergency he really means it,” Abdollahian said.
He would soon learn the passenger in his Nissan Altima was new Buffalo Bills player Shareece Wright, who was on his way to his first day of voluntary offseason practice.
They arrived at 1 Bills Drive with mere minutes to spare before 7 a.m. meetings, Wright said. The veteran defensive cornerback tipped Abdollahian $300 on top of the $632.08 ride in a delightful vignette of the sharing economy bringing people together.
But the story didn’t end there.
Road trip bonds form
The Bills lauded Wright for his dedication to his new team. But the former Baltimore Raven was impressed with his driver’s dedication to getting him to Buffalo on a moment’s notice.
“He didn’t complain once. He kept me from stressing out. The only thing he complained about was people driving 50 miles an hour,” Wright said. “His focus was to get me there on time and he did.”
They talked for hours and shared their lives with each other, the two men told CNN. Abdollahian revealed his dream of becoming an astronaut; Wright talked about his family and how he broke into professional football.
Wright was struck by Abdollahian’s story of his journey to the United States from Iran. He said he left the country in 2011 amid circumstances too painful to share. Abdollahian said he spent two years in Turkey before entering the United States in 2013 as a refugee.
“The story of his resilience to come to the US alone with no family and learn English, it says a lot,” Wright said.
Abdollahian landed in Chicago and got a job while he studied computer science at Harold Washington College, he said. He graduated in December with an associate’s degree and started driving for Uber after his company laid him off, he said. He applied to Loyola University Chicago and said he was accepted. Now he’s just figuring out how to pay for it.
When local company Bluerock Energy heard about Wright’s commitment to making it to practice they wrote him a check to reimburse him for the Uber ride. But Wright thought Abdollahian deserved it more than he did and passed it along.
“Anyone’s who’s that passionate and focused about what he’s doing, I’m more than willing to help anyone who’s putting that foot forward to be successful.”
Abdollahian confirmed that he received the check and shared a picture of it on Twitter. It’s his only proof of the trip — he didn’t ask for a selfie or take a pictures because he didn’t “want to be that guy,” he said.
Cheesy as it may sound, he considers his new friendship with Wright to be the greatest benefit of the trip.
“He was so friendly. I loved his company, I wasn’t expecting to meet someone like this,” he told CNN. “I really appreciate him.”