I’m sitting at the Denver airport, delayed enroute to Santa Barbara, California.
Three seats away a tall man, around my age if not older, is talking on his iPhone. He wears jeans, a black cowboy hat, and black boots. He makes one phone conversation after another while I finish my coffee, talking to friends and real estate agents, telling them he’s coming over for a week and plans to buy a home, so please show him everything they got. Doesn’t mention where, or at least I never hear it. Hangs up, dials again, same message, hangs up, dials again.
Some 70 feet away a woman announces the flight to Shreveport, Louisiana. Two dozen people board; these are small planes. She announces Last call for Shreveport! After that she calls out the names of three people who haven’t boarded yet and asks them to come quickly. Three seats away the man continues talking on the phone. Then she announces once more: This is the last call for Shreveport, doors are closing. Finally the plane leaves.
Five minutes later the agent at the gate in front of us announces that the plane for Santa Barbara has arrived and we will board soon. My cowboy neighbor gets up and walks over. What happened to the plane to Shreveport?
The agent tells him that the plane to Shreveport just left.
Why didn’t you make any announcements?
They made announcements, the agent says patiently, and when the man asks what he should do now, the agent recommends he book another flight and directs him to Customer Service.
I shake my head—others around me do, too—but I’m relieved at the same time. For the agent is Latino, and an hour earlier I’d witnessed an ugly scene of an inebriated passenger yelling racial slurs at another agent, clearly not born in this country, till airport police arrived and took him away.
Ever since Donald Trump’s remarks about people from shithole countries, I watch and listen more carefully. I’m also more proud than ever of my own shithole roots.
In Denver I had sat down at a small airport eatery. The man at the next table opened up a potato chip bag, it burst into a big hole with a loud WHOP! and the chips fell on the floor. Immediately a small, dark-skinned woman approached with a new potato chip bag. She opened it for him as he apologized, then brought out the broom and pan and swept the floor.
She rested a bit on a nearby chair, a shade of red down one side of her long, dark hair, and we started talking. I thanked her for taking such good care of us. She said she was Tamil from Sri Lanka.
How does she feel here, I asked her. She smiled bashfully, said she felt good.
After talking a little more, I pressed her. Did she feel welcome here? She is here legally, she assured me.
Were things all right? That was my vague way of saying: You’re clearly an immigrant, not Norwegian, not white, in fact you’re not even 5 feet tall and very, very thin, so are you alright?
She understood. People very nice, she assured me. Much nicer than Sri Lanka, she added.
It reminded me that many immigrants, coming from the countries Trump despises, have faced far worse things than verbal abuse. For now, the Tamils are finished in Sri Lanka. Villages burned, families destroyed, people disappeared. And she’s legal here in the US.
I bless US every day, she said.
Still, out of caution, I didn’t ask her whether I could take a photo.