“Are You A Jew?”

I got a request in Culver City about a year ago.  As I drive toward it, the map shows that it’s a cul de sac of some sort, so I’m thinking it’s a giant office building or something of the like.  As I approach, I see it’s actually a senior care center.  The nurse is already flagging me down.  She seems like she’s had a few drivers already see this mess and drive away, cancelling the ride.

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In case you were wondering, there area a few reasons why drivers don’t like taking these rides.  The first being, that it’s a lot of extra work and extra time for no extra pay.  If I hurt my back lifting a heavy wheelchair into my trunk, Uber doesn’t care.  I can screenshot their response to two separate cases of this, if you doubt it.

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A second reason is that they are typically very low fares, just going a few blocks away after an appointment or something.  Who wants to take ten unpaid minutes loading and ten more unpaid minutes unloading somebody and their stuff for a five minute ride that pays $2.50?

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Another reason is, if that old person falls getting in or out of your car, with or without your help, YOU can be held financially responsible.  Which of course is ridiculous, given that we have no choice over the rides we take, nor any knowledge of the destination or clientele.

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I’m a good person, and I like to have things to complain about, so I took the ride.  As I approached, the woman says that Gerald or Ebenezer or whomever might need a little extra time getting in and out of the car.  Thanks for telling me what I already know!

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He gets in, in the front seat.  Avid readers of the blog will recall that I hate this like the South hates making wedding cakes for gays.   We drive in silence for a solid 60 seconds or so, as he’s made it evident that he doesn’t hear very well.  But he breaks the silence with a rather bold and… interesting question:  “Are you a Jew?”

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More than a little stunned, I respond, “No, I’m not.  I get that a lot, because of my dark hair and big nose.  But no, sir.  I am not Jewish.”  I’m wondering to myself if it would’ve been a problem for him if I were?  His voice seemed so abrasive when he asked the question, that I was sure there was a hint of anti-semitism in it.

He insists my name is a Jewish name, which I can kind of understand.  But I’ve had Armenians tell me it’s Armenian as well.  And bottom line, white people seem to just co-opt everything, so nothing is sacred anymore.

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Then he says something that carries a lot of weight.

I wasn’t prepared for this.

He nods his head approvingly and says, “Ah.  I was in Auschwitz.”  He pulled up his sleeve and revealed his numbered tattoo on his arm.

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I couldn’t believe my eyes.  I didn’t have words.  I did have them, I just couldn’t find them in that moment.  Perhaps there were too many words, and I knew it was going to be a short ride, so I felt pressure to sift through them quickly.

“My father was murdered in front of me.  Me and my brother were spared because we were able to work longer hours than him.”

He told me brief vignettes, and I wished that I had time to hear everything.  I did find the words to tell him that he was an amazing and strong person for surviving what he went through physically, mentally and emotionally.

He nodded quietly, seeming like he was uncomfortable with the compliment but also was used to hearing things like that.  As he got out of the car, I said simply, “Thanks for being here.  I hope you’ve found a way to share your story,” and he said “They fly me to DC once a month to tell it.”  That felt right.

I said goodbye, but this was one time that I didn’t want the ride to end.

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RIDESHARE TIP #1945: If you are a Holocaust survivor, try to go on longer trips if I’m your driver.  Because I want to hug you forever.

 

 

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