I landed promptly at 9:20 am GMT at Heathrow Airport. And after 1 hr 30 minutes on the customs line, it’s clear that the British too have not figured out this problem.
Shortly after exiting the baggage area, I found my driver. Thanks to the correctly spelt sign reading, Ms.Omo-Bisi Daniels, AIG. And astonishingly followed by correctly pronounced name. “Awright…let me take your bags madame… how was your flight?…First time in London?” I was hoping that would be the extent of our conversation, as hoping for a quick snooze in the car. Well the cab driver had a different idea. By the end of the one hour journey from Heathrow airport to Central London, I got a complete overview of the driver’s teen years, his daughters’ love for Justin Beiber, his love for Motown, his hatred of traffic, what he wanted for dinner and many more random subjects. Throughout the conversation I nodded and said “really”, “that’s interesting”,”Ok”, “right”. What else could I do? He was a genial guy looking for someone to talk to because as he put it “this job is bloody boring. You’re the nicest customer I’ve had in a while. Better stay awake to fight that jet lag.” Right, I’ll try to do that.
Next came my introduction to Dragon. Dragon is the doorman who was due to meet me at noon to give me the keys to the apartment. Dragon was just as loquacious as my taxi driver but he had a specific topic he wanted to discuss. “Black Lives Matter”. Okay Dragon looked at my flowing locs and chocolate skin and thought “right this is a sistah”. An hour through Dragon’s recap of the American history, the Civil Rights Movement, the War on Drugs and Obama, I was convinced that Dragon didn’t care that I wasn’t talking. He was happy that he was talking to a black person. He wanted the opportunity to express his solidarity with black Americans.
See… Dragon migrated to London from Serbia twenty-five years ago. Having faced his bout of discrimination and harassment himself, he was confused and angered by the popularity of Donald Trump’s rhetoric. As a migrant, he chose to move to London in search for better opportunities. So as he put it no amount of discrimination would deter him from his goal. What Dragon doesn’t understand about America is… “Black people didn’t want to be in America, they are there because of slavery and by force. I can’t imagine how generations of people can recover from something like that.” RIGHT! That’s correct Dragon, it’s something that I’m also baffled by. I tried to conclude our conversation politely but Dragon offered me some Kenyan coffee as he affirmed “better stay awake to fight that jet lag”. I gratefully accepted and continued along blurry eyed. Now 24 hours awake.