After an airline mix-up, Freddie deBoer was forced to take the bus from Vegas to Indiana. He reflects on the experience:
My seatmate for a long while was a man named Muy. He spoke very little English. He told me he was going to Chicago. It occurred to me, in a vague way, that were he a promising young engineer from China, I might have worked with him in my campus’s oral English program, working on his prosodic quality, his phrasal stress, his morphosyntax. Instead he was from Mexico, trying to get from Las Vegas to Chicago via Greyhound bus.
In Kansas City, they wouldn’t let him get back on the bus.
He had missed a transfer somewhere. It seemed easy enough to do; I worried about it the whole time. I loaded up while he talked to them. It became clear that they wouldn’t let him back on. His leather coat was in the storage space above our seats. I grabbed it and came to get off the bus to give it to him. The Greyhound employees wouldn’t let me off the bus. They said if I got off the bus I wouldn’t be able to get back on, and I’d have to purchase a new ticket for the bus that left the next afternoon. I said to the guy, here, this is that guy’s leather jacket, he’s 25 feet away, can you bring it to him. But they wouldn’t. They just wouldn’t. I wanted nothing more than to just walk out past them and hand it to him. But I didn’t have enough money in my bank account to buy another ticket, and my suitcase was stored in the bus, and I was so tired. So I got back on and put his jacket back up in the storage. Then I had nothing to do but sit and think about it.
My politics exists to understand the difference between him and me, between both of us and the people who will never worry about how to get home. It is political. Perhaps if he were me, if he were white and spoke the English that power speaks like I do, he would have been able to get back on that bus, or to talk them into letting him have his leather jacket. But it’s not just political. It’s the way that human beings can help others, simply, at no costs to themselves, and don’t, every day, every day.