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Dear Common Sense, Welcome back, Amished you! Love, Blondie

When I left the house this morning, I wasn't expecting to have my perception AND my mind blown, but that's exactly what happened when I went to work today.

I started driving for Uber about 8 months ago. (I also drive for Lyft and like to tell people that I'm "bi-transportational" because I "go both ways"...but don't let my whacked sense of humor detract from the beauty of this story and the adorable "illustrations" included to convey my facial expressions throughout it, let's move on...) The first thing people ask when they find out I'm a driver is: "aren't you afraid?" or "have you picked up any weirdos?" and my answer to both is "NO". I HAVE met some real characters, but not anyone that I would deem "weird" or that has made me feel uncomfortable. I've heard ALL the horror stories regarding Uber drivers and passengers alike, so maybe I'm just lucky...or maybe my car has some impenetrable force field protecting me... or maybe my own brand of weirdness either offsets or matches my passengers' and causes us not to recognize the "crazy" in each other. I don't know, I just know I love this job because of the interesting people I encounter. My first Uber request today was from a person whose location was 25 minutes away from me. I dread those requests because there is some travel involved and no guarantee the compensation will be worthwhile. Unfortunately, drivers have no idea where their passengers are going when they accept requests, that information isn't revealed until we arrive at the pick up location. I can travel 25 minutes to pick up this person, but they might only need transported to a destination 5 minutes away...which was the case today, but the life lesson learned was of GREAT value. Despite my doubts regarding the requests' profitability, I accepted it and headed out the door. As I drove, guided by my GPS, I realized this person was in a very remote location, in an area with which I was only vaguely familiar. The last turn I was required to make was onto a dirt road (not a long driveway or a lane leading to a few secluded homes but an actual dirt road)...I didn't realize those existed anymore and I certainly didn't think my GPS would recognize it as a traveled path. About a mile into this primitive road I saw a dog, a Border Collie, lying in my path. A house was off to the right of the road, some dilapidated barns and buildings to the left and Lassie's cousin like a speed bump in the middle. Scenes from Deliverance and other banjo related horror movies immediately entered my mind and caused paranoia. What if I'm being lured with the old "injured puppy" routine? I'll get out of my car to see if he's ok, some sinister hillbilly and his posse will emerge from those suspicious structures on the left and my family will never hear from me again. NOPE, not falling for it! I've seen one too many "To Catch a Killer" type shows and I know how to spot danger! I'm not coming to a complete stop!

As I inched my car closer, the dog sat up. He wasn't injured at all, he was just asleep at his command post...proof that there wasn't much traffic in these parts. I got closer and he stood on all 4 legs to summon another dog. Together they attempted to herd my car, running back and forth behind and around the sides of it. It wasn't a scary "Cujo" situation, it was comical, and I simply proceeded slowly as they escorted me to the boundary of their territory and accepted I wasn't willing to join the flock. 2 miles later, and after convincing myself that I was more likely to encounter a Sasquatch than a human being this far from civilization, I arrived at my destination. I was surprised to learn there were actually 4 passengers awaiting me, (something else drivers don't know until we arrive to pick up) all male, and that they needed me to transport them AND their equipment to a local golf course. (Just take a second here and envision what you would suspect this scene looked like...a beautiful summer day, 4 male golfers full of camaraderie and competitiveness and their 4 sets of golf clubs) Fitting 4 men and their golf clubs into my tiny Ford Focus wasn't the part that perplexed me, what DID was that they weren't dressed in typical golf attire...they were dressed like they had just walked off the set of the film "Witness" with Harrison Ford. This golf foursome was Amish...or Mennonite...or some sect of personal belief that is easily detected based on their appearance. (is that what you pictured earlier? I know it certainly wasn't what I expected in that moment and if my reaction could've been captured it would've resembled this one...

I'm not well educated on the differences between Amish and Mennonite and the subsequent variations within each and I know I'm not alone in confusing the 2 and making broad assumptions about their lifestyle. I certainly don't mean to devalue or exploit their beliefs in any way, but I DO think I'm safe in saying that both can be classified as conservative and modest and THAT is why this encounter blew my mind and my perception. Well, that AND my own level of ignorance. I waited in the driver's seat while they strategically arranged their fully loaded, and very modern, golf bags into the trunk of my car. Getting the gear to fit AND allow the trunk to close was like solving a puzzle but they did it! By this time I struggled to suppress my reaction..3 times.

1. When I first pulled up and realized my Uber passengers were Amishish (I just made that word up, "Amish-ish", because I truly do not know from which faith-system they hailed and figure that uncertainty is denoted by the inclusion of "ish" and therefore excuses my ignorance) based on their attire: long sleeved and collared shirts, black pants, suspenders, and wide brimmed hats over bowl cut hair.

2. When Jake (yes, that truly was his name and one facet of my flawed stereotype that wasn't debunked) asked if I would be able transport them AND their golf equipment.

