Monday, August 27, 2012

Why I Love Detroit

Detroit gets slammed way too often.  It's a lovely city when you get to know it and its people. I lived there for four years and have many stories about why I love it.  But here's my favorite.

I realized at the last minute that my driver's license was about to expire. Unfortunately, I was scheduled to take a semester exam in law school the same day it expired, so I found myself one early wintry morning standing in a long line at the motor vehicle office in Detroit.  I kept glancing at my watch, realizing that I'd have to leave probably before I could renew my license.

One of the clients in the student legal aid office I worked at (FLAC - which is still there) walked by.

"Hey Miss Ruth," he said, "how are you?"

I told him conversationally I was trying to renew my license but time was running out before my exam.

"No problem," he said.  He walked up the line about twenty people and tapped a guy on the shoulder. "See this woman? She works at the legal aid office and needs to move up the line so she can go take her test. Can you all let her in?"

I started to protest no. It was freezing cold out there.

A woman on line hushed me. "You're that lady I saw when I had a problem last year," one woman said.  "I remember you."

I remembered her too.  I nodded. "How you doing?"

"Good now," she said.

My client came back, took me by my shoulders and planted me in line about twenty people forward. Then he asked me what time my exam was.  And it was in an hour and a half!

"Well that's not going to do it," he said.  He moved up the line - all the way to the front, talking to people, pointing back at me, explaining. I cringed, looking around at folks, thinking "Oh boy, they're gonna hate me" but instead of glares, I saw mostly smiles.

Meanwhile, people in line were turning around, looking back.  My client returned and said "Follow me" and led me to the front of the line behind one gentleman. "He won't move," he said. "He doesn't like attorneys. At least, not until he needs one," he said scornfully.

The older gentleman harrumphed.

"They have donuts," my client said.  "Free donuts and coffee - for friends."

The older gentleman looked me over, then stepped aside.

I felt embarrassed by everyone's generosity, not to mention all the attention.  I turned around and many pairs of eyes met mine - ones I recognized from where I worked. "Thank you," I said before I stepped inside.

When I came out, I was greeted with "Hurry so you make your test on time!"

The next week that older gentleman showed up for a donut and a hot cup of coffee.  He asked me how I did on my test. "Good," I said.

"You better have," he said gruffly.  "It was real cold out there."

Gotta love the people of Detroit. And isn't that who and what Detroit really is?




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