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Salaam aaghaa
You never know who you'll bump into in America

By Bahar Jaberi
April 17, 2001
The Iranian

PORTLAND, OREGON -- It doesn't matter whether you are in Portland or Los Angeles. If you're not in need of speed, the next person is. I'm not talking about pseudo-amphetamines that make the blood course faster through your body and give you boundless energy and then a hangover the next day. I'm talking about the actual mile-per-hour speed.

You have noticed how some of those drivers need to get just one car ahead, then another. Their entire traffic experience has conflated into the one-car-ahead syndrome. You can see them over your morning coffee in the bumper-to-bumper traffic jam, bouncing their fist over the steering wheel and cursing with their hair flying every-which-way, because they are 10 cars behind the traffic control signal.

Then there are those who like to stick to your bumper at maximum speed. American's call it tailgating, we call it, "Pedar folaan folaan shodeh" (Son of a so-and-so). While you are praying to whatever superpower you believe in that their brakes don't fail when you slam on yours, or that their cell phones don't ring when they least expect it -- or you least expect it -- the worst happens.


My father was trying to get my mother to the Portland airport during rush hour traffic when the car behind SLAMMED into his rear bumper. My mother had 30 minutes to get to the airport and the rush hour traffic was getting worse, meaning it would have taken her about that long to get to the airport.

My father shook off the initial shock of being hit and swerved to the shoulder and got out to assess the damage. The kid who had rear-ended him, followed behind and got out of the car and said, "Salaam, aaghaa. Bekhodaa nemidoonam chi shod!" (Hello, sir. I swear to God, I don't know what happened.)

The kid turned out to be an Iranian teenager who was using his father's very expensive car. He immediately got on his cell phone and called his father so that my father could talk to him about what had happened. The damage was minimal but my mother was flustered by this time and needed to get to the airport, fast! She got out and started hitchhiking. She figured that maybe someone would stop out of kindness and give her a ride while my father settled the matter with the accident.

A car stopped, right away. and started backing up to where my mother was standing. He rolled down the window and asked: "Khaanoom, komaki az dasteh man bar miyaad?" (Can I be of any assistance, lady?) My father ran to the side of the car and told the gentleman that my mother needed to make it to the airport in 25 minutes. The man graciously agreed to take her.

While they sped away, my father took care of the situation with the accident and drove back home. It wasn't until my mother was on the plane and my father safe at home did they finally realize the wonderful coincidence of what had happened to them that day. An Iranian got them into a mess and another Iranian got them out of it, on a busy highway in the middle of nowhere and everywhere.

Slow down and smell the coffee, or tea as the case may be. Don't let the need for speed blind you to the beautiful nuances of life.

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