Just a thought… If you think adventure is dangerous, try routine. It is lethal. [Paulo Coelho]
Well, what a fun – if shortened – week that was! And if it ever seems as if I’m complaining when I write about travel (including the journal a few weeks back when someone refused to put his phone on airplane mode) please don’t get me wrong. As I wrote on Tuesday, I’m truly pursuing what I hoped this chapter in my life would bring. But that doesn’t say it isn’t without speed bumps and they’re things I love to bring to your attention.
We can start with Tuesday’s trip from the Winnipeg airport to the Fairmont Hotel at world-famous Portage and Main (okay, maybe just “world famous in Canada” as what is reportedly the coldest or windiest intersection in this great land of ours). This tale is of a situation that was awkward, dangerous and just plain inconsiderate, but one that was exacerbated by my fear about what mentioning it might suggest.
After a quick trip through the modern and bright Winnipeg airport (where a piano and upright bass played outside a lounge – a pleasant surprise, and a Hug Rug awaited reunited loved ones at the base of the escalator) I hopped into a taxi driver’s Prius and told him where we were going. As he pulled away, a video began playing on the smart phone he had set up to the right of his steering wheel.
I can’t tell you what it was about; a man was talking excitedly in another language and there were letters in an alphabet I’m not familiar with. It seemed to be about religion, politics or even travel? I don’t know; I was too busy trying to see the road ahead of us, which is not what my driver had his eyes on. I could see in the rearview mirror when his eyes were down to the right as he looked at this video. And they were not darting, as one might expect with a GPS.
What to do, what to say? I took a picture of his licence, in case I needed it, and was about to shoot whatever was on his phone, when it rang. So he answered and then proceeded to have a fifteen-minute conversation with someone; who and about what I have no idea. Although it was on speaker, it, too, was in another language. Which is definitely not the point.
I have an idea what the language was, and I can tell you what the man in the video was wearing to identify his religion or nationality. I won’t. And that – fear of being called racist – is exactly why I didn’t ask him to turn off the video while he drove. How crazy is that?
When we arrived, I gave him a $4 tip on a $26 ride. I usually tip at least 15 per cent. But I told him, “I don’t know if other passengers feel the same way, but I was terrified when you were watching a video while you drove.” He smiled and laughed a bit, as though he was going to deny it, but he didn’t. I know what I saw.
I watched as a school bus ahead of us unloaded its precious cargo in downtown Winnipeg. I saw a pedestrian weaving between cars and hoped the driver saw it, too. It was unnerving and I was too chicken sh*t to say anything, lest the man think I didn’t like the video because it wasn’t in my language or of my faith. Or whatever it was.
Maybe you’d have done differently, but decades of being super careful of offending anyone ALL THE TIME has taught me otherwise. The rampant racism that is real, both south and increasingly north of the border, is making me hyper aware of not being one of those people.
I do have the receipt from my ride and plan on contacting the cab company. Although the bellman at the hotel said, “Our cab companies are the worst…” when I told him of my harrowing ride, I don’t believe this is or has to be the case. And as reluctant as I am to get this gentleman into any kind of trouble, should that happen, I really do think he needs to be like the rest of us and leave the phone alone when he’s driving. Otherwise, we’re all going to feel like we need a SOMKE.
Have a great weekend and thank you for sharing in these travels and adventures here. Last night I embarked on a scary/exciting new part of this journey – taking the stage and hosting/emceeing/interviewing for a major event here in my new hometown – and I can’t wait to share it with you next week. I haven’t had a chance to digest it just yet (and it’s late as I write this) so I’ll need a few days. Also, we’re going to see First Man this afternoon, so I’ll have that for you, too. Talk to you soon.