8 December 2009 el taxista
I couldn’t quite make out the taxi driver’s salutation when he pulled up to where I sat streetside with two amigos waiting for the bus, but I did distinctly make out the words “la raza.” As I live only two blocks away, I prefer to walk, even if the ride is free, as the cabbie said in Spanish that it would be. But my amigos live in an immaculately clean apartment across town where a large American flag hangs above a corner mattress where a cousin sleeps and a calendar featuring Dodge RAM pickup trucks hang above another mattress in another corner where another cousin sleeps. They are the apartment’s only decorations, and the apartment is dozens of blocks away.
“What if I make your fare cheaper than it would be on the bus?” offers el taxista, in Spanish, when it is clear that neither amigo is willing to spend more for convenience. They exchange glances, undecided.
“¿Y de donde eres tu?” I ask.
An amigo glances my way. I tell him to go for it. Both do and I’m left standing alone streetside on our nation’s Capitol Hill.
Only months ago, taxi drivers ignored my amigos, who both stand shorter than five-and-a-half feet tall, and are visibly Latino at a distance. We laughed about it then, but at the time, i couldn’t help but think of how unfunny the situation would be in the winter cold, and of how young’uns will someday hear their vanguard abuelitos tell of a time when taxi drivers didn’t stop for Latinos.
And yet, suddenly it’s winter and already “la raza” out bids the city’s public transit authority.