To my Mum’s simple “How are you doing?” question over Skype, one of our close family friends, whom we had recently visited in Baltimore, responded, “It would have been two days of my passing away.”
She had gotten into a really bad car accident as she crashed with an impatient driver, who just could not wait for his turn to make a left-hand turn. Luckily all her airbags in the car popped out, and no physical harm was done to her. But her car was horribly damaged and can no longer be driven.
As she was beginning to process, rationalize, and started explaining the situation, over Skype, there were so many cultural associations that she was bringing up, without intentionally meaning to do so. Most of it was clearly influenced by how the driver, in fault, from the other car, was reacting. The driver’s impatience was associated to his ethnicity; his bully attitude towards an Asian woman driver, was associated with his privilege of not needing to learn about the world, different than his, residing in America; and his talking at her in a very loud, fast, and angry voice (so that she would be nervous and admit it was her fault instead), was associated with his upbringing in an environment where respect was not taught from early on.
Do drivers of certain ethnic background get treated differently when behind the wheels? How about if the driver is a woman? This conversation made me think a little deeper about just driving in general in the United States.
There are not many nice people behind the wheels anymore. You get the honkers, yellers, impatient drivers, road ragers, ones that forcefully squeeze in front of you, tailgaters, and the list goes on.
And of course, if you live in Arizona, you get randomly stopped and carded for looking a certain way, because of our Sheriff and his officers’ limited worldview.
Most evenings, I walk around my block to check my mail. One of the evenings, walking back with my mails, I noticed a parked car with a hand-written sign, stuck at the back of the car, and it stated “Learning. Be Nice.” It also had a little smiley face at the bottom. I found that a bit funny and took a picture with my phone. Who does that, I said to myself? Since the car had a little statue of Ganesh Ji (Hindu God with an elephant head), I could tell that the owner was a Hindu, most likely from India, since we are the only Nepalese in that neighborhood.
Our family friend’s car accident episode was not the worst-case scenario. But let me tell you, her experience with a culturally incompetent, proud, and rude Caucasian man who hit her car, then with the officers that mostly listened to the Caucasian man, then with the hospital staff, and now with the insurance agents, definitely took her years back, when she first moved to the United States. It forced her to question whether her decision to move to the United States was a right decision.