Accidental Racism with Kim Jong Uber

Political correctness is overrated, but necessary.

Time To Read: 3 mins | October 16, 2016

The X-Men movies were lies. I know this because when I landed in San Francisco, much to my surprise, the Golden Gate Bridge was right where it was suppose to be.

You may think this was an unnecessary confirmation, that of course those movies were fiction. But I have reason to believe they might be based on fact, since I have two mutant traits myself. Firstly, webbed toes. Two of the little guys on each foot are fused together. This means I can swim roughly .0004% faster.

And secondly, I can teleport. Granted I haven’t actually pulled this off yet, but I’m pretty sure if I keep working on my form each night before bed, I’ll do it eventually.

Until then, I use Uber. In Los Angeles – a very large city – you already have a confusing number of options in the app. UberX, Uber Black, Uber XL, Uber This, Uber That, Uber Helicopter (that last one’s not made up), and the ride-sharing Uber Pool. The last of which I’ve only heard of one girl ever using, to call rides for one night stands she’s decided she doesn’t like.

But in San Francisco, the current tech capital of the US and home of Uber HQ, there’s something like 30 other options, enough to give those lacking gadget savvy (me) a panic attack. When I opened the app, the damned thing welcomed me to SF. Then it took half an hour to sort through Uber Segway and Uber Lightcycle and Uber Parasail and a dozen other options, and next, after I’d told it where I was going, it started asking me to make music selections for my ride.

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I have given you an address. Drive me there. Business concluded.

That address belonged to an old college friend, Phillip. And after my Uber Who Knows What arrived, and my requested Nickleback somehow came on the stereo, I decided to phone Phil and let him know I was en route.

Now, a bit of backstory: Team America, that movie starring puppets fighting terrorism from the creators of South Park, came out when Phil and I were in college. And one of the more ridiculous bits was the Kim Jong Il’s accent. Most notably the character’s stereotypically Asian inability to say the letter ‘L’. The chart-topping hit ‘I’m So Ronery’ will give the uninitiated and idea of what I’m talking about.

Well, Phillip and I and all our friends loved that movie. And because Phil’s name contains ‘L’s, we took to using Kim Jong Il’s speech impediment whenever addressing him.

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I should point out that Phil isn’t actually Asian, but it sounded funny, so we ran with it. Such is the idiocy of college boys.

This habit has survived over the years, so when I heard him pick up the phone, sitting in the back of my Uber Covered Wagon, I per habit lead with, “Oh Phirrip, herro!”

It was 3:00pm on a Thursday, meaning the adults were still at work. So Phil chuckled as he responded, “Dude, I can’t say that right now.”

A brief laugh was had before we coordinated plans to rendezvous at a bar near his house. Our business soon completed, I hung up and was about to relax to the dulcet tones of Chad Kroeger.

But it occurred to me that I should apologize to the driver. Not that a quick phone chat is disallowed on Uber rides, but – in case you didn’t know this – the rating system goes both ways. You rate your driver every time you use the app, but they also rate you, and a low score can affect your ability to quickly get picked up. So if you constantly feel like your friend’s rides arrive faster than yours, well, maybe it’s because you’ve been a bit of a dick in the past.

Thus I offered up a quick, “Sorry about that,” to the driver. And he in turn looked back and said, “No problem.”

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This was the first time I’d properly seen my driver. Who was Asian.

My rides have been coming slightly slower ever since.

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photo: nothing’s ever been more ’70s than this vw beetle. playa del carmen, mexico

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Malcolm Freberg
Malcolm Freberg
American writer living permanently on the road. Believes rye whiskey is superior to bourbon, Belle is the best Disney princess, and that selfie sticks should be snapped in half on sight. Hosted a travel documentary for AOL & played Survivor a few times.

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