By today’s Urban Chameleon contributor
A couple of years ago I was just finishing up my last semester in grad school at Harvard University I was interviewing at all the big Wall Street firms and when it came down to the final interviews, one of them flew me to New York and put me up at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel. Now, being a native New Yorker (born and raised), I never had the need to stay at a hotel in Manhattan, let alone the WALDORF ASTORIA! So of course, once I told my Haitian mom who still lives in the one bedroom apartment in Queens that me and my four other family members grew up in, she immediately packed her bag and came to meet me an get TURNT UP for a night on some Coming to America tip.
When my mom arrived later that evening she was decked out head to toe looking like Jackie Kennedy with dark shades, a sun hat, hair done, heels and her Louis Vuitton luggage in tow that she got from the Africans on Jamaica Avenue.
The first thing she did was pull out her cell phone and call all of my aunts in Haiti to give them a play by play of the room including the lush carpet, the thousand plus thread count sheets, the soaps, the snacks, the mini bar, the gorgeous lightening in the bathroom that made her looks exfoliated and ten years younger. To make the experience complete, we ordered room service: a little wine and cheese and changed into the hotel robes like we were waiting for prince Hakeem.
You have to understand, when your peoples move to America with literally just a dollar and a dream trying to figure out how to send you to school to get a good education that can allow for opportunities like this , when you make it here- IT’S A REALLY BIG DEAL! So here we are waiting for our Waldorf Astoria room service (not even 15 minutes) and the doorbell rang (yes, the doorbell to the room), and my mom jumped up to answer. And if our little “Uh, oh we are living it up” getaway wasn’t enough of a reminder of the leaps and bounds that Ivy League education has allowed us to take, the next words I heard exchanged at the door slapped me right back onto Jamaica Avenue in Queens.
My mom: “Oh! Laurent, sa wap fe la’a?”
My translation?: “My mother of course knows the room service guy.
Not only does my mother know him kinda sorta from around the way, but my grandmother is HIS godmother. LORD JESUS! I done made it all the way to the Waldorf only to discover that I’m related to the help.
Talk about being an Urban Chameleon. Well, it didn’t stop there. The next morning, after my mother left at 4am (mind you because she needed to make it back to queens in time for work if she wanted to keep her job), I headed out to Park Avenue to wait for the car the company I interviewed with sent for me to take me back to the airport. As I’m waiting I noticed an old Jewish classmate of mine from high school who happened to be in town visiting her family for Yom Kippur, we chatted for a couple of seconds (never revealing what I was doing standing in front of the Waldorf). Before I noticed my black town car pull up and I totally pulled a, “Well this is me girl, it was nice to catch up” and real quick hit her with some Hebrew in recognition of the holiday, “L’shana Tovah” before signaling for the bell hop to bring my things to the driver. As she was grabbing her jaw off the floor putting together what this brown girl from Queens I was doing checking out of the Waldorf, my jaw in turned dropped as I also recognized the driver.
Driver: “Oh! Sa wap fe la’a?”
My translation?: You have got to be kidding me. Leslie? Leslie like my aunt’s ex-boyfriend?
That’s right folks, not only did I know the driver picking me up from the Waldorf Astoria but he could have very well ended up being my uncle if things had worked out with my aunt.
Talk about being an Urban Chameleon, there is no movin’ on up and forgetting where you come from. Well thank god because that’s probably why I continue to keep it real. The only thing I could say to him was,
“Comment vas tu Leslie? JFK Airport.”
Are you an Urban Chameleon?
Urban Chameleons are people of color who chameleon between white corporate America and their kinky hair handling, curry spice eating, hip-gyrating America. I’m Funnel Cake Flowers, the resident Urban Chameleon news reporter who gathers stories from people just like you who just need to “release” to a community who understands and gets your pain. Read what others have already submitted. Have an Urban Chameleon story? E-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org