Part of cycling is road trips in search of better rides. Like all road trips you learn something about your fellows travelers. Sometimes, it’s better not to know.
Several years ago, two cycling friends of mine stayed with the House Elf in Safford. The next day we planned to climb Mt. Graham, one of the top 20 mountains to cycle in the United States.
The House Elf made dinner: enchiladas, tacos, green chili, beans, with homemade tortillas. After dinner, we settled back in the living room for some “light” conversation.
“I hunt down by the border all the time,” one guest said. “I see the water tanks that people leave for all the illegals… Every time I see one, I tip it over and dump out all the water.”
The Bear and I tried to be polite, and the House Elf stopped talking, but we spoke up a little. This wasn’t just a political difference — this was celebrating hurting people.
“You know you are probably killing people, right?” one of us said.
Then came the double down.
“They shouldn’t be there. If they don’t get water, they won’t make it here…”
Dead silence from us, as he continued to give details on each incident. The other cyclist joined in. Each sentence showed they didn’t give a shit if they were killing people. Part of them may wish they were. We finally managed to change the subject.
Hey dumbasses, didn’t you notice the tacos? You are eating homemade tortillas in someone else’s home for fuck’s sake.
They didn’t notice the House Elf is five-foot nothing and darker than Erik Estrada.
They didn’t notice the little red dots around the Bear‘s mouth because she was biting both lips so hard the skin couldn’t take it anymore.
If they had asked, they would have learned the Bear’s grandmother came from Italy through Mexico. She had made the dangerous desert crossing with a small child in tow. Her grandmother had 4 kids — the 3 girls were born in Arizona.
The family made the front page (top fold) of the Arizona Republic in the late 1930’s. It was the build up to World War II. There was an anti-imigrant wave against the Japanese and the Italians (not as much with the Germans — maybe because half the “white folks” thought of themselves as at least part German.)
The government wanted to deport the Bear’s grandmother and uncle — probably to Mexico because it’s cheaper than a boat all the way back to Italy.
The locals in Safford, mostly those who looked to Mexico for their history, lobbied and brought a lot of attention to the plan to break up a family. And it’s fucking shocking for us now — but it worked. The Government backed down. They stayed. The House Elf and her siblings learned English in school. They all worked long and hard and to raise their American families.
For her personal form of restitution, the Bear has been teaching in public schools with large Spanish-speaking populations for more than 30 years. She doesn’t speak Spanish, but that doesn’t matter.
“I want to help those kids learn English and do well here… just like teachers did for my mom.”
My clueless riders, didn’t ask and didn’t know those things. They just assumed that everyone thinks it’s OK to endanger and maybe kill other people who don’t look like or sound like you.
They are not alone. It’s the same attitude for people who insist that Fox News play in all public places and get pissed if there’s a different point of view.
It’s the same pattern for people who call the police when “darker” people are barbecuing or selling water or sitting in Starbucks for too long.
The Bear and the House Elf are way too polite to kick people out of their home. They fed the clueless riders breakfast the next day. The Bear drove halfway up the mountain to resupply us with water and food.
After the ride, they were invited back for more enchiladas and green chili. Because that’s how you treat travelers. You give them food and drink and make their trip as easy as possible.
But after they left, the Bear said.
“Those two fucking idiots are never coming back here.”
And they never have.