Miami Beach, particularly in a week when cities like Boston and New York are facing bitter winter weather, boasts a welcoming, palm-tree filled sight. The Atlantic Ocean bedecks itself in varying shades of blue, a deceptively benign looking body of water which sporadically hosts Cuban refugees attempting perilous voyages in unseaworthy vessels. Over Presidents’ Day weekend a few hundred yards east from where these aspiring immigrants hope to land, the Miami Beach International Boat Show hosts some of the world’s most expensive and elegant yachts.
That contrast between penniless, homeless people seeking sanctuary and prospective yacht owners examining multi-million dollar boats, is seen by many as proof of injustice and the need for income redistribution. Perhaps, it is proof of exactly the opposite.
My husband loves the Miami Boat Show. It is the equivalent, for him, of a fashionista attending New York’s fashion week or a geek attending Comdex. This year, some business meetings in Florida and fortuitously timed speeches in North Carolina (o.k., some gentle nudging helped these events fall out exactly at the right time) allowed us to route ourselves via Miami and wander the docks. As Miami is also home to many of N. America’s best kosher restaurants, we occasionally left the waterfront to eat.
Thursday night, on a tight schedule to be on time for radio broadcasting, we hailed a cab back to our hotel after supper. A few nights later, we took the same route but this time used Uber. In between those two rides I read an article in the Miami Herald entitled, Uber debate takes on ethnic undertone. The first sentence reads as follows:
“As debate rages in Broward County between traditional taxi companies
and the new game in town, Uber, a disturbing undercurrent has emerged.”
That undercurrent, the article implies, is racism and xenophobia. Uber’s drivers in Miami are more likely to be white and college educated than are taxi drivers. The implication is that Uber and its riders are prejudiced bigots. Are they really?
The bigot accusations stemmed from comments customers made complaining about taxi service. What terrible things were said? Passengers resented having drivers whose cars were dirty, whose English was inadequate and whose rides, they felt, were longer than necessary. All three of these criterion are subjective. Could the complaints stem from bigotry? Maybe. They could also stem from people who expect a certain level of cleanliness, who wish to communicate with their driver and who suspect that their fare was higher than necessary.
The taxi ride we took on Thursday night cost us about $8. The taxi was clean, but we had trouble understanding what our driver said. He, whether maliciously or from ignorance, stayed in a lane where cars in front of him were stopping to make turns. The same ride with our Uber driver cost under $5, was quicker and included a pleasant conversation.
Are we bigots? It is true that our taxi driver was a dark colored immigrant. But so was our Uber driver. In the short time we had together, he told us how, at age sixteen, he pleaded with his father in Haiti to let him leave for America. His father’s acquiescence led to two years of labor in the Bahamas, followed by immigration to the United States. Our Uber driver, Frederick, waxed eloquently about the blessings of this country and the opportunities afforded to him. As we drove by the row of mega-yachts, he looked at them with pride, a symbol of what his children might be able to afford thanks to the free market in this country. Frederick also spoke resentfully of fellow immigrants who, he said, didn’t want to work hard as he had done.
I don’t know anyone who is opposed to immigration. I know many people who are opposed to recruiting the resentful and the jealous, the violent and the American haters. How potential immigrants view this country’s wealthy citizens and events like the Miami International Boat Show- as enemies to be overcome or as wonders to be appreciated – speaks strongly as to whether they should be welcomed or not.
What are the best boat tales in the Bible? Noah’s Ark and Jonah’s escape to Tarshish are two good contenders. Study them with adult intellect and find the hidden messages for your life.
Day for Atonement: Heavenly Gift of Spiritual Serenity (with lessons from Jonah)
4 thoughts on “Uber Ethics”
Brrr. Glad you had such a good week and have such a good customer. Thanks for sharing the story.
The timing of your Miami trip was fortunate. I returned from there this morning and they were experiencing record cold weather overnight last night.
All week long I worked very closely with my customer who is an immigrant Cuban man named Rigoberto. A happily married father of four, he proudly displays mementos of his career in his office one of which is “Employee of the Year” including his photo about which Rigo now jokes “I even had hair back then!”
Responsible for over sixty staff, Rigo maintains an amazingly positive energy and attitude. I was fascinated to witness how his fellow employees, one after another, would reflect his positivity as he greeted them warmly in hallways, upon entering and leaving elevators, or just making eye contact from a slight distance.
Rigo treated my team and me to café Cubano (Cuban coffee) every day this week. I attempted to return the favor on Thursday but he pulled a fast one on me: just as I waited to pay for the coffee he waved at me and said “Peter, come on, it’s all set” (in Spanish, he had communicated with the cashier – no money exchange was necessary) and we had our delicious fix of “Cuban cocaine” for our afternoon break.
Rigo related to us of his boyhood in Cuba where he and his friends looked forward to a treat they called duro frio (in Spanish). It was lemonade, frozen in an old fashioned ice cube tray (the kind with the lever on top to crack the cubes apart). Duro (hard) frio (cold) lemonade. Rigo reminisces with great fondness of asking his grandmother for five cents to get one duro frio ice cube. I asked Rigo if they had frozen apple juice duro frio to which he replied “There are no apples in Cuba.” Rigo’s story revealed to me the source of his energy, enthusiasm and perhaps the secret of his success. He hasn’t forgotten when plenty was to him and his friends what most Americans would now consider poverty. Rigo mind’s eye regularly glances back over the right shoulder in order to remind him of all the blessings he enjoys in America.
The culture of Rigo’s place of employment has been and continues to be impacted from the ripples of positive energy that he leaves in his wake. I thank the Good Lord for providing my company and me with so terrific a customer in Miami.
James, I think there are many immigrants and potential immigrants who think of America as a blessing and yearn to join her. The problem is a system that keeps too many of them out while letting too many who will harm the country in.
Well said! There are community organizers by the score who have reached the ascendancy and are currently following the ancient policy of conquest: divide and conquer. Set the women against the men, set the blacks against the whites, and above all kindle and stoke the flames of envy and covetousness by setting the poor against the rich.
What follows is very simple: whenever anyone becomes too prosperous, whoever opposes your redistributionist schemes or demonstrates their inefficacy, simply label these opponents with a choice of ugly epithets: racist, xenophobe, hater. But it is refreshing to hear that you found a worthy immigrant who was grateful for his blessings, including his newfound citizenship. I’ll wager his attitude will enable him to prosper.
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