I picked him up in the parking lot of a miniature urban strip mall. One that has the oldest Starbucks in Denver and a bakery named “La Sensual”. This is the bakery that I wondered into within days of moving here 20 years ago, from the San Luis Valley. Try to imagine someone who had spent the last 11 years living on an acreage raising pigs and geese, walking into a bakery thinking he is headed for the scone counter, only to be met with cakes designed in all sorts of ways to celebrate human “private parts”. After 20 years in the heart of urban Denver I am still a bit like Jed Clampet living in a 20-story high rise. Now, on to Michael, who I find out on our ride to DIA is also a country mouse now living in the heart of the city. He gets in the front seat, which is Lyft code for I like to visit.
We begin with the usual small talk about where he is going (Tulsa) and what he does (consults with casinos, in this case Native American casinos which now are everywhere in the ‘Buckle of the Bible Belt’). He has been recently going to Oklahoma about once a month. I have put some time in living there (11 years) and very recently attended Phillips Theological Seminary’s annual education event in Tulsa, I had a few things to say about Oklahoma. “I have a love-hate relationship with that place. Some of the most authentic, nuanced, fun, thoughtful, and caring people I know live there. As do some of the most insulated, racist, ignorant, close minded, and theologically goofy”. He replied “I grew up in eastern Colorado, so I can relate. We were Democrats, which was sort of like being a Unitarian in Salt Lake City”. “So what did you study in college”? I inquired. “I started out as a music major, but that didn’t work so well, so I changed to political science”. We then entered into a fascinating interchange on the current #nowordsevenmakesense STATE OF THE UNION. He then did a paraphrase of a Mark Twain quote: “Never enter into an argument with a fool for he will lower you to his standards and he has more experience.” We both agreed that trying to make sense of crazy…is…crazy.
For the final part of the ride we reflected on how quickly a Lyft ride can become a teaching moment. In 35 minutes we had an honest, respectful, political, theological, cultural conversation. In a virtual world of ‘alternative facts’ and ‘fake news’ we talked and listened. I shared that I would hit 3,300 rides this week. He asked me what I have learned as a result. I said, “Driving people from here to there has raised my sense of hope for the future. We are a whole lot more alike than we are different, even if you are the only Democrat living in Kiowa County.”
Onward and Upward,