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Sunday, August 30, 2009


Black & White

We went through MSP (Minneapolis-St. Paul airport) when we flew to Iowa after Christmas, and I went through there again when I few to Columbus, Ohio, about a month ago. Both times I was struck by the apparent segregation of the races: all of the passengers were white, and all of the service personnel were black. There were a few exceptions, but they were rare.

Coffee Shop Encounter

I went into a coffee shop to buy a something to eat, like a scone or a bagel. It was crowded and I was standing a bit back from the counter. A young woman behind the counter smiled at me, made eye contact and gestured for me to come forward. I was surprised and pleased by this intimate gesture. I told her what I wanted, and she asked if I wanted anything else, like a cup of coffee or something. I said, no, just the roll would be fine. At that point the smile vanished and I became just one more customer. What puzzles me is why she put any effort into the sale at all. It was just a little weird, the way she appeared friendly, and suddenly retreated back into her drone persona. Does it make any difference to this story if she was black or white?


I rented a car at the Columbus airport. After taking care of business at the counter inside, I walked out to the garage to pick up my car. There was a young woman out there monitoring the situation. I talked to her briefly. I think she was Russian. She had an accent that sounded Russian to me. I wonder if I could tell a Russian accent from one from any of the other Eastern block countries. Or maybe it's because we get more immigrants from Russia than from any of those other places.

When I returned the car a young man met me to check in the car. He had a similar accent to the young woman I had spoken to earlier. Also from Russia? Tough gig, hanging out in a parking garage which is either boiling or freezing 6 months of the year. Nothing to do for long periods of time except wait for the next customer and all of sudden you have to make nice. And probably not making much more than minimum wage.

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