If you spend any kind of time in Dallas/Ft. Worth, you would agree, it doesn’t seem like a public transportation kind of town. It’s to spread out and people seem to like their cars, but the city government and DART (Dallas Area Rapid Transit) had a different vision. In 1996, after much scandal and turmoil, the largest light rail track system in the United States (85 miles long) began carrying passengers around the Metroplex. I rode it for the first time last week, but this isn’t a story about me.
It’s the morning of my 15th birthday. My friends and I have the whole day plan. We finally talked our parents into letting us ride the train downtown and have a picnic in Klyde Warren Park. We are so excited. It must be how kids in New York feel being about to ride the subway where ever they want to go. I know my mom had to wait until she turned 16 for this type of freedom.
We are waiting on the platform. All six of us. My mother dropped us off and I had to beg her not to wait until the train left. We boarded the train and waited for it to leave. Before I sat down, I realized I left my bag on the platform. I jumped off the train to get it and the doors closed behind me. My friends were all screaming and laughing as they realized I standing on the platform, but there is nothing I we could do. The train pulled away without me.
I start to panic, but my best friend called and reminded me I could just catch the next train. Even though I didn’t get a chance to ride with my friend, I was excited to ride the train by myself. How grown up?
As the next train pulled up, I picked up my bag and boarded.
At the next stop, a cute boy boarded the train. This day is getting better. He sat in the seat in front of me. I could study him all the way downtown. I am so loving this train. His wet curly hair fell over his eyes. He kept pushing his hair out of his face. His fingers were long and strong and they weren’t dirty. All the boys my age had dirty finger nails.
He pushed his hair out of eyes and caught me looking. I smiled and put my earphones on and continued to look out the window.
He smiled back and spoke. I had to remove my earphones to hear him.
He asked me where I was going. I told him about my birthday picnic. I asked him where he was going.
He told me he was heading to downtown. Then, he joining a group of teenagers to go to West, TX to help with the clean up. He explained to me how his grandparents lived in West before they died a couple of years ago. He had to spend every summer there working in his dad’s farm and he hated it. Once he heard about the explosion, he felt guilty and wanted to help.
I told him his grandparents would be proud of him. He invited me to come with him and told me the bus would bring everyone back around 7:oo pm. Perfect, I just had to be on the train by 8:00 pm to get home in time.
When we got to the final platform, I told my friend, change of plans. We are going to West, Texas.
It was nice to do something good for someone else and I meet a cute boy, too. It was the best birthday ever.
West, TX is about 80 miles from my home. My thoughts and prays go out to the victims, the survivors, the police and fireman, volunteers and everyone else effected by the bombing in Boston and the explosion in West, TX, which is about everyone in the world.
I couldn’t complete my tour of Dallas without mentioning the JFK Assassination. 50 years ago on a day much like the day I took the photos, JFK was assassinated while riding through downtown Dallas in a motorcade. Despite all the conspiracies surrounding this episode in US history and while I was not alive when it happened, I image the feeling on that morning was similar to other tragic mornings such as the Challenger explosion, 9/11, and Hurricane Katrina. All these episodes tested the human spirit, but it says more about us as when you look at how we respond to such tragedies.
“Captain, I’ve been researching them for several weeks now and I am a bit confused.” He needed more direction. These findings couldn’t be right. He suspected the assignment was meant to broaden his mind and make him understand something, but even after all his research he was still confused. What lessons was he supposed to learn from the seemingly primitive society?
“Lieutenant, what seems to be your issue?” Captain wasn’t surprised by my confusion.
“Time and time again, in their history, every positive and productive episode would be cut short by a moment of tragedy. Is this meant to test their spirit?”
“Well, how do they respond?”
“They endure.” But, endure didn’t quite explain it, “Not just endure, they are are continually hopeful. How could that be?
“Son,” Captain said. “What’s the alternative?”
Then it hit him. While it may be easier to give up and give in, it takes a stronger spirit to endure. That truly was the human spirit.
Captain smiled seeing the recognition on the young man’s face, “We can learn much from them, don’t you think?”
Lieutenant smiled and nodded. “Yes Sir, we can.”
What times in history best define the human spirit in your eyes?
I wake up at 5:30 am. Open up the office, answer a few emails and then meet the car and driver I hired for the day to take me to the bank in Shenzhen, which is an hour away. I don’t drive in China. I don’t have the patiences for it.
I typically enjoy a long car ride because my usual commute is five minutes in a golf cart. I use this time to catch up on my blog reading (convenience of the iPad).
I arrived at the bank early, grab some coffee at a nearby Starbucks and enjoy some free wi fi for 45 minutes until my appointment at 9:00am. Productive morning.
And, that is where my productive day ended.
Now, I am not one of those people who walk into a situation blind, if I can help it. I do my research. I prep. I call ahead and ask questions. What I am trying to do at the bank isn’t simple and I understand that. But, I trust that the people who the bank hires to organize the debit and credit of billions of dollars would know more about this stuff then I do.
