Bill Alfredo moved to Miami four years ago from Columbia. He drove for Lyft as he eked out a living for himself and his small family. His office was his car.
Giving himself the first name of Bill for his job prevented him, he hoped, from being skipped over by the less tolerant Americans he sometimes picked up at the airport or in the hub of Touristy Miami.
He thought that by now he would have learned a little more English than he had, and he worried this was going to limit his future possibilities, and leave him vulnerable to being expelled from his new home. But there really hadn’t been time with the two jobs and responsibilities of fatherhood.
When his customers entered his car, each time he worried about the language barrier. Would they speak Spanish, or English, or some other language he didn’t know? Sometimes his customers tried in their very broken Spanish to communicate with him, even though the driver app gave him all the information he needed to take them to where they were going.
On good days, the bridge between what little English he spoke and what little, poorly pronounced Spanish his rider knew, they could have a short, stilted but pleasant conversation about very basic things.
Have you lived here long?
Repeating themselves Have you lived here long?
Sorry, little English,
This was followed by a moment of tension for him. Would they be offended that he didn’t speak the language of the country where he worked? Would they give him a bad rating because he couldn’t communicate? Would there be anger emanating from the back seat?
Or would it be broken Spanish?
Quantos anos vivir en Miami?
Oh, 4 years! (A little bit of bridge)
Qual estas tu vivir en….err.. Miami? Gustan MIami?
De dedonde eres?
More silence, but at least friendly silence.
As this group of three got out of his car, “Muchas gracias por…. the ride...how do say ride? Muchas gracias para todos!”
After 12 hours behind the wheel, continually in downtown Miami traffic, Alfredo pulled into the driveway of his small rented house. The stucco walls, the repeatedly painted iron security bars disguised as “Spanish” influenced and lights pouring out of the front windows greeted him as he turned off the car and took a deep breath.
This, he knew, was the reason he did this. The reason he spent long days into the night, driving strangers from place to place. For this little family of his. His wife, their two small children, one born in Columbia, one in the United States, neither of whom had any memory of the country his heart still called home.
He and his wife wanted a better life for their children. They knew it would be hard, and maybe only slightly better than where they had left, but there were blessings here to help counteract the sorrows of living so far from family.
Here they would always have drinkable water. Here there were no, yet, cartels. Here people found joy amidst the difficulties.
He opened the screen door, smiled at his beautiful and strong wife. She came to him with a kiss on the cheek and asked ¿Cómo te fué en el trabajo? In a voice and a language so sweet to his soul.