I thanked my driver for finding me. I left my apartment early since we are now in the dog days of summer; every day is guaranteed to be 100 degrees Fahrenheit/37 degrees Celsius or greater (this last weekend was 108). She noticed that I was across from the Mesa courthouse and that there were cops there. We immediately talked about how awful the Mesa cops were in terms of corruption and how they treat the public in general, especially the most vulnerable members. We also talked about the fact that my apartment complex is somewhat below market, but I don’t receive any benefits even though I’m extremely low income, and I’m going to be priced out of my complex within the next year. One of my neighbors stopped by over the weekend to fill me in after a discussion he had with the main office and we talked dollars. Phoenix and the surrounding cities don’t have any protections in place for affordable housing. We already have neighbors moving out.

Our discussion shifted to how the U.S. is structured to reward only the wealthy, so that if you are a single parent (like she is), and you have to miss work for sick kids, you are fired. She had 3 sick kids all at once and that was it. The U.S. has FMLA, but it only has it for companies of a certain size, and only if you have been working at a job for more than a year. I personally know about it because I had to deal with it when I initially got sick. You don’t actually get any pay unless the company has short term disability (STD) and long term disability (LTD) and those items apply to your circumstances. In her case, her kids got sick, and then got sick again with recurring ear infections, and she didn’t qualify for FMLA leave because she hadn’t been at the company for a year yet, so they fired her. She didn’t say, “The love of my children is more important than having a home, a car, groceries, and utilities.” I mean, that’s ridiculous. If she was in a higher income level, she wouldn’t be asked to be homeless and jobless because her kids got ear infections. Eventually she figured out another few ways to make ends meet, including driving, and including web development. As is my habit nowadays, I asked her if she felt like she needed to check to see if there were any gaps that needed to be filled. She said she was okay, so I didn’t persist.

She dropped me at my destination, but then…

she was also my return ride!

It was a different conversation because we weren’t starting from scratch. This almost never happens.

We talked a little about global warming, and how Phoenix has been affected for the past few years; no monsoon storms or rain in the summer at all, which is kind of horrifying.

My driver talked about how she is half Swedish. I asked if she had any plans to visit. She said not in the upcoming year. They do require proof of being vaccinated, and she had absolutely no desire to be vaccinated. She doesn’t mind being tested, but there is no way she’s going to be vaccinated. I didn’t ask why, but I am well aware of the mistrust that African-Americans have for the white medical community.

She actually expressed a great interest in moving to one of a few African communities and raising her children closer to their roots. Their father is from Guyana and though they are no longer in contact, she felt it would be better for all of them to live in a community that is more Afro-centric and community-centric in the many ways that the U.S. is not. We talked about Rwanda and how after the civil and tribal wars, they changed the government and now the representation is now 60% female, and the communities are much more harmonious. My driver also expressed an interest in Tanzania, although I talked to her about the other driver I had whose family lived on one of the islands and were greatly affected by the virus. Her demeanor shifted and she told me that was not what she had heard, and she said that almost no one was affected. She definitely did not trust me telling her about this. My driver only trusted what was being reported online. This was one of those times when I truly wished I could bring the other driver in to talk to her so they could discuss it, because obviously I am no subject expert.

My driver shifted the discussion to Ebola; maybe the people in Tanzania had really died from that, and not the coronavirus? I told her that Ebola is a devastating disease, but it does not kill in great numbers, because it makes its hosts die quickly. It is not a smart prion. It doesn’t adapt for longevity. It basically just liquifies the inside of the body (like “mad cow” disease does to the brain, and that’s a prion as well). So you might see eight cases, and then the cases stop, because the prions don’t have anywhere to go, the disease basically stops itself. With the coronavirus, it adapts to live longer and jump to the next warm body. It just needs to live long enough to cause stroke, heart attack or pneumonia in the current host while it hitches a ride on bodily fluids to do the same to the next victim. Sometimes it is strong enough to kill. That’s the failure of the virus.

I think that if she is careful, she can make this transcontinental move. My driver is very eager to leave the U.S., and honestly, with the way Blacks are treated here, I fully understand looking for a more equitable life. A safer life. A place where she and her kids can see their own faces wherever they look.

(Note: My driver often worked the term “diaspora” into our conversation. Not wanting to misunderstand that, I looked it up and am including the Wikipedia explanation, but feel free to explore on your own.)

Baby Elephant Yoga Mat

Zambarau Zone Framed Art Print

Mother Africa Notebook