I go up to the counter and hand the bank teller my paperwork. “Oh, ma’am, I am sorry, you are in the wrong office.”
“Ok, which floor?” I say.
“No, you are at the wrong office. You need to go to our office in Dongguan.”
“Dongguan?” Did he say Dongguan? The Dongguan that is an hour in the opposite direction of where I just came from.
Let me back up for just a second because I want you to understand my predicament. To go anywhere specific in China I have to have my assistant order a car and driver, she has to google search the location and print out a map in Chinese to give to the driver. I can’t just jump in my car and go.
This new turn of events was not in the plan, but I have to get this stuff done today.
1 hour and 45 minutes later, I am at the Dongguan Bank office. I head up in the elevator to the 11th floor. I walk in the office and ask for the bank representative I am supposed to see. “I am sorry ma’am. That representative is in the transaction center across the street.”
I am still surprisingly calm when I say, “Well, can she come over here and help me.”
Apparently, she could not. I go back out to the elevators.
It is lunch time so every elevator that stops at my floor is full.
After the 10th elevator stopped, I decide to be smarter then the elevator. I push the up button.
I get on the elevator and ride it up to the 30th floor and then back down to the ground level. It stops at every floor going up and every floor going down. Did I mention there is no air con in the elevator? You know what 40 people crammed in a elevator smell like after 20 floors. Not good.
I get off the elevator and proceed across the street where I have to dodge, dogs, cars, bikes, scooters and dump trucks to get across this four lane road. I feel like I am in a game of Frogger.
I go into the bank office, find the person I am supposed to talk to and hand her my paper work. In broken English she proceeds to tell me “The person who handles these type of transaction is in the building across the street.”
One of the cultural differences between China and America is that our facial expressions sometimes don’t translate. Because, if you had seen my facial expression at that moment, you would have known to get as far away from me as you possible could. She didn’t get it.
So, off we go. Back across the street, dodging dogs, bikes, scooters and dump trucks to go back to the building, back to the 11th floor and back to the same office I left 35 minutes ago.
They put me in a room with no air con and give me a cup of warm water (it’s a China things). “She will be with you shortly.”
10 minutes later, a young girl walks into the room and sits down next to me. She looks like she is about 10 years old. I thought is was someone’s daughter. Is it take your daughter to work day? Do they even have that in China? “What can I help you with today?” she says.
As calmly as I can, I say, “I would like to convert and transfer this amount and then get this amount in cash.” I even manage a smile because I am being lulled into submission by this innocent child.
“We can’t do that today.”
You have got to be kidding me. “Yes, you can.” And, I proceed to explain/educate her on what and how to do exactly what I needed her to do.
Then, she says, “Let me get my manager.”
At this point, I was about to throw myself out of the closest window. And, if I happen to live, I would be in significantly less pain then the pain caused by talking to these bank employees.
The manager comes and again I repeat my request.
“Oh, no problem, ma’am. Just sign this, fill this out, copy this, stamp this and you will be all set.”
OMG! Finally, someone who knows what they are doing.
I sign, stamp, copy, and give them an ounce of my blood. I am almost giddy with the realization that someone is finally able to help me. “Ok, come back in 3 hours and you can have your cash.”
3 hours? 3 hours! My left eyelid starts twitching and I notice that my jaw is starting to hurt. It takes all my strength and my desire not to be thrown in jail today to refrain from throwing her out the window.
I gather all my bags and walk out of the office. Do the elevator trick again and go next door to a little cafe outside the bank and wait. The cafe has bad coffee and no wi fi. And, I sit and wait, for 3 hours.
I return to the transaction center across the street in exactly 3 hours. I called ahead this time. See, I am learning.
I am signing and stamping and she is explaining and smiling and I am not listening to a thing she says. I am chanting to myself “It is almost over, It is almost over.”
I find myself day dreaming about following this women home and suffocating her in her sleep. Then I started to get concerned because I seem to have gone to a very dark place.
The bank representative pulled me out of my day dream and handed me my money. It took a little effort, but I did say thank you and walked out of the bank. As I was getting into my car, my phone rings. “Ma’am, you have one more document to sign, can you come back?”
I turn to my driver and say, “When I walk in front of the car, please run me over.” He doesn’t speak any English so I felt fairly certain he didn’t understand me. And, if he did, I really didn’t care at this point.
I walk back into the bank, sign the last document and hand it back to her. As I was leaving this time, she says to me, “Have you enjoyed your service today?” With the biggest smile on her face. Was she mocking me?
I looked at her and the darkness returns instantly. A montage of images of death, war, and destruction, run through my brain. My eyes glaze over and every muscle in my body tenses up. I take a deep breath AND I SCREAM.
It was the loudest, craziest, gut wrenching, psycho sounding scream I have ever heard. I surprised myself. Everyone in the bank turned to look at me. When I was done screaming, I smile at everyone, took a little bow and walk out the bank.
I feel much better. Sometimes you just have to scream.