It was late and the DC streets were twisty. We sat huddled in the back, scared, because you never quite know if you’re safe in the cab.
The driver got lost in the middle of the ride and for a few moments I was more than scared, I was terrified.
We sat there holding our iPhones in our hands, silently tracking where the car was as versus the route, trying not to let the driver see. In between I checked the dashboard GPS. It seemed like we were OK.
“Confusing streets, right?” This is me attempting to make sure we’re not getting lost on purpose. “It’s so much easier to navigate New York.”
My fellow passenger caught on. “Yeah, I hate how confusing DC is.”
The driver chimed in. “I hate DC! These streets are just impossible.”
In fact it is true, if you try to get around these side street in the city without having walked it on foot, good luck to you. And especially at night.
“Where are you from?” I asked the driver.
“Wisconsin, originally Afghanistan. Now I am in Virginia.”
I don’t know why I did this next thing, but I did.
“I am not a big fan of Virginia,” I said. “I’m a Jew.”
At this the driver turned around. “Come again? What was that?”
“I’m a Jew,” I clarified, “and Virginia is very Christian. I’m not sure they like Jews over there.”
My fellow passenger mouthed silently, “What the hell are you doing?”
And I mouthed back, “It’s fine,” although truthfully I didn’t really know if it was fine. I had opened my mouth spontaneously, going only by my gut instinct.
She was looking at her iPhone frantically, as was I. I did not know where the hell we were. I had a 60-65% comfort level at that point, which is not high.
So we tried to pretend that the comfort level was actually 90%, because sometimes when you get nervous you actually can create the very problem that you fear.
“Oh, that’s not true,” said the driver. “There are lots of Muslims in Virginia.”
I wasn’t quite sure how the presence of many Muslims was intended to make me as a Jew feel better.
“There are all types of people there.”
“That’s very interesting,” I said. “I did not know that.”
In fact I did know that, but I didn’t really want to get into the shifting demographics of Virginia State. Mostly I was keeping an eye on the map.
“I believe that we are all from the same God,” said the driver. “A lot of Muslims don’t like Jews, and even my family doesn’t say anything when they start to put the Jews down. But I always defend them.”
That would be us.
“Well, thank you,” I said and at that my fellow passenger laughed, startled.
“I don’t believe in keeping silent about things that matter.”
At this I was absolutely amazed.
The driver went on to talk about how the Palestinian conflict never seemed to end, how it seemed crazy that they couldn’t make peace over there, and how his home country of Afghanistan had been wracked by war for decades.
He said that he had left Afghanistan in the late 1970s, after the Soviet invasion, which the United States helped the Afghans to resist.
“Was there ever a time of peace in Afghanistan?”
“No, no. As soon as we got the land, the leaders started fighting among themselves, and they never stopped until the Taliban took over.”
By now we were on the main road, although the route we took was really nutty. It is hard for me to fathom how complicated a simple short trip can get.
But the driver seemed like he was just doing his job.
“I believe what it says in Isaiah,” I said at some point, “that in the Messianic times all the people who believe in God will worship Him together. It will be a New Age.”
The driver did not seem to find this idea all that interesting. And there were a few minutes remaining within which to fill the silence.
“So who did you vote for in the election, if I may ask?” It seemed like a safe enough topic now.
“Not Hillary,” said the driver. “I cannot stand that Hillary Clinton. She is awful.”
My fellow passenger and I looked at each other and laughed. This seems to be the common refrain: “I can’t stand Hillary,” and then “Trump.”
“So you voted for Trump then,” I said.
“Yes, Donald Trump. I like that he says exactly what he thinks – he doesn’t hold anything back.”
“Did you hear him on that news interview the other day?”
“The one where he said we’re a bunch of killers?”
“Yes,” said the driver. “I loved that! He said Putin is a killer, and we’re not so innocent either.”
“I think it’s very carefully calculated,” I said to the driver. “He doesn’t just make it up off the top of his head.”
Silence then. “Maybe.”
We had arrived at our destination.
“Do you know why I’m a Republican?” said the driver. “I get all these people in here, and they talk to me about ‘I hate Trump this,’ and ‘I hate Trump that,’ but do you know why?
“Because the immigrants come in, and they work hard, and then they still take the government money. The Democrats always give out the goodies, but the Republicans don’t let them get away with that stuff.”
I was so relieved and grateful that the ride was over, we were safe and the trip was uneventful.
“Thank you very much,” we said, almost in unison.
“You’re most welcome,” said the driver. “I guess I have trouble with directions, because I am used to driving in my hometown.”
“Afghanistan?” I asked.
“No, my hometown in Wisconsin.”
All opinions my own.
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