New York cabbie tracks down owner of $21,000 left on back seat
Mohammad Asadujjaman's mother may not have schooled him in the quickest routes through the mean streets of the Big Apple or the best ways to negotiate with its famously plain-speaking inhabitants.
But she does appear to have imbued the 28-year-old New York taxi driver with an even greater gift: incorruptible honesty.
On finding that an Italian tourist had left a handbag containing more than $21,000 (13,000) in cash - not to mention jewellery worth thousands more - on his backseat on Christmas Eve, the Bangladesh-born cabbie knew exactly what to do.
He rummaged through the bag until he found an address in Long Island. Then he rang a friend with a car and embarked on a 50-mile trip in the hope of handing over his find to someone who knew his fare, 72-year-old Felicia Lettieri from Pompeii. When his knocks at the house belonging to Lettieri's sister, Francesca, went unanswered, Asadujjaman left his mobile number and a note reading: "Don't worry, Felicia ... I'll keep it safe."
A little while later the phone rang and he headed back to the Long Island address to return the bag and keep his word.
"They were so, so, so happy," said Asadujjaman, a student who began driving a cab about three months ago after his hours were cut back at a factory.
Felicia Lettieri's absentmindedness had briefly threatened to ruin the family's holiday.
The bag, which she forgot while she and six other relatives were travelling in two taxis from midtown Manhattan to Penn station on 24 December, also contained some of the group's passports.
Police advised the tourists they had little chance of recovering the lost goods. Francesca Lettieri said Asadujjaman's honesty had averted disaster. "We really love what he did," she told Newsday.
The cabbie himself shrugged off the incident, saying he had been taught never to take advantage of people. "My mother is my inspiration," he said. "She always said, be honest and work hard."
Despite conceding that such a large amount of money would have allowed him to focus on his studies, Asadujjaman insisted he was not tempted to keep it: "My heart said this is not good."
He also declined the reward the Lettieri family offered him, saying that as an observant Muslim he could not accept it.
"I'm needy, but I'm not greedy," he said. "It's better to be honest."
Pure-hearted taxi drivers are not as rare as some might think.
Two years ago, the Grammy-nominated violinist Philippe Quint left his $4m (2m) Stradivarius in a New Jersey taxi after flying in to Newark airport at 3am.
Despite fearing that he would never see his 285-year-old ex-Kiesewetter violin again, Quint was eventually informed by the airport that the driver, Mohammed Khalil, had returned the precious instrument. To show his gratitude, Quint handed Khalil a $100 tip and free tickets to his next Carnegie Hall concert. He also gave a kerbside recital at the airport taxi rank to an audience of 50 cabbies.