conversations with drivers

by caitlin meredith

elpasoborder

I could write a whole book about my conversations with drivers. Most of them have been in long, pot-holed sections of bandit roads in Sub-Saharan Africa sitting shotgun as my local driver expertly navigated a Land Cruiser between the ditches on either side of the road. A lot of funny, tragic, harrowing, familiar and confusing stories are exchanged on those drives. Like the Kenyan-Somali driver Tigania who complained about dividing the cabbages evenly between his three wives on market days. Was he supposed to give each wife the same number, or dole out according to how many children each had? As you can imagine, each wife had an opinion that correlated with her child count. Being completely out of my realm of practical experience, that one really stumped me. Like anyone who has ever taken a taxi in Manhattan can attest, conversations with professional drivers often give you more of a sense of place than any of the monuments or attractions you visit. The same thing happened to me last week in El Paso.

I went to El Paso to research a student media project at the University of Texas that covers the U.S.-Mexico border called Borderzine. I knew I’d be talking to a lot of journalism professors and students about the border, but I was curious about how “normal” people thought about it. It seemed like a big deal to me, living on the border. All of the news reports we get in Austin are about how dangerous it is, but maybe, like many over-sensationalized stories in the media, it was no big deal. Read the rest of this entry »