Don’t call us, we’ll call you

March 24, 2011

Thesis Thursday: “I did a lot I’m proud of”

Since I’m no longer “stymied,” I wanted to tell you a little bit more about Jordan,* the tuckpointer extraordinaire.  But first, a little shout-out to my great friend Kirsten, the party responsible for transcribing what is undoubtedly the-hardest-interview-to-transcribe-in-the-history-of-interviews!  You think I’m exaggerating?  I’ve got the transcription right in front of me, I’m just reviewing it as part of the analysis process, and I still have to listen to it at 80% speed.  Jordan is one insanely fast-talker.

His interview was also one of my longest because he had a lot to say about a lot of topics.  And let me tell you, it is good stuff, fascinating stuff.  It would take weeks to share all the gems he offered about his life and background and incarceration.  So today I want to share with you his answer to just one of my questions — So thinking about your life overall, can you think of what have been significant experiences for you? I asked this question to every single one of the men I interviewed, and the answers were somewhat predictable.  Becoming a father; finding out you have a brother you never knew; death of a close relative.  Basically, family-related . . . I think it’s safe to say that for most of us our most significant experiences are in the context of family.  Which is why what he described for me was so, well, unexpected.

  • I did, while I did, enjoyed doing, was my cousin, he had a driving, I am trying to put this right, ummm, transportation for the disabled.  Which is for people who are mentally disabled, some type of mental dysfunction about themselves.  So, I drove for him for the summer, for like 4 or 5 months, so I was getting to know these other type of people that I’ve never been around in my life, like, Leslie, Leslie was cool.  She was blind, but she was very, very independent, know what I’m sayin, very independent.  I had to pick her up, take her to the head entry place where they, go to their little classes and stuff like that.  It was her and then there was another Caucasian female, she used to have me, she used to try to flirt with me.  [laughs] You know what I’m sayin, she had a speech impairment, and she walked, you know what I’m sayin, but other than that, she wasn’t dumb, from far, because, when I’m driving, you, and then I picked up this other dude, named Dave, white dude, he was a wild dude too.  Then I had a sister.  She was cool too, she really tried to flirt.  [chuckles]  But you know what I’m sayin, everyday it was always something different with them cause it was like, what you want to listen to?  Everybody got something different to listen to.  And then when you got this white dude named Dave, you know what I’m sayin, he kinda special, but he listened to the lyrics so good, he like, yea, I want to listen to P. Diddy, I wanna… but if you heard him talking you were like, come on, you don’t know nothing about no P. Diddy, man.  You’re like, man, put on P. Diddy, and like, you all agree to that?  And then you got Leslie like, nah, I wanna listen to some Christian music, alright, alright.  And you hear the other one like, no, I wanna listen to some Mariah Carey or I want to listen to some type of rap, you know what I’m sayin.  And I’m like, hold up man, what was that?  Lean with it, pop, lean with it, you know what I’m sayin, that song came on the radio, you shoulda seen them in the car trying to do the dance.  And I was like God, ya’ll, serious, y’all killing me.  But they voted me the best driver though, they had, it was cool because the people at the head injury place when they met me they were like, him be very interesting, everybody liked me, you know what I’m sayin.  When I bring them, get ’em there on time, they love it when they there on time. So they like, we get there, they go tell the teacher all about me. J, J, they called me J, they supposed to call me like, Mr. McDowell, and I’m like, man, call me J, man, you know what I’m sayin.  We gonna kick it, you dig, so it was cool.  So that was the best time of my life right there. Being able to go pick them up in the morning, you know what I’m sayin, and get them there, where they need to be at because it was very important to them.  They love going there, they showing their independency, you know what I’m sayin.  Okay, just because I’m mentally disabled doesn’t mean, you know what I’m sayin, I’m a lost cause.  And they wasn’t.  A lot of people look at these people like, uuuh, that’s retarded, and hold up man, I bet they probably smarter than you.  Bet you that.  So, I learned from all of that right there.
  • Then I was doing road-side assistance after that. He got another bid cause we ended up losing that, that transportation with them because me, I didn’t have no license. And one day I ran out of gas, right there in front of the police, right there, he was on his way doing a, his lights came on, and I ain’t even see him, he come from on the shoulder, on the shoulder somewhere, you know what I’m sayin, flying. And my car just ran out of gas and I went over to the shoulder side and here he comes flying, almost running into the back of us, so… I had a blind white lady in the car with me, uh, two more other white Caucasian kids in there, disabled as well, then this black girl, like she disabled. He was like, hold up, what the hell you doing with these peoples in the car with you? I’m like, man, I’m going right across the street over here. Honestly, I’m not supposed to be driving, I’m the auto mechanic, but the people, the guy who’s sposed to been coming to pick them up and it was what me and my cousin had already thought of. If I ever get pulled over, I’m the auto mechanic and I’m just dropping them off. See, he was trying to keep me out of trouble just as well as I was trying to stay out of trouble. But I was a good driver, you know what I’m sayin, that was the only mess up I had through our whole thing. I was there on time; I got them there on time, you know what I’m sayin, and when it was time to go pick em up and take em back home, I got em back home on time. Everything, it was never Mr. McDowell late, he did this, he did that. None of the kids, they didn’t complain about me. I was the top one. So, I’ma like okay, we lost it though because what I did, that incident right there.
  • So the next thing he got up with was road-side assistance. I aced that cause I love…I help all peoples anyway, so that right there was a blessing as well. I did road-side assistance with no driver license, I kept my girl with me, she did the book work, the paper work, you know what I’m sayin, while I got the people’s cars fixed for them or got it started. I helped peoples on the side of the highway while it’s raining, female with 4 or 5 kids in the car, and they were stuck. And then I tried to helped this white lady, I did help her. Know what I’m sayin, she got hysterical. Said her phone was dead, it was raining outside, car stopped, I stopped to help her and she think I’m trying to rob her and I’m like, nah, here go my cell phone. I put my cell phone on top of the car and walked away from the car. I said, just use the cell phone and call for your ride or whatever. And I walked, jumped in the car and drove halfway down the highway, and she was like, [chuckles] stopped there and got the phone and used it and she like, put it where like when she got out the car, she waved me back to come back to the car and stuff, so when I came back she like, oh, thank you, thank you. I’m like it ain’t nothing, I ain’t doing nothing, is your people on the way he is on the way, the tow truck people are on their way, so I got my phone back and sat in the car until the tow truck people came and then I left with asking for nothing. That’s…I did that for road-side assistance. Man, I did a lot, you know what I’m sayin, I’m proud of.

