I got my Alabama driver again. He is always friendly and good for stories.
My driver and I talked about sports and how we weren’t good at them. He doesn’t like getting hit, so if he can’t carry a stick and keep his personal space, he’s not playing. My driver told me about his granddaughter that he raised from birth. She is very much a “dainty sugar cookie” (that’s the nickname we assigned to her). At one point she briefly decided she wanted to box. My driver warned her that she had to protect her face (he just invested $4,500 in her braces), and she was going to get punched. She lasted two days. She has a big mouth, though, and started a fight with a classmate – and very unsuccessfully fought. She did seal slaps. We had a good laugh.
My driver and I talked about music and musical instruments. He didn’t have any musical talent at all, but his dad was in the church and played with four other people. Then every Sunday morning they would get on the local radio station for Gospel Hour. No one in the group could read music, but they had “God-given talent.” My driver said it was too bad they didn’t do anything with it. I told him that maybe they felt it was enough to share it in that way.
I asked my driver if he had been to the Musical Instrument Museum yet. He said he didn’t know anything about it until he drove up near it and there looked to be an event there. It is kind of a small building and doesn’t look like much, but I told him to set aside time. I told him there was even a room where he could pick up instruments and play around with them. He was excited at the idea of maybe plunking around on a guitar, but I told him he would also see some unusual ones too.
Without prompting, my driver told me that he had something happen on Saturday. He had driven a father and son to Walmart; the son was in a full back brace and had a walker. He dropped them off and then parked away from the cars so he could check rides and messages from dispatch. Suddenly about a dozen cars and SUVs screech up and surround him, and he has people pointing hand guns, shot guns and automatic rifles at him. They are shouting conflicting commands at him. They are plainclothes cops, apparently. Some have badges. Some have hats with cameras, but who knows if they are on?
They demand that my driver get out. He had taken off his shoes. It’s Arizona, it’s hot. They demand he lock his fingers and get on his stomach on the parking lot. They yell that he knows what he has done. No. He’s a 61-year-old cabbie who hasn’t done anything in his entire life, and he just dropped off some riders. Look for a father and son, the son is in a back brace and walker. The cops said no, you have a bomb. My driver said no, check for the riders. Talk to dispatch. I have no bomb. The cops are yelling confusing directions still; lock your fingers behind your head, don’t lock your fingers. Roll over, don’t roll over. Answer, don’t talk. My driver is just trying not to die. Someone finally tracks down the two guys he just dropped and they verified. Also, there’s no bomb in the car. They let him go. No apology, no explanation.
My driver’s granddaughter asked what he did wrong. He must have done something to have the cops do that. He said he still has no record and he did nothing wrong. Cops can do whatever they want. They don’t have to turn on their cameras. They could have killed him. Why would anyone think he had a bomb? [He’s black, that’s why. Who calls in a guy driving a cab, who pulls over to check his fares?]
Where he grew up, between Selma and Birmingham, black people were hanged all the time. Driving along everyone could see the bodies, bloated and swaying in the trees. Or black people were dragged behind trucks. Nothing was done. Sometimes it was the cops doing it. But my driver said now it’s just as bad or worse than anything he has seen. Cops now have military weapons and military assistance. The number of people killed by cops is the highest it’s ever been documented. Follow what they tell you to do and you still get killed. If seven different people are shouting seven different things, you still get killed.
I told my driver that I often swear, but I was trying not to with him. He told me that was good, he doesn’t like to see pretty ladies swear or do things to make themselves less attractive. He remembers one time a very pretty lady came out to the cab, and as soon as she got in, all he could smell was weed. My driver told her that she looked good, but the smell ruined everything. He did not hold back, that is for sure.