The other day I frightened the FedEx driver. Under normal circumstances it may not have happened, but young black males are a tad twitchy these days following the shooting of Trayvon Martin down in Florida. Who can blame them?
I had ordered online a newly released piece of sound gear from a mail order company in Indiana. The sales rep called within minutes. "You should know it is on back order," he said. "They have just started shipping, but we don't expect the first batch for a month or so. Do you still want it?"
"Yes," I replied. "I've lived this long without one. I can wait."
"Well I won't put the order through until it actually arrives," he added. "And I will call you when it comes in just to make sure you still want it."
"What's the worst case scenario?" I asked.
"July," he replied. I resigned myself to a slog.
July seemed a bit far off, but I learned patience in the Army, and I still do it well. "I can wait," I said.
Surprisingly, two days later he called again, "We got them," he said. "You can have it tomorrow. Do you still want it?"
"Of course," I replied.
"It'll ship FedEx Ground. It should arrive tomorrow where you live."
I had specified "no delivery signature required" when I placed the original order. I live in a fourplex in a bucolic "beyond suburbia" town. No one is home during the daytime. Delivery guys typically just leave packages leaning against my apartment front door. I find the packages after work when I go to check my mailbox.
But delivery day I happened to be home, having gotten myself into a "use-it-or-lose-it" vacation situation. Shortly after lunch I heard steps in the corridor. Too soon for the postman, I surmised. It must be my amp?
I walk to the front door and pulled it open just as the FedEx guy leaned forward to place the box on the floor. He jumped two feet backward, eyes like saucers, with signs of fear radiating in all directions.
"Oh God, I'm sorry!" I said.
His expression changed to embarrassment then to anger.
"I'm really sorry," I said again, feeling really stupid. "I didn't mean to startle you. I'm just excited to get this. Thank you!"
He left quickly without replying.
Of course my neighborhood seems safe to me, but to him, a thirty-ish black male entering an unfamiliar house in a community and county where people are still pulled over for driving while black, it's the briar patch. And while the experience was upsetting to me, I have to imagine it was many times worse for him.
I am deeply disturbed about concealed carry laws, how the proliferation of handguns erodes the safety of everyone, especially those who carry them. There are always two victims in every shooting, the recipient and the shooter. Soldiers and police officers know that even justifiable use of force often leaves lasting scars and invasive memories.
Racism adds fuel to the fire. Many people insist, "I'm not a racist, but..." (pay attention to what comes out of their mouth next).
I'll tell you this. I have the disease. I caught it as a child. It is chronic. I have to deal with it every day to make sure it doesn't flare-up and make the world an uglier place. I hate it. Racism keeps us apart and ignorant about one another, when the relatively few actual differences are like frosting on the cake. They are so sweet.
To the FedEx driver: I am so sorry, not so much for being a goofy old gearhead musician, but for the stuff you have to put up with just to get through the day.