I can’t tell you how many times I have remembered this interview and this particular monologue.  There are so many beautiful things in it . . . I’m sure I couldn’t do it justice to try and point them all out.  This guy is a people person to the core; he wants to help people, he wants to put them at ease, he wants to learn from them, and teach them a lesson or two along the way, often about judging by appearances.  What I hope for him is that after he served his time (he was on his way to state prison shortly after our interview), he found new ways to help people (preferably that don’t involve driving since it may be some time before he has a driver’s license :)).

*As always, the names have been changed.



  1. you could totally just feel his love for these people. amazing guy.
    what was he in prison for?

    Comment by Kjell — March 24, 2011 @ 6:12 pm

    • What is he in prison for? — that’s always a hard to answer that question directly because the men often have different opinions than what the police or courts says (although I have seldom had anyone tell me that they literally didn’t break the law, they usually just tell me that they’re charged with something different than what they could be charged with). In his case, he was picked up for driving on a revoked license. But they found that the car was reported stolen. Jordan says he didn’t know the car was stolen, that “they” know he didn’t steal it, but they were still charging him with theft. He was pretty upset about that because he never had theft on his record before and that can be a big hit when trying to find a job vs. driving-related offenses, for example.

      Comment by llcall — March 24, 2011 @ 10:45 pm

  2. I found this incredibly touching. I got teary-eyed even while I was laughing. What a beautiful interview. Great job, Lindsay!

    Comment by Jen — March 24, 2011 @ 6:17 pm

  3. My eyes also welled up with tears. I’ve been reading Stephen E. Robinson’s book, Following Christ, recently. The following quote is what this man’s story made me think about:

    “Many ‘religious’ people, especially those relying on the rule-based approach, come to think that religion is about what we eat, or how we vote, or how many meetings we attend, or how much money we pay, or how many pages we read. All those things are important, but none of them is MOST important. It is possible to be ‘active’ in church and still be spiritually dead, particularly if we fail to love one another…Do you want to be like God? Then cultivate the one trait above all others that characterizes God–love ALL your brothers and sisters as he loves ALL his children….”

    “This is not emotional fluff. This is not pie in the sky, wishful thinking, or idealistic gas. Love is not some subsidiary principle that allows the weepy among us to go off on a crying jag. It’s not just something thrown in for the benefit of the sisters or for the super-sensitive ‘artsy’ types. It is not an option that may be ignored by those who would prefer not to clutter their lives with other peoples’ problems. There is a grand key here, probably the grandest of them all. It is this: THE HEART AND SOUL OF THE GOSPEL IS LOVE, AND ALL THE REST IS COMMENTARY. Whatever else we may perceive religion to be, we are wrong–for true religion is love in action–God’s love for us and our love for God and for our neighbors” (Robinson, Stephen E. Following Christ, 1995).

    I tend to be one of those rule-based kind of people (blue personality through and through) but am trying to recognize how to follow principles, instead. Though many would probably judge this man for his incarceration and etc (and even though I do not know how he will actually be judged in the afterlife), I can’t help but feel that the love in his heart for others is what the Lord wants us to truly feel. Surely, he’s had a much more difficult life–in many ways–than I have had, and yet, he is able to feel the love for others that is True Religion.

    Comment by Meg Romney — March 25, 2011 @ 6:41 pm

  4. Wow. I know it’s not my place to judge, but he sure seems like a better person than I am.

    Comment by Victoria — March 26, 2011 @ 9:00 pm

  5. Very powerful. I have to say I love the straight from the heart talk you get in these interviews. it’s raw and real compared to the polished/intellectual statements you can get. And “JJ” is very touching. I can already feel myself cheering him to get out and make a better life for himself.

    On a slightly different note. I can’t help but notice just in the way they respond to the questions they can possibly have some form of dyslexia. What are you thoughts and opinion, Lindsay, since you are there first hand and have researched them do you think a lot of these guys have some form of learning disability, which can be really difficult being labeled in school as dumb, lazy, etc, and maybe didn’t help them, how should I put this, make a more successful life? Sorry, I’m running on very little sleep- so I hope that makes some sort of sense.

    Comment by Ishkhanoohie — March 27, 2011 @ 7:18 pm

    • I think you’re not far off at all, Ishkhanoohie. Most of them tell me that they are “far from” stupid, but that formal education never really worked for them. Although they don’t use this term, most of them express to me that they are more “experiential” learners — and that school never really did that for them. There are so many aspects to this; I think some of them do have “learning disabilities” of one kind or another but come from low-resource communities where the tools to help them succeed were not in place. I could write a whole post about some of the issues that come into play…in fact, I think I will sometime soon 🙂

      Comment by llcall — March 27, 2011 @ 11:32 pm

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

Blog at

%d bloggers like this: