There’s something about car service waiting rooms that lend themselves to interesting conversations. It’s a comfortable setting, a simple living room where there’s usually a flat screen TV available for customers.
Back in the spring of 2016, while waiting for my car to be serviced, I struck up a political conversation with a 30-something, soft-spoken African-American man. As Democrats, we exchanged ideas about the Democratic primaries. Even though we had some differing views, the conversation was congenial and polite.
Just last month, I was sitting in that same waiting room, when an older, white male started a conversation with me. He was gregarious, and opinionated. We shared about the trips we had each taken to California to escape the wet Northwest, agreeing that the traffic in LA is terrible and our traffic, especially in Seattle, is getting worse.
With deep disdain, he remarked that the “liberals” in Seattle had voted for light rail, and that it was unfair for him to have to pay taxes toward something he’d never get to use, because of how long it would take to build. I quickly discerned his political persuasion, and wondered if I should politely ignore him, or engage him in dialogue.
I chose to engage.
I replied, “There were people that came before us who contributed with their taxes to infrastructure — for the common good — that they never got to use.” He paused, then said, “I can see your point.”
After asking if I minded having the television on, he picked up the remote and searched for Fox News. Unable to find Fox, he settled on CNN, where Sean Spicer, the president’s press secretary was fielding questions from the press corps about the urgent issues of the day. Everything was being discussed, from the so-called Muslim ban, to the pending vote to repeal and replace Obamacare, to the hearings on the nomination of Neil Gorsuch for the Supreme Court.
As he watched the program, he posited that there was no way to vet men from Muslim countries because there is no way to know what is in their minds. I countered with a report I’d heard about on Rachel Maddow’s show, in which the Department of Homeland Security had concluded that “most foreign-born, U.S.-based violent extremists had radicalized several years after their entry into the U.S.” We actually agreed that’s a problem that requires attention.
Then my waiting room friend expressed dismay that Sen. Chuck Schumer was vowing to filibuster Neil Gorsuch’s nomination to the Supreme Court. He called Schumer a “boy” and a “baby.” He went on to say that the Democrats had blocked the Robert Bork nomination a long time ago and didn’t I think that was unfair?
I replied that at least they had hearings for Bork, and the Republicans didn’t even give Obama’s nominee, Merrick Garland, the courtesy of a hearing. He paused, and looked thoughtful.
When the press conference shifted to the topic of the House vote on the bill to repeal and replace Obamacare, he attacked Nancy Pelosi, saying she has dementia, and should be out of Congress. Before I could answer, he got up to use the restroom and threw out another question.
“Can you imagine being Sean Spicer and having to put up with all of those awful press people?” he asked. I couldn’t resist, replying sarcastically, “Yes, it must be a tough job having to cover for Trump’s lies every day.” He tossed his head back and snorted.
After that, his car was ready, so I made sure to tell him that I’d enjoyed talking with him. He smiled and agreed. I wish we’d had more time.
Reach Mary Magee at firstname.lastname@example.org.