A Real-Life American Experience

Ape

Here’s a real-life story from today’s America, the so-called “best country in the world.” A country that created fancy and fascination especially in India. Everybody in today’s India wants to get a piece of the dollar dream. Indian parents teach their children how to realize their dream to get to the dreamland.

But people like me who live and work here, and have been doing so for many years — with eyes open, have a different experience about the ground reality in USA. This is one such experience.

So, a young couple returning from India — two days ago, on Tuesday. Their plane landed at JFK airport here in New York. They had booked their tickets long ago to fly from NY to Jackson, Mississippi via New Orleans. They live and work in Jackson. But because there is extreme and unusual cold in those areas, they shut down the airports. Their scheduled flight was canceled.

Okay, fine, it happens. Airport and airline authorities told them … one, two, three-hour delays … before the next flight back home. Okay, fine, it happens.

Then, they said there would be no available flights until Saturday, and authorities and corporations would take no responsibility for their three extra days of stay or food or transportation in NYC, where they don’t know anybody. They were not the only ones: there were a few other people who got this news, including old men and women. Authorities said they had no legal obligations for their three unplanned days in New York City, because inclement weather-related airport shutdowns precluded them from paying any compensations!

So, after spending sixteen or eighteen hours at the airport, sleepless, exhausted and jet lagged, they eventually got in touch with me: the young woman’s father — an old friend — called me from Kolkata. I brought them over to my humble place in Brooklyn. At that point, the couple had already in transit all the way from India, for over fifty hours.

I reserve the urge to express my personal opinions on this story. You decide what’s going on here in USA. This won’t be news in New York Times or CNN. They have other more important things to talk about. This is small.

We, small people, don’t feature. Not in this “best country in the world.”

Sincerely,

Partha Banerjee

Brooklyn, New York.

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Occupy

“Ordinary” America, Minus-10 Celsius

Not just working. In smiles too!
Not just working. In smiles too!

Today, I am saluting the “ordinary” America. Because, it’s extraordinary.

(People who copy the “American” lifestyle — copy this America. This real America.)

It’s ten degrees Celsius below zero in New York. Here in the U.S., we use Fahrenheit: it’s about 15 degrees F. It’s extremely, bitterly cold. It is dangerously cold. Without the proper protections — layers of warm clothing and scarve and woolen cap and warm gloves, etc., you could die. In fact, without them, you would die. Just the same way, poor, homeless people are dying on the frigid streets of Delhi, Darjeeling or Dhaka.

And it’s not even snowing (snow is on the ground only in some places in Long Island: thanks to global warming, we’ve been having a less brutal winter for the past few years). It’s brightly sunny, coupled with a frigid chill breezing down from North Pole. For people who never experienced it, real snow — like rain — happens when the sky is overcast, and that cloud cover makes it less cold. A sunny day with a Northerly “wind chill,” it becomes even more severe. Today is one of those very, very cold days.

The weatherman gleefully announced on the morning TV: “The wind chill temperature is near zero.” That is, zero degree Fahrenheit.

Yet, the extraordinarily thing is that: all the ordinary people are working — on time. Little children are going to school. As the picture above shows, volunteer “school crossing guards” who carefully help the school kids cross the street are in attendance, on time. They show up to work — voluntarily — at 7 A.M. School buses pick up the kids around 7.30 A.M. In New York City, bigger school kids do not have the privilege of the yellow school bus: they travel on their own (like the kid shown on the photo above). They are all up, on time, to attend their middle school or high school. Primary school children wait patiently with their parents on the street — for the yellow bus.

Parents who work outside wait until the bus picks up the kid, before they walk to the nearest subway station to catch the communter train; or, they start their car and wait for a few minutes to warm up the engine. Parents who work inside wait until the bus picks up the kid, before they walk back home to start working a full day — cooking, cleaning, or even shoveling snow. Mothers work round the clock — rain or shine, snow or sleet. (Sleet is…well..you look it up. Bad stuff.)

The work-a-day life is in full swing. This is the brave, working spirit of America, and I salute it.

No, it's not marijuana smoke. It's breathing in and out!
No, it’s not marijuana smoke. It’s breathing in and out!

I came to work and it was 100 percent attendance. Nobody missed work because of the bitter, severe cold.

Last night, it was even colder than today. Temperature dropped to perhaps 10 degrees Fahrenheit. I took my car on my way back from work to a garage (car shop). Had to wait for a couple of hours before they could order in a new fan belt and install it. I saw all the workers working in full swing, defying the cold. Inside the garage, it was not as fully heated as your home; garage doors were pulling up and down frequently as customers and workers were coming in and out frequently. Frigid air was blowing in (I remembered last year my wife and I were waiting at a first class waiting room at Haridwar train station, it was frigid, and the faulty door of the first class waiting room would not shut tight, and we were shivering even after wrapping us up with a blanket).

I am not posting a photo from the car garage here because the workers are poor and mostly undocumented; they do not make much money (most of the money they make go to the shop owner’s pocket anyways). And they must work to feed the family and send some money home. I was awestruck to see the level or work ethics.

Who said the “illegal alien” is only here in America to rip off the country? Come here and see for yourself: they are MAKING the economy, not breaking it.

They work away...for us.
They work away…for us.

This morning, on my way to work, I took the subway train as my car was waiting to be worked on at the garage. I took the G train. I saw American workers already up and running: some of them were already working on the Gowanus bridge station they’re putting back together. These guys must have been there at 6 A.M. Based on my own experience with some of these workers, I know some of them leave home at 4.30 or 5 A.M. to get to their work place at 7 or 8.

Four thirty or five in the morning when the outside temperature is perhaps fifteen degrees below zero, these ordinary workers — men and women — are ready to go to work. Would you like to be in their shoes? Do it. Try it at least once in your life.

Ordinary American workers? If they are ordinary, who is extraordinary?

Just think. It’s even hard to think at -10 degrees Celsius. Just try.

(And…for those out there…people who copy the “American” lifestyle — copy this America. This real America.)

Sincerely Writing,

Partha

Brooklyn, New York

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American workers. I salute you!
American workers. I salute you!