By day, I’m a law professor in Detroit. The pay is decent, but I’m also the father of a daughter in (a very expensive) college. So, by night I’m an Uber driver. Have you ever wondered what kind of things you see and hear driving around metro Detroit? Well…
First, about Fowling Warehouse. I’ve never been inside but by all accounts it’s fun. Apparently it’s bowling with a football. The type of thing you do with a beer in hand. So, naturally, my passengers had been drinking. Not as much as the prior passengers, but they’d definitely had a drink or 3. Buzzed. That’s my favorite kind of passenger because they’re at the point where they just don’t give a damn but they’re not drunk enough to vomit in my car. One was a bit argumentative with his friend, but nothing outrageous.
The pick up location, Hamtramck, is an interesting place. It’s a city located completely within the city of Detroit. It’s diverse*, with a large Polish population and significant Albanian, Black, Asian, Ukrainian, and Arab communities. It also has great music venues and food. Of late, the Muslim population has grown, which, as you might expect, has caused some issues. I like eating there because there are so many places that serve halal meat and it’s closer to my house than Dearborn. Oh, yeah, I’m Muslim. If you don’t know me, you probably wouldn’t have guessed that. My passengers certainly didn’t have a clue because they proceeded to have the following conversation:
Passenger 1: “Did you hear about that new mosque?
Passenger 2: “Where? Hamtramck? Figures. That’s what they do.”**
Passenger 1: “Yeah dude, I hear it’s gonna be as big as the one in Dearborn. There’s no way the city should allow that.”
Passenger 2: “They probably will.” Turning to me, “No offense if you’re Muslim.”
Now, I have no idea why he decided to suddenly ask me about my religion. Maybe I look like a typical Muslim.
Maybe it was just habit. You know, the reflex of looking around to make sure nobody in the room is part of the group that’s about to be the punchline of your joke. Unless of course you’re Donald Trump, in which case you don’t have time to be PC about your racism/sexism/etc.
In retrospect, I wish I’d kept quiet, just so I could hear how far they’d go. Instead, I replied, “As a matter of fact, I am Muslim.”
Nothing as delicious as the awkward silence of Grosse Pointers. One Mississippi, Two Mississippi, Three Mississippi…
Passenger 2: “My wife is Black.”
I can’t recall many details of the conversation from that point on. It lost all coherence and I wasn’t a participant. It was like listening to the audio of a horror movie you’ve seen a thousand times before. The part where the main characters decide to split up and explore the strange house alone or say “Candyman” or “Bloody Mary” three times in the mirror. You want to scream, “Stop! Don’t move! Don’t say another word!” But they do it anyway.
I can’t remember specifics, but I do recall hearing the following:
- The mother of Passenger 2’s wife used the N-word A LOT, but he never did. (I was asked my opinion on the use of the N-word in rap music. I pretended I didn’t hear the question.)
- Passenger 2 was really comfortable around Black people.
- Passenger 1 believes that Black people use the N-word like “dude” or “bro” so it doesn’t mean anything bad when they say it. (I was asked my opinion. Again, I pretended I didn’t hear the question.)
- Immigrants contribute a lot to society. Really, they really really do.
- Islam is a great religion.
- Detroit is a great city.
Maybe it was cruel to just let them go on and on. Maybe I should have said something to put them at ease. That thought actually crossed my mind. But while that thought was meandering across my frontal lobe, we pulled up in front of their destination and they quickly departed. Sigh. I’m sure if I’d had a little longer I’d have been nice and said something appropriate. Probably.
Oh well. I made $9.38.
* Ancestry Groups as reported in 2000 Census: Polish 10.9% | Black 5.1% | Yugoslav 5.5% | Arab (Excluding Iraqi and Lebanese) 9.2% | Asian Indian 5.4% | Ukrainian 3.2% | German 1.9% | Albanian 2.8% | Bangladeshi 19.7% | Irish 2.2% | Italian 1.8% | Russia 1.4% | American 1.1% | French (excluding the Basques) 0.8% | Lebanese 0.7% | Scottish 0.7% | Mexican 0.2% | Pakistani 11.0% | Macedonian 0.5% | Iraqi 0.5%
** The proposed mosque was actually slated for Sterling Heights, not Hamtramck.