I pull up to the dive bar in North Portland at 1:30 in the morning expecting to get a grizzled character, or perhaps one of the newly arrived hipsters. It's a surprise, then, when a little old lady with a cane totters out.
I clear my stuff off the front seat, and she slurs "take me home," as she gets in. I ask her where home is, she gives me a nearby address, and I start driving.
"Where are you taking me?" she asks, after we've gone about two blocks.
"Um, to your house."
"This is where the black people live," she says, with a tone that's more confusion than bigotry. I explain to her the route I'm taking to her house. She nods, and we drive there in silence.
When we pull up, I tell her that she doesn't have to pay the fare, that it's on me. She doesn't understand, and I just mumble something about repaying a debt (see last week's column).
As I help her up the front steps, she grips my hand with a surprising strength. She tells me that she was born in this house and has lived in it all her life. She takes the steps slowly, and explains to me that she's a good Christian, but that we're all children of God, no matter our race or religion. As I get back in the car she waves from her stoop, thanks me for caring, and asks if she paid me enough money. I wave back, and drive away.