Saturday, January 19, 2013
It has been four years since I was in the plane crash. Every year, I honor that day with another section from what I refer to as "my Alaskan Adventures". I am again adding another segment:
It really wasn't until I was in a car accident in Bethel that I became aware of the caste system. The Korean cab drivers were, I discovered, the bottom rung of the social strata. I always tried to treat those who drive for me with the utmost courtesy. I don't like to drive much and to not have to drive in bethel was a relief. On this day I was particularly exhausted having slept unprepared for the overnight stay in a school on a wooden bench. Grateful to get out the following morning, I arrived in Bethel optimistic for an office day. But my plans were quickly altered when as the cab driver was dropping off a passenger, the cab was plowed in the side of the car by a large truck. The tiny native woman leapt out hollering at the driver screaming it was his fault. Sitting in the front passenger side I'd seen and felt it all. I stepped up saying right away oh no honey we were parked here. You hit us. The cab driver appeared relieved I'd spoken up. After the police were summoned, he turned to me you stay? He pleaded. Your English helpful? I cringed. I then called my office explaining where I was and what had happened. The secretary said oh Christy! What damn cab were you in? I told her and we laughed a little. The cab driver had some money stashed in the visor, counted it and jammed it in his pants. About a hundred dollars in twenties and ones, I was a little miffed he thought I'd steal his money. The police came, taking statements and collecting phone numbers. Finally we had the go ahead to leave. I asked the driver if he was ok to take me or should I call another cab? He said he would deliver me to my apartment. He refused my offer of payment. I thanked him and settled back. When we arrived at my hovel, I got out to collect my bags and it was then he shoved the sweaty wad of cash in my hand. Surprised I gave it back and said I'm not taking your money. He explained I'd helped. I said no again. He tried again to give me the money. I shook my head grabbed my bags and went up the steps to my apartment. I glanced back to see him standing and crying. It was then I realized how they must feel, lost trying to make money to send home. Not knowing the language or customs must be so hard for them. I am ashamed to say that I went inside, I did not have the strength to comfort him. I left him alone to figure it out for himself.