I was driving Lexi downtown and she was obviously excited. Lexi was finishing big task for her boss. That night would see the culmination of weeks of work. She had known her boss for years, they grew up together in Oklahoma. He had moved to Fort Worth several years back, the head of a large law firm based out of downtown. He’s highly driven and she knew this before accepting his offer to be his PA. The last several years he had gone through PA’s quickly and was struggling to find one he knows he could trust.
Lexi knows the man behind the mask. Others see the driven personality with little room for error. But she has no qualms reminding him about the people behind the error. He listens to her and takes her advice to heart. Obviously that’s not all she does. She plans, connects and builds on the firms ever increasing reputation.
Tonight is a party. A stockyard themed party full of western ware and high rollers. Every detail has been painstakingly seen to. T’s crossed and I’s dotted. Invitations have been sent out and returned. She is practically buzzing with nervous energy. Proud of what she’s accomplished and wanting to see the finished results. If tonight goes well it will mean new clients and better job security.
So why is she out of the office in the middle of such a busy day? When Lexi moved she brought with her a 100lb Rottweiler. Since she works late if she can’t find a sitter she will make time to travel back home and let the dog out, walk him for a few minutes and then take him back home. The situation concerns her.
She feels that in her new role there is little time for her dog, but she loves him and brought him all the way down from Oklahoma. She is currently wrestling between re scheduling her hours or finding a new owner. On the one hand she risks her new career. On the other she will lose a dog she has loved for years.
Helen’s first question to me when she found out I was from Europe was whether or not I spoke German. I don’t. Which is a shame considering how much I’ve worked with Germans. Helen had visited that country for a while when she was younger and learned the language. Now she practices weekly with an elderly neighbour who is an immigrant from there. They both work at Albertsons and see each other daily. It’s good for her and she speaks about him with obvious affection.
Helen is 27 and studying for her Masters in Early Childhood Development. She has a love for children of all ages but particularly for toddlers and elementary age. Long term she would love to teach in Germany but she knows the education system is different and for now is focussed on gaining experience while researching how children develop and how different countries around the world implement educational systems based on their understanding of this.
Helen is really excited because a new elementary school is opening across the road from where she lives. Her hope is that she will be able to get a job there so that she can work in her local community, not just a school across the city or several miles away. She would love to impact the lives of children and families that live and do life in her area.
Enriqua is a hispanic lady born in California several decades ago. She’s had 4 children and her eldest child works late at night. They have one car between them so she usually waits for her eldest to finish work before they go and complete their weekly shopping and other errands.
Unfortunately the time of night that they go shopping means there are often drunk drivers about. Enriqua has been involved in 3 accidents with drunk drivers. They have run red lights, turned awkwardly on the road and hurt her family many times. Her son Antonio was left brain damaged from one wreck and died 6 years ago. She misses him every day.
Enriqua is currently on social security disability due a drunk driver running a red light. Her back causes her a great deal of pain and she moves visibly slower than you would expect her to. For these reasons she is horrified at the thought of marijuana being legalised; believing it is yet another substance people might use before driving. One that could cause even more accidents.
As we talk the conversation turns to politics. Her first ever vote was for Ronald Reagen in the 80’s. She believed he offered hope and inspiration. Since then she has never voted, this includes not voting for Trump or Hillary. Although she never voted it does not prevent her from voicing discontent with President Trump. She believes he does not like people from Mexico and she worries about families being split up due to his executive orders.
I drop her off at the social security building and wish her the best. Some people I talk to fill me with hope and inspiration. Others have stories like Enriqua’s, that leave me wondering what I can do to help end horrors like drunk driving.
Jim worked in the oil business for decades. Worked hard. Made a good amount of money and has looked after his family well. Now, at age 71 he’s excited and getting ready to marry a lady who’s swept him away.
For 41 years he was married to someone else. Just a few years before she had fought the long hard battle against cancer and cancer won. The entire family felt the loss, but he knows she lived well and he believes she would want him to move on in these last decades of his own life.
So he’s getting married. By the time you read this he will be married. They’re going to buy a house near the beach and move out of state. Live in married bliss during retirement. As we Uber he tells me excitedly that he is looking forward to their honeymoon during which time he has scored tickets to a Bryan Adams concert. They’re both fans and they can’t wait to hear him live.
I smiled at him as we talked, letting him know I appreciate “Summer of 69” as much as the next man. He looks down at his phone for a second, “You know, I can bring it up on Youtube.” So he does. Not only that, but an entire album. As we travel along the Chilsholm Trail and by downtown Fort Worth, Bryan Adams blairs from the speakers and he is happy. I’m happy.
At 71 he’s listening to Bryan Adams and giving me Uber tips.
I dropped him off at the airport and he looked at me one more time, “You know, my father always taught me that no matter how long or short a time you spend with someone you should always seek to leave them better off than before you met. Thank you for doing that and I hope I did the same.”
Thomas had natural charisma, the sort of personality which was instantly engaging. You wanted to spend time with the guy. The sort of man you could picture yourself with, just shooting the breeze.
He was an african american able to connect within moments of meeting you. He worked at Kroger in Arlington but lived in a nearby town and would often Uber back and forth. He observed that plenty of people thought it was a long trip for such a job, but he had no problem with it. Enjoyed it. He’s just thankful to be working.
He lives in a nice neighborhood, with a beautiful house and is married with 2 children. They have a third on the way. He recently applied for life insurance, wanting to make sure that if anything did happen to him his family would be well looked after. He hadn’t realised that for his life insurance application to be accepted the company would send a representative around to his house so they could meet with him and his family. He’s not sure why they do this, but spent part of the Uber journey home frantically making arrangements so that his family would have time to make the meeting and finish the application.
He lives a busy life but he seems to genuinely love it. There’s no sense of falsehood with Thomas, he offers a simple and genuine connection. We laughed a great deal, telling stories that we both found humorous.
At one point we talked about when we were kids growing up. We were taught “stranger danger.” Now, judging by the amount that use Uber, we instead give kids our credit card information and ask them to call strangers who during the course of the trip will learn where that child goes to school, what time they leave and where they live. He laughed that Uber drivers are just glorified baby sitters. Sometimes he seems right.
Sometimes passengers talk just because they want to fill the awkward silence. Not Thomas. He loves it. Loves starting a friendship. Loves the connection. He has a zest for life, so although I was stuck in rush hour traffic I didn’t mind. I found myself more refreshed at the end of our conversation than before I picked him up.
Over the last few years I’ve felt that as a society we’ve begun to listen and understand the people around us less. I’ve wanted to do something about it for a while.
I started Ubering 6 weeks ago. Since then I’ve been hearing every day from the people who live in the Dallas Fort Worth area. DFW we call it, or The Metroplex. Sometimes they are people passing through, on holiday, a family reunion or at a convention. Sometimes they were born and raised in the city. Sometimes they moved here because of a job.
They are all great stories of people we pass in the street week in and week out.
I will now post at least one story about one person’s life. Consider it my contribution to listening and understanding.
Some stories are long.
Some are short.
Some are mere descriptions.
Some are photographs.
All are art.
All will bare the hashtag, #PeopleOfDFW.
Names may be changed to protect privacy.
If you live in this great metroplex I encourage you to share your own experiences. Stories you’ve heard, stories of people you’ve met. Stories you’ve lived out yourself. Use #PeopleOfDFW to add to our human tapestry.
As I’ve met the people of DFW I’ve felt the creative energy that has made this one of the fastest growing places in America. I’ve felt the warmth and humanity that welcomed me.
While you wait for the series here’s a Haiku they inspired.
Traversing beneath blue sky
Pause and say hello”