The first week that I was an Uber driver, I learned that my problems are small.
And being an Uber driver is a nightly adventure in surprising ways. For example, you could potentially get your first ride of the night while sitting in your driveway. An hour later, you could be on the complete opposite end of the metroplex in a neighborhood you didn’t know existed. Each customer is a dice roll, people and groups, and the places we go, an endless variety. I am a happy Uber driver overall. I enjoy the people.
The first week I was an Uber driver, probably my first Saturday night shift, I found myself in North Frisco in a neighborhood I didn’t know existed. It was getting later, close to midnight, and I was annoyed when I pulled into the apartment complex to pick up my rider. There was no apartment number. There was a gate code and no one answered the phone on the account who had hailed my car. After a few minutes, a man pulled up in a car and told me he was my rider. I was nervous and visibly agitated because the name on the account was a woman’s name. Also, he had driven up in a car. He explained that it was his wife’s account. That he had to leave the car here for someone to pick up. I called the account holder again from the Uber app, and she answered, and confirmed everything he had said. He was getting on my nerves, but my gut told me he was harmless, so we got our trip started.
He knew I was annoyed. He was apologetic. He wanted me to trust him. He began explaining that he didn’t have a phone that could carry a lot of apps, so they had to use his wife’s phone for Uber. He didn’t need to use Uber a lot, so they didn’t think it was a big deal. He was switching cars with so-and-so, over at so-and-so’s place, which is where we were going, and his complicated explanation forced me to reconsider my initial judgment that he was a nuisance, or worse, dishonest.
“Where are you from?” I asked. He had a heavy Spanish accent. He spoke in broken English. A sign of bravery.
“Venezuela.” He answered. “We have been here for almost a year. We had to leave our country because there was no food.”
He continued. His wife and children, and his parents fled Venezuela and came to a Dallas suburb to live with a distant cousin. In Venezuela, he was an Engineer. Here in Frisco, he is a cook at a mom-and-pop hamburger shop. His wife is cleaning houses.
He carried with him a substantial load of groceries and based on the aroma, hamburger and fries for everyone he was going home to. He talked about his hopes and dreams, not his problems, and he had a determination I seem to have lost.
When I dropped him off, three family members came outside to help him unload his items. They said nothing, just nodded and took a portion of the bags dutifully. He wanted me to know his story. That he was no lazy mooch. That they had no choice but to start over.
I felt admiration for him. I felt humbled by our conversation. I didn’t realize it at the time, but the experience planted a seed in my thoughts. I watched him go back into their home, and I thought about my attitude an hour earlier: annoyed, inconvenienced, and a little judge-y. I knew, in that moment, that I have it so much easier. I am privileged. I know that by societal standards, I’m not The Other.
In the United States of America, to be an Immigrant is to be seen as a Nemesis. A large portion of our native population believes that hardworking people who want the best life possible will somehow be the downfall of our country. That they are an external threat for which we must keep vigilance. That they will take something from us, and we will be less because of it. When focused on a collective of disenfranchised, the arguments against Immigration are generally based on the fear of loss.
I don’t receive that kind of judgment just for existing. I grew up in the suburbs of 5 states in America. My existence here is forged and expected. My Nemesis isn’t an outside force. It’s the part(s) of me that still fall to the limited perspective, the “mine!” mentality and the separation. Even if it’s over something as small as an Uber ride.