The flight that Minal and I take from LAX to Houston Hobby is delayed and lands at two in the morning. After collecting our baggage, we walk out into the steamy night to catch a taxi – I haven’t asked any friends to pick us up in the middle of the night, though if we were landing in Karachi – where most international flights land in Karachi between eleven at night and six in the morning – we would request that a family member pick us up.
But this morning is not Karachi. We are in Houston.
The taxi driver is a grumpy man from Nigeria. “You are my first customers,” he tells us. “I’ve been sitting and waiting since 8 pm!”
When I give him our address, he asks for direction. “I’m not used to driving to your neighborhood,” he says. “Most people who take taxis go to North Houston or to the Galleria.”
I ask him to turn on Broadway to get to the freeway, but he responds: “We cannot go down Broadway! Too dangerous. Too many bad people there. All these black men – they are robbers. If we stop at a traffic light, they will hold out a gun and take all your possessions.”
Minal pushes closer to me. We reach our house at 3:30 am.
- * *
A few weeks later, I have a different conversation with a rental car agency driver. He’s taking me to the rental agency, so I can have a vehicle to drive in Houston while my car is being shipped to Los Angeles.
“Do you know Mr. Khan?” is the first thing the driver asks me.
“Which Mr. Khan?”
“The one who’s been in the news.”
“No, I don’t know that Mr. Khan,” I respond. “But I’m glad people are paying attention. I can’t believe Donald Trump said what he did.”
The driver laughs. “Don’t even get me started on Mr. Trump! But “Mr. Khan… I helped him run for elections. He didn’t win, though.”
I turn to look at the driver. “The Mr. Khan in the news is not the same as the Mr. Khan, who ran for elections in Houston.”
“Really?” the driver responds. “I thought they were the same!”
“Khan is a popular name among Pakistanis and Afghans,” I say.
02 Aug 2016 02:13:46 PM