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 hadn’t ever really stayed at a hotel in Manhattan, let alone the Waldorf! So of course, once I told my Haitian mom who lives in Queens she packed her bag and came to live it up with me in the palace 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 my aunts in Haiti no less to give them a play by play of the room. 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. Within 15 minutes, 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. “Oh! Laurent, sa wap fe la’a?” Translation? “My mother of course knows the room service guy. Not only knows 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 and I’m related to the help.
Well, it didn’t stop there. That morning, after my mother had left (at 4am mind you because she needed to make it back to queens in time for work), I headed out to Park Avenue to wait for the company car back to the airport. As I’m waiting I noticed an old Jewish classmate of mine from high school who was in town too visiting her family early for Yom Kippur, we chatted for a couple of seconds (never revealing what I was doing there) 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 that I was checking out of the Waldorf my jaw then dropped as I recognized the driver. “Oh! Sa wap fe la’a?” Translation: You have got to be kidding me. Leslie? Leslie like my aunt’s ex-boyfriend? Now a man that could have very well ended up being my uncle if things had worked out with my aunt was my driver!???!!! 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.
“Comment vas tu Leslie? JFK Airport.”
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