I use a medical transport service to get around the town. No big deal. For two dollars and twenty five cents [I get paid by the keystroke, don’t you know], I can go from ‘Yenne Velt’ to Albuquerque with nary a care.
(There is a great old Yiddish joke that unfortunately doesn’t translate well, but basically says that Jews used to believe in three velts (worlds), die velt (this world), ‘yenne velt’ (the next world), and the Roosevelt.)
Anyway, so I’m waiting at the curb for the van driver. And the van pulls up, and out comes this wiry little fellow, in a baseball cap; smiling at me. Apparently, he had driven me somewhere, long ago, and remembered me. I must have been in a bipolar funk. I had no idea what he was talking about.
So we drive off, and he tells me he has several other stops before he gets me home…would I mind if he puts on the radio. “Sure”, I tell him. “What else do have to do in my life; just sit in the car and listen to the radio”.
He reminds me of the last time we spoke. He was a refugee from Burma, Myanmar now. He had escaped from the terrors of the autocratic government there and fled to the United States. Now a citizen, he is finally able to bring back his wife, his sons and daughter.
I tell him I know about the old Burma Road in World War II. I know “On The Road To Mandalay”, by Rudyard Kipling.
Come you back to Mandalay,
Where the old Flotilla lay:
Can’t you ‘ear their paddles chunkin’ from Rangoon to Mandalay?
On the road to Mandalay,
Where the flyin’ fishes play,
An’ the dawn comes up like thunder outer China
‘crost the Bay
He picks up a middle-aged women with a cane. And then a young man of twenty or so, who’s obviously mentally retarded. And, again, we drive off. And the radio is on, and they’re playing Christmas songs. “Silver Bells, Silver Bells. Its Christmas time in in the city. Hear them ring. Hear them ring. Soon it will be Christmas Day”.
And “Adeste Fediles”, and “The Christmas Song: Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire“, and by this time, we’re all singing. The lady with the cane, and the mentally retarded young man, the Burmese van driver, and me.
AND….I’M…. JEWISH. Oy Gevalt!!
Finally, the lady with the cane gets to her stop, at a local hospital. The retarded young man comes to his home. And Mr. Ngung, the driver, and I are alone again. We are both smiling very broadly. I’m still singing. He looks at me from time to time. It is a”moment”. We wish each other a Merry Christmas. He drives away.
It was the first and only performance of The International Amateur Inter-Religious Disability Van Choir.
Look out Mormon Tabernacle, here we come.