I picked him up from an affluent suburb. It was, as they say, quite leafy. He was standing in front of his house, and was casually, but smartly, dressed.
“Hi” I said. “How are you? Having a good day?”
I bent forward and started the Uber app. “Oh, I said, it’s going to be a little while on your ride, there’s traffic. Do you want to pick a playlist?” I handed him the phone and he picked his music, all the while chitchatting.
I glanced in the mirror and thought to myself “I have seen this guy before”
He handed the phone back to me and I laughed. “I can honestly say that no Kiwi has ever picked a playlist like that!” It was a Country & Western list, very American.
He laughed and said “I do a lot of things different. Do you know that I was the first person to fly an American flag after 9/11?”
I thought for a minute, then said “Didn’t the attack happen in the middle of the night here?”
“It did” he said.
“Do you mean to tell me that you had American flags just hanging around your house?” I asked. We are in New Zealand after all.
“Yes” he said. “I do. I love America, I’ve travelled all over the country”
Then he smiled, gave me a glance in the mirror and said “I think Donald Trump is doing a great job”
I sighed. Ok, here we go. People LOVE asking me about American politics. Or about the Great Pumpkin anyway.
“Why is that?” I asked.
“He does what he says he’s going to do” he said and proceeded to name a few things that at the time that media had reported.
I said, “but that isn’t true, that didn’t happen and maybe?” (He’s great to veterans and has funded extra stuff for them and the China thing.)
He said “We shouldn’t talk politics” and I agreed. He said, “This is probably going to hurt my rating” and I said “No, never it would be undemocratic to mark someone down just for a differing opinion.” We agreed to give each five stars.
After he got out of the car, I thought for a moment and realised that I’d recognised him from an industry publication of some sort. I consulted the internet and saw that I was right.
He is CEO of a property development company and I’m guessing his very nice house might have been in the family for a generation or two. The things that matter to him are very different to the things that matter to me.
What I find interesting is that it is also so different to the things that matter to other New Zealanders. Those people here who look offshore for their ‘people’ or to identify their tribe must be so lonely. Like undoing one’s belt after a large meal, it must be a relief to be one’s own self, to see yourself reflected in someone when you don’t have a role model nearby. I wondered if he was sad that I didn’t share his values, if I was a missed opportunity.