I thanked my driver for finding me. He looked familiar, and I think from a previous ride I remembered him as being someone who may have taken in his grandchildren, but I didn’t ask. All I had to do was ask him how long he had lived in Phoenix and he had a lot to say.

My driver lived in Alabama between Birmingham and Selma until 1990. He grew up with 9 other brothers and sisters and a single mom. I asked him if he participated in any marches in the ’60s, and he said he wasn’t quite old enough and his mom was very protective, but his family became quite scared when two white men and a black man were killed nearby. That’s when they knew it was serious. [I did attempt to locate this reference when I got home, but because it’s similar to what happened in Mississippi, I’m not sure if that’s what he is referring to, or another incident. Geographically, Meridian, Mississippi is fairly close to Selma.]

My driver said that in the mid- to late-’80’s he used to go visit a crack house every night, but he was the only one who didn’t smoke. He basically watched everyone lose their minds. At first, his friend invited him over because he was a low-end bootlegger, and my driver was a ladies’ man (so he claimed), and the friend knew he would bring lots of fresh faces. But then the bootlegger started cooking up crack rocks and everything changed. Hygiene wasn’t important. Dignity wasn’t important. They were all chasing that quick high. My driver never smoked because it scared him. He didn’t even really drink. He was just plain old scared.

We discussed what those drugs do to the body long-term. I personally know people who have done hard, hard drugs. They made it past the addiction, but then some of them died at the exact age that I am now because of heart attacks or cancer. My driver said he was the same weight and size that he was in high school. He lives a clean life, eats like a bird, and doesn’t touch any chemicals. We agreed he is probably going to live forever.

As we got closer to my home, he brought up the fact that he is sometimes mistaken for being Somali because he is black and thin. I told him I’m originally from Minneapolis and was there for three years recently and interacted quite a bit with the cab drivers from Somalia. My driver complained that he was often accused of bad things because of the reputation of the Somali drivers. I told him that a lot of the drivers I encountered ended up not being able to work in the fields in which they were trained, sometimes as college professors and other highly educated professionals. As with any other group, maybe the reputation assigned to them wasn’t necessarily correctly assigned. My driver told me about the guy in charge of checking the fluids for the cab company. He is actually an engineer in his home country of Iran, but he could only get an entry-level job here in the states when he emigrated. When he made that connection, he seemed to better understand how the Somalis might not be given a fair shot. My driver said that no one should be judged by the work that is being done, just that work is being done.

I Won’t Be Silent So You Can Be Comfortable travel mug

Old ’80’s and ’90’s Hip Hop Tapes Rug

Anyone Caught In Here Better Have A Damned Good Reason tote bag