3. When they were loading their equipment (and I was recovering from the shock of the first 2 revelations) and my blonde head finally caught up and realized they had to use the app in order to place an Uber request and therefore...

When they successfully closed the trunk of my car and took their seats inside of it, I had another stereotypical-based fear come into my presumptuous brain...

...because that's what I've heard, they shun deodorant AND indoor plumbing AND work in the fields all day, everyday...right? WRONG! I can't speak to what they do and do NOT shun, but these fellas didn't stink. This may come as a surprise (sarcasm), but I talk to my Uber passengers as if they were my best friend and I've known them their whole life. For real. It's borderline embarrassing because it probably seems like I'm starving for human interaction, but truthfully, I just love learning...where people are from and where they are going, what they have been through and what they hope to overcome, what thrills them and what they fear...and just about anything else we can discuss. Surprisingly, I found myself unusually quiet during this trip with the 4 Amishish men because I was uncertain what was acceptable. Did they view me as a heathen? Am I exceeding the maximum exposed skin allowance? They themselves were only exposing their hands and face, I'm wearing a tank top and shorts. Are they even permitted to converse with a woman outside of their faith? Do they refer to me as "the English" like the crotchety old Amish fellas did to Harrison Ford in Witness? Finally it was Jake who broke the awkward silence and spoke first (in his Pennsylvania Dutch accent, also part of the stereotype that wasn't debunked) "I see you drive for Lyft also, (because I have the sticker on my windshield) is this your full time job?" YES!!! Permission to speak, I felt as if I had been holding my breath. "Well, it's my ONLY job but I consider it more part-time because I don't do it every day, all day. I do it when it doesn't interfere with watching my grandchildren" (I'm not gonna lie, I try to work my grandbabies-and photos of them, if you hadn't noticed- into every conversation, I'm shamelss in that way) Jake then proceeded to ask how many grandchildren I had and commented about how that must keep me very busy, etc. It was a pleasant and welcomed conversation and before I knew it my GPS announced, "You have arrived at your destination." We were no where near a golf course, just a house on an otherwise vacant stretch of road. Confused, I asked Jake, "Are you golfing at someone's HOUSE?"....again, I resorted to thinking they should be unfamiliar with golf. Maybe they were going to someone's property to drive a few balls into a cornfield rather than tallying "birdies" and "bogeys" and other golf terms I won't pretend to know. Jake, also confused, answered, "No, it's supposed to be a golf COURSE. We're here on vacation so I'm not familiar with this area. I'll check the address." He then produced his smart phone to confirm the address...still blown away that he would have a smart phone and now...

We quickly got it figured out and were only a 1/2 mile off target. When we arrived at the actual golf course they exited the car and worked diligently to get their cluster of golf bags out of my trunk and make their tee time. Jake thanked me and gave me a $20 tip for a 5 mile ride...

I started on my way back home and received a text message from Jake...

From Jake: (although it didn't say "Jake", it was an assigned number from Uber that allows passengers and drivers to communicate without revealing their actual phone numbers for confidentiality purposes) "I think we left a golf GPS in your car" Anticipating my own ignorance of golf he quickly followed up with a description, "It looks like a regular wristwatch"

I found the item lodged between the door and backseat. I told him I was turning around to bring it back and would be there in just a few minutes. As the golf course came into view again I could see the foursome teeing off and just had to marvel at the sight...these 4, nontraditional golfers in their modest clothing in the midst of a course populated with traditional visor and athletic logo wearing golf cart jockeys. It was both comical and humbling. When they saw my car approach, one of them came running off the course to meet me, thank me AND reward me with another $20 tip for returning their coveted golf GPS. I returned to the road and my approximate 25 minute ride home. I love these moments alone in my car because they give me time to think. My first thought was "I LOVE this job"...I love the flexibility it allows for my Gammy gig, and I love all the diversity to which I am exposed. My second thought was, "I love when stereotypes are proven wrong and perception gets a makeover". I didn't realize how many preconceived notions and assumptions I had until I was forced to reconcile them. My experience with the Amisish wasn't the first time this happened to me and I'm sure it won't be my last. I also didn't realize how much I allowed the opinions, testimonies and experiences of others (friends, family, media outlets and the entire entertainment industry) to influence and even form my perception without any input from my own brain and heart. Other than shopping at a farmers market, I had never met nor conversed with the Amishish. I saw them portrayed in film, witnessed them traveling along the road or working in a field, and had discussions ABOUT them in various contexts, but never got to know them for myself.

I'm not naive enough to think there aren't some who DO emulate the stereotype, (not just the Amishish but with ALL groups of people, be it faith, political affiliation, gender, sexuality, race, etc.) but I AM smart enough to know that everyone in a group classification is 1st an individual whose own behavior and character defines them, and not the group itself. I was very grateful to be reminded of this today and am eager to meet more individuals who will expand my perception.

#amishyou #amish #commonsense #individual #unique

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