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Day 10: Fear and Gratitude

I was on my third-to-last delivery last night. Something struck deeper than it has before.

Omaha is a racist town.

Bold words for a white, middle-class, bilingual pizza-delivery man. Let me expand.

The United States is a racist country.

Phew! Now I feel better. Maybe by blanketing my declarations over a wider group of people, I won’t offend the individual Nebraskan racists that read this.

Just kidding. Please, be offended Nebracists. And while you take offense, read on.

From just south of Leavenworth, east of I-480 and on into the north and east of Omaha are sporadic housing projects. Yep, those kinds of projects. The ones so often complained about by those crazy liberals as hell-holes. The conservatives complain about dropped property values. Also known as slums. Oppressive-housing. Main contributing factors to those “ghettos” black people talk about in that rap music that offends the ruling demography so much.

Those projects.

Anyway, I, another Nebracist, had delivered to a couple before last night. And by that I mean two. Each time was uncomfortable. At one of the first, I noted a couple of black guys sitting in their car in the parking lot watching me pull in. I asked myself if they were a threat. They made me uncomfortable. I stifled the fear behind my duty to deliver deliciousness and cheese.

Last night’s delivery was eye opening.

I parked near a project just off of 480. I was in the passenger loading zone. The iron fence surrounding the grounds opened at a large middle gate. The planter in the middle of the walk held a few weeds and dry earth. The lawn was in terrible shape. It was dark. Amber halogens bathed the front of the building in orange lighting. There were four loud black men standing out front. One was older. The other three were my age, I think.

“How’s it goin’, guys,” I said as I moved to the door.

“Uh, sir? Sir!”

I was inside at this point and the door was closing. I turned back. The older man held the door open slightly.

“How much for the pizza?” the young man asked.

I felt uncomfortable. “Uh, well, it’s already paid for,” I said with a nervous chuckle.

“No,” another man said, “he’s saying how much for a large pizza?”

I calmed down a bit. “Uh, I think they go for about $15?”

They swore. “That much for a pizza?”

“I believe so, but I could be wrong.”

The older man had moved into the vestibule with me at this point.

“I’ll let you in, man.”

“I’m sorry?” I said.

“I’ll let you in. You know where you goin’?” he asked.

“Yep, I do. Thank you so much!” I said.

“No problem.” He keyed me in, then left the vestibule to stand with the young men.

I walked down the hallway a little ways. My customer’s apartment was on the first floor. I knocked.

I heard someone swear (I think) and the sound of moving dishes. I heard aluminum cans rattling. My mind’s eye saw the stowing of beer cans. I heard a drawer shut. There goes my mind again. I saw those stowing things other than beer. Drugs, probably. A few moments later, the door opened.

Before my eyes stood a disabled black woman with a walker. Her door keys were hung around her neck. Her hair was tied up in a bandana. She had a huge smile on her face.

“Hi there, you must be the Customer!” I said with a smile.

“Yes I am!”

I handed her my 6”x4” acrylic clipboard with her credit card receipt for her to fill out and got her food ready. I shifted everything so that she could place the food within reach, one item at a time. I took the clipboard back and gave her the customer copy. I thanked her.

“Thank you so much for coming all the way down here!” she said, waving the receipt at me.

I was confused. I came from a couple miles away. With delicious pizza.

“What’s that?” I asked.

“Thank you for walking all the way down here! I expected you to call and for me to have to walk to the door! This made my night. It was so nice,” she said.

“You’re very welcome,” I said. I’m feeling emotional as I write this. She closed the door and I left.

With gratitude and confidence, I raised a hand to the fellows at the door. I thanked them, and wished them a good night. They returned the gesture.

We’re all people. We all feel happy and sad, grateful and afraid. My fear turned to gratitude that night and I feel more aware.

Who thought delivering pizzas could both get you out of debt and help you with your Nebracist tendencies?


**** NOTE 10/18/14 ****

Mr. O’Reilly, I agree with Jon on this one. White privelege does exist. I have had to step over it to deliver pizzas.


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