I woke up early today to make a 7:30 appointment to get my oil changed and have my tires rotated. I got to the service station a little early, and passed the time sipping my coffee and listening to coverage of MLK Day and the upcoming inauguration. I wouldn't say I have my hopes tied to the incoming adminsitration as much as some people do, but I am optimistic. And the fact that a black man is entering the oval office as we celebrate Dr. King's life certainly forces one to reflect on the past half-century.
Anyway, the station manager pulled into the parking spot next to mine, and I followed him into the shop. He let me know he'd need 10 minutes to get started, and went about his business. As he was counting out the cash in his register, he flipped on his TV to CNN which, of course, was airing news similar to my morning radio.
He calls me up to the counter, I remind him what I need done with my car, and he agreeably passes the orders off to his service tech. I'm ready to re-enter my early-morning oblivion when he stirs me from the haze.
"What do you think of this?" he asks. The blank expression on my face tells him that we are not on the same page. He elaborates: "You know, all of them celebrating... The black caucus... that kind of thing?"
Not knowing who this guy was, and seeing the MD plates on his pickup truck (could be a Rising Sun boy), I tried to give the most neutral answer: "Um, I don't know... I think the black community has a few reasons to celebrate this week."
His eyes narrow a little, and he responds. "Yeah, maybe... but you don't see any other minority group in this country celebrating like them."
Still not sure where this conversation is headed, I point to left field and decide to try and knock one out of the park. "Well... in fairness, no other minority group in the US was systematically enslaved for 200-plus years."
His eyes widened a little, he was quiet for a moment, and he responded genuinely, "I suppose you're right."
We continued talking topically about the craziness of the Inauguration: the train ride, the traffic, the spectacle. It turns out, dear Reader, that this guy is actually rooting for Obama. After referring to the 43rd president as "the worst in history" he said he's bought into the message of hope and change, and thinks the new guy will get a full eight years in the Oval Office.
At the end of the day, I'm not sure the guy thought of Obama as the same kind of African American as the rest of "them", but he seemed open to changing more than just oil. That's a start I suppose.