Yesterday was a rainy day in the Portland area. Looking forward to attending a meeting with some fellow members of our local chapter of Democratic Socialists of America, I was distracted from thoughts of website accessibility (the topic we were going to discuss). I was thinking about how I was going to get to the meeting.
A bus line runs from near my house to near the meeting location, but I don’t know how to walk from the bus to the building. Normally, I could ask people for directions. In the rain, though, getting help is always much harder. Knowing people were coming because I initiated the topic of website accessibility, I would have felt bad had I been late.
Eventually, I decided to take Lyft to and from the meeting. I knew the rides and the tips I would leave would cost me roughly seventy dollars. Part of me resented having to pay seventy dollars to attend a meeting to discuss making a website more accessible to people with disabilities. My resentment was furthered by the fact that had I known the walk from the bus to the building, I would have taken the bus. Still, I was determined to go to the meeting. By the time I arrived at the meeting, I was reminded why I was there in the first place. I was even more committed to Bernie Sanders’s campaign and the ideals of democratic socialism. And I was thinking about how far my life had come and how I wanted my driver to realize the increased advantages I now enjoy.
After a few minutes of expected talk, my driver (I won’t use her name) began telling me how driving for Lyft is one of her two jobs. Her husband also has a job. Together, they are raising two young children.
After I shared my experiences with SNAP benefits and doing without health insurance, she told me how she and her husband can’t escape credit card debt. Their three paychecks aren’t always enough to pay the bills. They are saving nothing for retirement.
Listening to her story, I was remembering turning off the heat in the winter. I can’t imagine what it would be like making decisions like that with children.
After I told her I was going to a political meeting, she asked if I’m for Bernie. When I told her I was, she told me she and her husband need him to win.
Getting out of the car, I wished the politicians and pundits who can’t understand the real pain people are experiencing every day because of our rigged system heard her story. Sadly, I doubt they would care that much.
On the way home, I learned my driver lost her job because she has a medical condition that makes working regular hours impossible. Even though she lives five hours away, she drives to Portland once or twice a month for a few days because drivers make more money here. While she is in Portland, she sleeps in her car.
When I told her I support Bernie, she told me she really wants Medicare for All. As I was getting out of her car, she told me to keep going to the meetings for Bernie.
Telling her she could count on that, I knew I took those rides for a reason. My drivers are the kind of people I’m fighting for this year.
The idea that a couple works three jobs and can’t pay their bills is immoral. The idea that a woman drives hours and sleeps in her car to pay her bills is immoral. Those women have more courage and strength than any of the politicians and pundits who take corporate cash to tell us we can’t afford a living wage and Medicare for All.