Wednesday, February 27, 2008

A Winter without end

Winter fatigue is starting to set in. You know, those long months when there is no end in sight and one begins to feel that spring is a mere figment of your imagination. The proverbial carrot dangled in front of your nose as the days drag on and months clock up mileage but still it remains cold, and dreariness refuses to loosen her grip on the city.

I always start the year feeling optimistic about the weather. In the beginning, winter is gorgeous, especially when I am watching the snowfall from the snuggly comfort of my couch. Even when I venture outside, I revel in the crisp crunch of my boots as they connect with the padded pavement. It is the closest thing to the childish delight of splashing in a puddle. Even the trees look majestic in their naked beauty and I pause and tell myself that maybe winter isn't so bad after all.

But then, two months into the year, reality takes root. The lingering chill is no longer fresh and pleasant. It is morphed into a bone chilling unpleasantness that only serves to underscore the misery permeating the air. The wind is merciless and relentless, turning every snowfall into a torrent of sleet and mayhem.

Most telling us the demeanor of the trees. Where they once stood proud and showed off their gently frosted tips, they now cower in terror. Tormented as the rest of us are by the neverending punishment of the elements. Logically, I know the end is in sight, but for some reason, this feels like a winter without end.


Wednesday, February 13, 2008

The more things change, the more they stay the same

Last night I jumped into a taxi on my way home and was delighted to notice that the driver was listening to a political talk show. The results of the Democratic Primaries in DC, Virginia and Maryland were due to start coming in so it was nice to know that I could stay up to speed. As he wove his way through the Manhattan rush hour traffic like a lunatic high on speed, he began to offer up his opinions. It is such a rarity for a New York taxi driver to have a conversation with someone with someone other than his hands-free, that I welcomed the distraction and began to chat to him.

He started off by asking me what I thought about Barack Obama. I told him that I really liked the guy and thought he had the potential to be a great POTUS. He agreed with me, and instead of stopping while was ahead, chose to go on and wax poetic about why he loved Obama so much. "Obama is a great man because he is not like all the other black people in this country. He doesn't go about causing trouble, he is a good man and I hope he wins."
As much as I like Obama, and as much as I hope he wins, I was incredulous at the nerve of this taxi driver, chauferring me, a black woman, telling me that he likes Obama because he isn't like other black people. Cheeky bastard. Never one to back down from a confrontation, I asked him "What exactly do you mean he isn't like other black people in this country? What are black people in this country like?"

He sputtered and stuttered as he rushed falling over himself to explain, "I wasn't talking about people like you, I was talking about the rest of the African-Americans, they are all trouble makers."
I gritted my teeth at the sheer obtuseness of this idiot, "So let me get this straight, in this whole country, Barack Obama and I are the only decent black people, and everyone else is to be classed as a troublemaker by virtue of the colour of their skin?"

He then began to feign ignorance claiming that he didn't understand what I was talking about. Luckily for him we pulled up outside my house and the conversation had to be cut short. The damage was already done though, and there was clearly no tip in his future. I considered reading him the riot act, but felt too weary to even bother engaging. I paid the man and waited for my change down to the last red cent. He told me how he didn't mean to offend me and apologised for any incovenience, but I was still saddened. Saddened by the fact that an Asian man, an ethnic minority in this country didn't know better than to make sweeping assesments of an enitre race of people. Saddened by the fact that he seemed to assume that his commentary on how Obama and I were okay was some sort of compliment.

Mostly though, I was saddened that at a time like this when history is being made and perceptions are being reshaped in ways we never thought possible, all this man could see is that Obama must be some sort of anomaly, some sort of fluke that does not represent the reality of what it is to be black in America. I was saddened to see that the more things change, the more they stay the same.

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