You know what’s misleading? Bloody New York City weather in November. As I was approaching the airport exit, the sunlight came streaming through. Naturally, this would suggest warmth, heat, not cold… you get the idea. New York’s weather didn’t.
I figured I didn’t need my heavy jacket anymore so I set out to chuck the hood, unbutton, unzip and unbutton some more as I strode through those doors…and that’s when the meteorological oxymoron reared its ugly head.
The chauffeur asked whether I wanted him to help me take a picture before we left and I politely declined and made my way to the car, prompting him to open the door to the back. Typically, I’d shut the door, and just plop into the co-driver seat, but I didn’t want to offend the guy so I asked if I “had to sit in the back”. Taken aback, he told me I could sit wherever I wanted.
He was of middle eastern descent and incredibly chummy, nothing about his demeanor suggested that sitting upfront with him would be uncomfortable… well, there was the issue of the protests that were supposed to be raging through New York.
Plus, I figured if I survived said protests, I’d probably ran into the hardcore Donald Trump supporter who, I’d been led to believe was not too keen on anyone that was NOT American. By that logic, two non-US citizens moving about would probably be like a xenophobe’s Buy One Get One offer.
I let the paranoia take the back seat and we set off for New Jersey. I honestly can’t justify why I’d worked out a short trip. I mean, no one has ever claimed that New York and New Jersey are within spitting distance of each other. Hell, when Jay Z and Alicia Keys sang about New York, they didn’t even offer New Jersey a shout out.
If I thought the “shortened flight” from Abu Dhabi was grueling, this was going to be something else… It was roughly an hour and half (possibly more if I’m being honest) and despite the driver’s friendly and chatty nature, I was getting a little irritable.
I hadn’t had a bath in a while and I so badly wanted to get to my host’s place so I could ditch the marinated clothes I was wearing and jump into the shower for a bit.
Every single minute on the road essentially meant having to deal with a flavor of sweat I was not familiar with and trying to maintain a straight face as I conversed with the driver. Actually, when I really think about it, sitting in the back might have been for the better. For the driver.
Ideally, this is the part of the trip where I would have been very starry eyed and pinching myself every so often to convince myself this was really happening, but I was more preoccupied with looking out for protestors. There was the instance of seeing the Statue Of Liberty from a distance and that was a little exciting, but I figured I’d probably see it up close eventually.
I didn’t even have it in me to whip out my phone to take pictures of road signs and absent potholes. I figured I’d have time to do that later.
I did have a pretty interesting conversation with the driver though which really did mess things up considering I was now in that uncomfortable zone where it could be considered offensive if I stopped speaking abruptly and nodded off. Not necessarily in that order. So we caught up on family talk, election talk, weather talk…
Fortunately the conversation never once veered to our countries of origin otherwise that would have made for some uncomfortable moments informed by stereotypes and zilch interest in current affairs beyond our respective borders. That might be why there was no mention of Amin, Museveni, Besigye, Palestine, Israel, Walls, death and despair.
Every so often he would take a call to address a family emergency or other and apologise profusely for being rude and I’d tell him not to worry. I mean, where I come from boda-boda guys take calls mid-ride ALL THE DAMN TIME and will not offer any apology. And even then, that’s not the worst kind of boda-boda. That honor belongs to the motorbike rider that wears Eau De Marijuana.
After spending about a year on the road we finally got to my host’s place and I spilled out onto the pavement.
The driver told my host I was quite possibly the best passenger he had ever transported (yay me) and then thanked me for that. I smiled, because at this point the airplane food had started making me feel like shit and I couldn’t trust myself to form a full sentence. Also, the driver kept referring to my host as my brother so he was either on some weird new age gypsy philosophy where we were all part of one family OR he figured all black guys were related.
My host beamed, “Welcome to the United States of America”.
I smiled again and finally found the words,
“Thanks, I really do need to take a bath”.