Posted by: joshjasper | January 2, 2011

We Gotta’ Make a Change

Sara rolled down the driver’s side window and asked the guy if he needed help.  He seemed surprised by the question, and even more surprised when I jumped out of the van.  His car was parked on the side of University Avenue, blocking the entrance to the Carpet One/Carpet Shack.  We were stopping by the store today to drop some flooring samples off.

Derek had the hood up on his ’93 Pontiac Bonneville and had been trying to get the cables reconnected to his new battery for the last hour.  He explained to me that he had just bought the battery and a new bolt to connect everything together at the auto store nearby.  Because of my very limited mechanical knowledge I knew I wasn’t going to be much help, but I offered to give it a try anyway.   And so I wasn’t surprised to find myself 30 minutes later staring at the same disconnected battery asking Derek about his backup plan.

When I suggested that we call the auto store that he bought the parts from to get some help, Derek’s face quickly became quite solemn.  He told me that he called the place a few times asking for help and that his inquiries were met with disrespect and anger.  When he told me of this experience I could tell he had been there before.  This wasn’t the first time someone had disrespected him, and by the resigned look he had in his eyes, he knew it wasn’t going to be the last.

It wasn’t until I was on the phone with the auto store that I had become angry.  I explained the situation that we were in and asked if he could walk me through the process in the hopes of getting Derek’s car started and off the side of the road.  The guy on the other line was immediately defensive.  Before I could finish talking he was telling me how frustrated he was with Derek.  “The guy’s called me a bunch of times.  I don’t know what his fucking problem is.  I’ve sold a thousand of those bolts and he’s the only one that can’t figure it out.  What’s he want me to do?  I’m not replacing anything that he probably broke himself.”

Never in my life have I been talked to this way by someone in customer service. Never.  But for a 30 something year old black man living in Dubuque, wearing baggy pants and a hooded sweatshirt, my guess is that he’s heard this type of stuff all of his life.

Derek and I eventually did get his car running this afternoon.  His genuine appreciation for my assistance caught me off guard and still resonates with me.  It wasn’t a big deal to me.  I’d like to think that if I’m stranded on the side of the road on a cold afternoon that someone would stop and ask if I needed help.  He shook my hand and thanked me like he had never been helped like that before.

“It’s time for us as a people to start to making some changes.  Let’s change the way we live, let’s change the way we treat each other….we gotta’ make a change.”  (2Pac, Changes)




  1. 2Pac was thrown in jail for sexually assaulting a woman. 2Pac’s music is filled with violence and murder. 2Pac’s videos are filled with the degradation of women. While the message of that one particular song seems to be positive, I suggest you look at 2Pac’s body of work in its entirety before you start using him for your ‘cause’.

    Also, are people like these only bad when they cannot help you advance your public image, Josh??

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