Dear Mr. President:
A couple of days ago I journeyed from my home outside of Sacramento to the Bay Area to watch two of my grand children while their parents went to a concert in Oakland. Because it takes at least two and a half hours to get there, it requires that I stop at least once for a comfort break.
I used to be able to make the trip without a stop, but since recovering from colon cancer four years ago, I need to chart my course via the various “comfort stops” along the way. The one that is halfway in between consists of a gas station and a Jack in the Box… since I don’t generally order anything at J in the B, I stop at the gas station and perhaps buy a little something to munch on for the remainder of the trip, and then I don’t feel so guilty using their facilities.
On this occasion I stopped, used the facilities, bought a pack of gum and a ticket for that nights Lottery. Upon exiting the store I was approached by a gentleman asking for some gas money. He looked spotless, took out his wallet to show me his drivers license, and explained that he had just been to San Quinton Prison to pick up his son who was supposed to be released, but had been given additional time for bad behavior. He was out of gas and just needed enough money to get to Oroville.
The gentleman asked me what was wrong with people today… he said, “I’m not a bum, I’m clean and honest, I have my wife in the car over there, but people treat me like I’m nobody.” I tried to explain that people were afraid now, afraid that someone was going to rip them off, afraid and suspicious of everyone, afraid that they are being scammed, and that prevented them from connecting with people. It prevented them from even listening to their fellow man… and that their fear was paralyzing. I told him that it had nothing to do with him personally, it was the fear of their own situation that led to the disconnect them and people in need of help.
I gave him what money I had left in my purse (only $16 or $17 dollars), wished him well while we exchanged several hugs… and I went on my way. As I continued down the freeway I realized that I had just given away the fare I still needed for the Bay Bridge. But no worries, I always travel with an “Emergency $100 bill” and I figured that this qualified as an emergency.
When I handed the toll taker the $100, she looked at it this way and that, holding it up to the best light available. I explained that I had given my other money away, but she never said a word… she just kept on chewing her gum, writing down the serial numbers on the bill, then, moving to the front of the car, she jotted down my license plate number. I guess you just can’t trust anyone anymore, not even a grandma.
So stereotypical myths were broken that day… not all men of color need to be feared, and not all grandma’s can be trusted… and so goes just another typical day in our ‘new’ but not better American experience. But just maybe... one man's faith in humanity was restored, even if it was just for that moment in time...
Your Gadfly Granny