Driver Bruce Velvia and John Labadini

John Labadini prefaced his call by pointing out, “This is one of those stories that shouldn’t be news, but it is.” Then he explained what he meant.Son of the late Mario Labadini, the elegant maitre d’ at both the Cafe Budapest and the Ritz, John grew up well-schooled in old-school values

“My father was very big on always doing the right thing,” he recalled. “But this world can make you feel like a chump for simply doing what’s right. I go to work every day, trying to treat people fairly, trying to be a good citizen, and there are times it makes me feel like I’m a 70-year-old man in a 45-year-old body.“

So this was like a breath of fresh air to me.”Labadini sells mutual funds, “which makes it seem like everyone is screaming at me now,” and he was rushing out of town on a whirlwind business trip last week.“A taxi picked me up at my home in Watertown and took me to Logan Airport. Though I enjoyed shooting the breeze with the driver, I was also in a hurry. It was about a $45 trip; wanting to be generous, I gave him three $20s, or thought I did.”Then he grabbed his gear and was gone in a flash..

As cabbie Bruce Veivia prepared to pull away he spotted a $100 bill nestled between two $20s.“So I jumped out and ran into the terminal after him, but three state troopers started giving me the eye because there I was with no luggage, just swiveling my head, looking in every direction.”When Labadini returned home six nights later he found a note taped to his door. It read: “You gave me a $100 bill instead of a $20. Call me, so that I can bring your change to you.” It was signed, “Bruce, McCue’s Taxi.”

Before calling Veivia, Labadini called here.“I’m thinking, ‘This is what we’re supposed to do, or so I was always taught, but, sonofagun, this guy actually did it!’ It just renewed my faith in all those things I still want to believe are true.”Veivia, 60, pooh-poohed any notion of gallantry.“It wasn’t my money,” he said. “He made a mistake. Put the shoe on the other foot; if you reached into your pocket expecting to find a $100 bill and it wasn’t there, how would you feel? It would have been stealing if I’d kept it.”But now it’s rightfully his because of two things Labadini couldn’t wait to say when they met again yesterday: “Thank you, and, please, keep the change!”

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