Friday, April 30, 2010

Events of the Current

I drove past St. Vincent's Hospital late this morning and all the entrances were boarded up with wood. For a taxi driver, not many things could be classified as eerie sights. I had heard of its closing on news radio for days now. I didn't think much of it, aside from my geographic mind mapping out the routes and distances ambulance drivers would now have to detour towards, from any given neighborhood. But as I drove past this morning, it hit me. The familiar buzz of hopeful eyes exiting its doors. The urgent (if open) eyes being carried in on stretchers, as I do my auto-pilot wiggle around double parked ambulances. It's as if none of that was ever there now. The residential rents are are so high in that area. Couldn't someone with all that money put some down on behalf of the community? I guess their insurance plans are only good in other hospitals.

Another highly disappointing situation I heard about in the cab is the oil spill in Louisiana, right at the very lips of the mouth of the Mississippi River. It's quickly on its way to being on par with Exxon Valdez, if that means anything to you. Basically, complete ecological devastation. It's times like these that I question my role as a burner of fossil fuels. However, I stick to my guns (guts) on the idea that my job is a highly efficient, and mostly necessary use of petroleum. It just needs to max out in passenger capacity more often, and run on hydrogen. If we operated with the organic resourcefulness of taxicabs in the third world, we'd be pretty damn eco-friendly.

What's left among current events that is relevant to my occupation? Immigration. Every now and then I get someone run up to my window with a look of desperation on their face.
"Do you speak Espanish?"
"Si, claro."
"Me puedes llevar al consulado Mexicano? (or whichever it might be)"

Of course I can take you to your consulate. I know where the ones are for Colombia, Philippines, Peru, Poland, Indonesia, Pakistan, Mexico, and a few others. I find out real quick where they are if I don't already know. I usually just remember where it was I've seen the flag drooping down from the second or third floor. Yes, I have 98% of the world's flags memorized by color and design. Capitals too. (I've been obsessed with geography since I was 6 years old.) I always slice off a dollar or two from the fare for my fellow immigrants who are on an urgent task to secure their opportunity to work (and/or live) in this country. If I charge them the full fare, I can't help but feel as though I am some sort of COYOTE, taking advantage of their urgency.

I too was born abroad. In 1984 I immigrated to the U.S. with my parents (as a 4 year old on a tourist visa.) Our arrival in Los Angeles coincided with the summer games of the XXIII Olympiad. A year later we were granted Green Cards, thanks mostly to the fact that my step grandmother was a U.S.- born citizen. That was an easy excuse back then. Not anymore. We remained safe, sound, and content as resident aliens until 2006. By then the Bush administration had thoroughly inspired us to get naturalized ("love it or get the hell out," so to speak). If that hadn't done it, present-day Arizona would have. In observance of May Day tomorrow, there will be an Immigration Reform march in downtown Manhattan. It starts at 10:45 AM, by Federal Plaza, and goes down Centre, Park Row, Barclay, Church, Worth, and back to Foley Square.

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