There was a time when we used to ride around in cars driven by other human beings. That was how us city dwellers, and some rural folk, would get from point a to point b. Sometimes we were late because the non-human parts thought we clicked ‘pool’ or screwed up our coordinates or didn’t know there was a one-way street, but all in all it was a good system, until we realized the human beings driving the cars were not happy. We realized that when a certain person was elected as US president.
And how could they be happy?
They weren’t making a living wage and were being controlled more or less like robots to drive our silly butts around because we were too cold or too tired or simply did not know how to get to point b. And they didn’t make the big bucks. The one percent still made the big bucks. It was a scam all along. And we never really did anything about it because it was convenient for us passengers and who wants to own a car?
Anyway, this story isn’t about that unfortunate moment in our history, when we forgot our morals and pretended like everyone was doing ok when, if we did the math, we would’ve known everyone wasn’t doing ok.
This is about a driver who I thought at first was being offensive, but really was just trying to connect to me, the passenger.
How we miss those human moments when we no longer have them.
It started because I was late. I was late and I thought calling a car would help me get there faster. Big mistake.
I had to stop off at my house because me, busy lady, had things to put inside and things to swap out and things to take with me. I was on my way to a supper club (remember those? We used to eat in rooms together?) and so I got in the car and said pronto! (Not really, but it’s possible)
When I got in, the driver had on some nice bachata or salsa, something of that genre. I actually didn’t notice until the driver said …
Where are you from?
That’s my usual, oblivious response. Unless I’m in a foreign country and then I often, on accident, say Los Angeles. I don’t know why.
No, I mean where are you from…
Where are your parents from?
Now I’m getting annoyed. Welcome to a day in the life. It’s a rare day if I don’t get interrogated like this.
I’m like 4th or 5th generation American.
He turns around and looks at me
So where are they from?
Mexico, before that Spain.
He smiles. Satisfied.
Do you speak Spanish?
Hmm…sometimes I don’t even know.
He turns up the music. I realize I have no idea what bachata means. I don’t know why I thought it sounded like that.
So do you like the music?? Is this what you listen to?
It’s like the time this woman checking me into an appointment kept asking me if I’d been to the beach lately and it wasn’t until I raked my brain and said, hmm…not in a while actually, that I realized she was referring to my always-sun-kissed presumably fresh-from-beach skin, which she had mistaken for a tan. Oh, the plight of the brown woman.
Anyway, this driver purposefully or accidentally really offended me. Why did I get offended? Was this really offensive? I decided, let’s keep this conversation going. I had more ride to go, having just gotten to the pit stop at my house, so I said:
The music is ok.
I must press on. I continued …
Where are you from?
He looks around again, shocked.
Can’t you tell I’m a foreigner?
Me, confused, again.
Can’t you tell by my accent?
No, lots of Americans have accents.
I’m from Ghana!
He says it like, duh! Didn’t you know that? How could you not know that? Which was actually pretty refreshing, if absurd.
Oh, wow! How long have you been in the states?
He’s excited now.
What brought you here originally?
Yeah, I came on tour. I play the drums.
He then proceeded to tell me a long tale of how he came to DC on tour and loved it so much he wanted to stay. And how his manager bribed him to go back to Ghana and he did, but wasn’t paid what he was promised and long story short, he eventually got help to come back to DC and now is here, was here, driving me around.
What instrument do you play?
And that’s when we really connected.
Human to human.
Music lover to music lover.
I realized then, as I was arriving at my destination and exiting his vehicle, that he wasn’t stereotyping me with the Spanish music nonsense — he was trying to connect.
And that’s what it was like, before the robots.