... in downtown Colorado Springs
By Bardia Saeedi
September 26, 2001
This is not like me, but today, I would like
to set myself as an example for all of you who are dealing with the unwanted
looks and smiles you are getting as Middle Easterners.
I live in Colorado Springs, a military town; very conservative, and religious.
I haven't got much hair (I shave with #1 clippers on a weekly basis). I
don't look much like the typical Middle Easterner. I have been very conscious
as to the looks I might get when walking in the street or shopping. I have
not had much since I don't leave the house much these days.
Yesterday, I went downtown, to a small park that is a gathering place
for families and tourists. It's our version of Central Park, except it is
only as large as a block. It was after a peace walk organized by some local
groups. There were 12 people in the walk, which lasted about two hours.
I gathered all my courage, picked up an issue of The Independent,
a local city paper, went to the park and sat down on a bench. I had my cool
shades on so I was pretty sure no-one would notice that I was from another
part of the world. I was constantly looking around me for any unusual encounter.
Anyone who walked within 10 yards of me, was subjected to my surveillance.
It got a bit exciting when the guy on the next bench asked me a question
about the fountain in front of us. I had heard him tell someone else that
he was a WWII veteran. He was wearing a flag lapel. I am not sure why, but
he didn't notice that I had a funny accent, so the conversation which lasted
about 20 seconds, went uneventful.
I kept reading the paper, which by the way, had published that email
by the Afghani guy, Tamim the one most of us received a few days ago which
was about the poor shape of the Afghanis. I stayed in the park for an hour.
But to my amazement nothing happened.
I am kind of an adventurous guy. That should explain why I dared to sit
on a bench in a park in the middle of downtown America. I was kind of disappointed
that I didn't receive even a single look, sarcastic smile -- nothing. After
all, what would I tell my grand kids about this incident. No juicy stories?
Again, I thought for a while, gathered my courage and did the unthinkable.
First I looked around for a while, making sure the people around me were
not the red-neck type. Then in a very swift move, slid my glasses up to
my forehead. At first I didn't look up and kept reading, waited for a the
slightest noise to attract my attention. And then, voila! I looked up. That's
right folks! I did it. I took my glasses off and it felt great.
I was overwhelmed by joy and fear at the same time -- like going up the
most fearsome roller coaster. You are terrified but excited at the same
Finally, I have a story to tell my kids and their kids and their kids.
My friends -- yesterday in Colorado Springs history was made. I can already
see the headlines: "Extra! Extra! An Iranian-American took his glasses
off while sitting on a park bench".