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The last time I drove down my old street there were boarded-up houses and empty lots where homes had been demolished. The street looked like a gap-toothed skeleton's grin. I sobbed all the way to the highway and back home again.
But people still live on that street, some of them my old neighbors, and where there's life there's hope. I still love Pontiac. I would never have had some of my best memories and many of my best friends without it.
The other day I was loading groceries into my car when a woman who was parked nose-to-nose with me yelled, "Hey! Excuse me!" I walked toward her. She was a black woman, middle-aged, with glasses and a not quite trusting smile.
"What's that mean on your windshield?"
I looked and saw that she was talking about the decal at the top which read: IMPORTED FROM DETROIT. It was there when I bought the car, used, a year or so before. The salesman explained that it was intended as a point of pride about the car being as good as any import, but coming from right here on our own shores. Once he said that, I didn't give it a second thought.
"Oh!" I smiled with the suburban white bread naivety of Mary Tyler Moore's sitcom persona. "It was there when I bought the car. I think it's just a little poke at the imports."
"You sure it doesn't mean Detroit's no better than a third-world country?"
I stopped dead and stared at her. She didn't look like someone trying to pick a fight. Instead, she seemed to be trying to sort something out with me, something that clearly had the potential for making her ready to fight if she deemed it necessary.
My eyes got very wide. "Honestly, ma'am, I never took it that way at all, and if I'd thought that's what it meant, I would have had the salesman take it off. I bought the car used and it was already on there. I always took it as pro-Detroit, not anti."
"Oh!" she smiled. "That sounds better to me. You see, I'm from Detroit and I was just about to go a few rounds with you if that was your opinion."
I smiled back. "Well, ma'am, I'm from Pontiac, and I think people like you and me ought to stick together."
"I think you're right!" she laughed. "You have a blessed day now!"
Life would be a lot better for everybody, and maybe last a lot longer for some, if we talked things out before jumping to conclusions.
I know that two men could well have defused this tense situation just as amicably; still, I think it's a good argument for pumping estrogen into city water supplies.