Tuesday, January 23, 2018

"I Just Asked One Question"

“Where are you from originally?”

And the following unsolicited narrative came tumbling out.

But First, A Brief Backstory:  Anna, Colby and “Baby Golda” – I held her on my shouldah – live about forty or so minutes away by car – five minutes by plane, but who’s got a plane?  Dr. M was downtown attending the “Women’s March” which I scrupulously avoided due to chronic “Crowd Claustrophobia.”  

Since I was therefore at loose ends and Anna was lonesomely housebound servicing the baby, I was entreated to come up (their house is on top a hill) for a visit.  The house-to-house distance, being too far for me to drive, I ordered “Lyft” (“Uber’s” competitor) to take me there.  My driver, I was pre-informed – let’s call him “Shane” – dutifully arrived, and after asking if I could sit in the front – which, to me, is more democratic – I posed, based on his out-of-state accent, what I assumed would be the simplest of questions.

It wasn’t.

First, briefly, some “Transportational Bookkeeping.”

I had apparently mistakenly pressed the wrong button, agreeing to share my ride with somebody else.  That’s why, it was explained, we startlingly blew past the freeway entrance – to pick the other passenger.  That is also why, although I was informed that our mutual destinations – according to Lyft regulations – would only be one mile apart, we instead drove seven miles out of my way.  Normally a fuming annoyance – and a prospective blog post.  But not this time, because it allowed me to hear an expanded version of the astonishing answer to my one question:

“Where are you from originally?”

“Shane’s” opening response was Louisiana.  But after that… wait, let’s pause for a second.  I mean, what I am about to reveal feels a little like “biographical voyeurism.”  It is not really my story to tell.   Still, it was my Lyft experience, and the driver offered it voluntarily. 

You know what?  I’m going for it. 

I am “Lyfying” his auto-biography.  (No pun intended.  But hey.)

Okay.  (After a gigantic swallow.)

My driver “Shane” explained he was the eleventh of fifteen children, whose father, whom he described as a long-haired “Party Animal”, and here it comes…

… had tried to sell him.

And his two-and-a-half year-old sister.  (At the time, “Shane” himself was one-and-a-half.)

This was truly uncharted territory for me.  Nowhere outside of a Law & Order SVU episode had I been privy to someone who had actually been sold.  

The father had outfitted them in leather, assigning them Native American names, as, apparently, in the Louisiana “Black Market” for children, Indian kids were considered substantially more valuable.

Unfortunately for Dad, the arranged “Cash For Kids” exchange turned out to be an FBI “Sting” – resulting from a tip-off by Shane’s teenaged older sister – and the “alleged” Baby Broker – yeah, right – was immediately arrested.

The problem was, it was a Friday night, and the “Flesh and Blood”-selling felon could not be arraigned till the following Monday.  The merchandized babies would either have to spend the weekend in a “holding cell” with their miscreant father (and various other creeps), or alternate accommodations would need to be procured.

Let’s take a breath here, okay?

I am sitting in a “ride sharing” conveyance, heading for a visit with my daughter and her six week-old newborn, and a total stranger is telling me – totally calmly – how his father had attempted to sell him and his sister, had gotten subsequently ensnared in an FBI “Sting” operation, and it looked like a one-and-a-half year-old boy and a two-and-a-half year-old girl would be spending the night with their incarcerated Daddy-o in the local calaboose.

The Feds decided that, rather than jailing infants, they would check the vicinity’s “Foster Parent” rolls for the family topping the current “Approved List.”  The telephoned prospective “Foster Mother” informed them that they had recently received their new “Foster Baby” and were not interested in any more.

After some unspecified “arm twisting”, the woman agreed to take the two toddlers for the weekend, but she would refuse to engage with them, fearing possible emotional attachment.  Instead, the woman delegated the recent arrivals to her seventeen and eighteen year-old sons. 

And wouldn’t you know it?  After weeks of “Red Tape” delays, the teenaged boys became attached to the babies and when the time came to surrender them, they adamantly refused to give the little tykes up.

Finally relenting, the “Foster Mother” agreed to take responsibility for the babies that had originally been foisted upon her.  And there “Shane” (and his sister) remained – bearing both standard American names (on their Birth Certificates) and American Indian names (on their Social Security cards) – until “Shane” – adopting the standard American version – entered the Marine Corps at age seventeen.

Where his immediate superior, with whom he was unwilling to sufficiently socialize, blocked his deployment to Afghanistan, where he might prove a superior Marine and embarrass his immediate superior for not promoting him sooner.

A Marine forbidden deployment to Afghanistan as a punishment.  Only here would that be the least bizarre element of the narrative.

It has been suggested that this entire story may have been made up.  It had emerged from “Shane’s” mouth as if scripted.  But to me, it felt less rehearsed than frequently told, a “12-Step” member healthily unburdening himself at a meeting.

Or in this case one Lyft passenger at a time.

And there you have it.

I had requested a ride. 

And had received an accompanying “Movie-of-the-Week.”

As I sat later in Anna and Colby’s house, holding baby Golda – “I love you”, I affectionately told-ah – describing, not entirely to her mother’s appreciation, that the baby girl felt like “a heating pad with a head” – I pondered the “Twin Gifts” I had recently received:

That someone I had never met had shared an intensely personal story.

And that I in no way resembled “Shane’s” father.


Ali Semchuck said...

If someone asked me where I came from, my first response would be "the womb." If they persisted, explaining they meant geographic location, I would say "Chicago." I don't really have any elaborate stories about my meager beginnings, meager being the key word in my lifestyle. I adapted to meager ways and that became as comfy as a pair of worn slippers.

I did have a rare experience at age 5. I spent a lot of time at my grandparents house while growing up in Chicago's near north side. That was my mother's parents. My Bobee made the best chicken matzo ball soup on the planet -- maybe the universe.

I had long, wavy black hair at age 5. It flowed to my waist. Early one Friday my grandmother was doing some last minute shopping for the Sabbath meal and I accompanied her. A woman whose family lived in a storefront establishment -- a group of people that moved from place to place -- dashed across the street to make my grandmother an offer she thought my grandmother could not resist. That group of people wore flashy clothes and loads of jewelry. She assumed my grandmother would hand me over to their tribe in exchange for cash and jewels. That's when I knew Bobee really loved me. My grandparents were poor. Yet still my grandmother chose me. I truly can say I'm one of the chosen people.


Boyd said...

Perhaps Shane has given you your next movie script in 3 weeks, including a title: Shane: for Sale.