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Conversation at the grocery store: “That’s not a threat. It’s an opportunity!”

I have to stop letting my wife do most of the grocery shopping.

I was standing on line at Lucky’s just now. There was a guy standing in front of me. Looked a little down and out, either white or Latino. In front of him everybody on line was Asian. The guy turns to me and comments “I think I’ll have to move to China.”

“Yeah,” I said enthusiastically. “Isn’t it great? All these people from all these other countries coming here. What a great chance to learn. Some people see it as a threat. It’s not a threat. It’s an opportunity!”

The guy just started to smile.

“I used to take my grandkids on AC Transit,” I continued. “I’d watch them sitting there wide eyed. Looking around at all these different faces. Listening to all these sounds of different languages. What a great chance to learn.”

“Yeah, you know, I never thought of it this way. That’s a great way of looking at it,” he said. He continued: “I grew up in Woodland in the ’70s. It wasn’t like this.”

Then I got into the MAGA bomber. He hadn’t even heard of the affair. Doesn’t listen to the news. “The guy had his house foreclosed on by Trump’s Treasurer,” I said. “Illegally! But the guy was a big time Trump supporter. He’s just taking it out on some others – whoever he feels he can get away with. It’s like your boss gives you a hard time at work and then you come home and beat your wife.”

I don’t remember exactly what was said after that, but then they opened up the check stand next to us and the checker beckoned for me to move over. I pointed to the woman behind me on line. “No, you go ahead. I’m having an interesting conversation with this guy ahead of me. That’s more important than saving two minutes.”

The guy grinned even more. “Thank you,” he said. At some point he commented that he’d like to see a bill giving a tax break to all California natives. “Well,” I said, “to me it doesn’t matter where you are born. Doesn’t matter if it’s China or California. If you work for a living, we’re all the same. Take these Lucky’s checkers here. They’ve had their pay cut and cut and cut.” (The checker, who I know, turned and nodded to me and grimaced.) “Is that right?” the guy said. “I didn’t know that.”

Around then the conversation ended.

But anyway, I’m looking forward to my next trip to Lucky’s.

Even with the ongoing gentrification, Oakland is still one of the most diverse cities in the US. What a great opportunity to learn!

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