I have a little crush on the cab driver who brought me home from the hospital today. When I got in his car, I couldn’t help but notice his pimp daddy purple shirt, his white driving gloves, his dapper pinstriped pants and his barely there grey at his temples. I handed him the only business card I have with my address on it, which was from our principal, Gary Odom.
“Do you know Bong-mu Dong?” I asked. Usually this question receives a “ney (yes)” or a gruntish response, but not today. Not from my dapper daddy. “Yes, I know it well” he said. You know it well? I thought. I think I love you. Hearing English when I’d just spent a frantic hour trying to navigate the Korean emergency room for Luke’s wrist (which is not broken, thank goodness), was like retreating to the walk-in cooler in the hell-hot kitchen of a restaurant. Just for a second.
Then, as we pulled away and our chat continued, he asked, in much more broken words “How big here Korea?” – he wanted to know how long I’d been here – and no matter how I tried, for the next few miles, my answers were too hard for him to translate. We struggled, and laughed a little, until both of us got a little tired, of straining to simplify and still not being understood. Plus I get wicked car sick in the stop/start of the city traffic. “Card again?” he asked me when he stopped at a red light. I gave it to him. “Oh, Gary Odom,” he smiled kindly, “You do good. You good principal, yes?” And then there was that split second, between when I knew I should have tried to correct him (god knows Gary deserved that) and when I decided not to, that I felt so at home with Mr. Purple shirt. It was something in his kindness that made me think of home. Yes, I decided to answer – I knew he’d be happy just to get something in the conversation right, yes, I am. I’m a good Gary Odom principal. Only I didn’t, I just smiled back.
He brought me home, the long way, but I forgive him, and when I got out of the car he said ” goodnight, new friend!” I mean, really. He just made the whole kooky day a little less scary and a lot more friendly. A small town heart in a gigantic city. Don’t you love my Pimp Dapper Daddy too?