Your Ride with Yousif

Johanna Sorrentino
3 min readFeb 26, 2017


Ride Details:
Lyft fare (11.52 miles, 21m 24s) $18.19
1546 Sky Harbor Cir S, Phoenix
3990 N 1st Ave, Scottsdale

“Hey, Yousif?”

“Yes, hi.”

“Is this your first time in Phoenix?”

“First time visiting. Passed through a bunch. You like it here?”

“Oh yeah, I love it.”

“Are you from here originally?”

“No, I’m from Iraq.”

“Oh, okay, how long you been living in Phoenix?”

“For six years. I just came back from visiting my brother in Iraq and I hated it.”

“Why did you hate it?”

“Because we couldn’t leave the house. It wasn’t safe. I just stayed inside for three weeks.”

“Well, that sounds like a shitty time. At least you got to see your brother though.”

“Yeah, I’m going to tell my family, ‘If you want to see me, you’re going to have to come to Arizona’.”

“Might be harder for them to do that now, though.”

“Yeah, true.”

“Are there a lot of Iraqis in Phoenix?”

“Yeah lots.”

“I guess the weather’s a bit familiar, huh?”

“Yes, it’s very similar.”

“How long have you been driving Lyft for?”

“Four years now. I used to work nights, but I don’t work nights anymore.”

“Why is that — were people too crazy?”

“Oh yeah, that’s when people ask me ‘Are you going to kill me?’ ‘Do you have a bomb on you right now?’”

“Ugh. Well, when people get drunk all their irrational fears come out and they have no filter.”

“Yeah, I know. I try to explain that Iraqis aren’t the ones killing themselves. Iraqis, we don’t bomb ourselves.”

“Well, it’s good that you try to educate people. That’s all their fear is, you know, a lack of education.”

“Most of the time I just smile and say ‘have a nice night’.”

“That can be a good response, too. It sounds silly, but I really feel like even one positive interaction can change people’s minds. I’ve seen it happen. I had a friend who moved to San Francisco. He had never met anyone who was gay, and when he first came to the city we were hanging out and he saw two men kissing on the street. He pointed at them and said, ‘Look at that!’ I told him, ‘That’s not something to point at. Just be cool.’ Within a couple of weeks, he had become friends with a gay guy at his gym, and he didn’t even think twice about it.”

“Yeah, I didn’t really like gay people when I first moved here, but there’s this one guy I’ve picked up for a ride like 6 or 7 times. He lives around here. He’s super nice and cool.”

“Yeah, see, that’s what I mean.”

“I had one lady last week who asked me what I was doing in this country. I told her I was going to school to learn sign language. She said, ‘Well, that’s good that you want to help Americans, unlike some of your people’. I just smiled.”

“Oh my goodness.”

“Okay, this is your hotel. Let me just pull up.”

“Great, thanks. Well, listen, don’t give up. Every time you have one of those conversations, every time you smile at someone saying stupid things, you’re doing something really important. It’s more important than ever. Don’t let it get you down.”

“Oh I won’t, ma’am. Thank you. At the end of the day, I go home and I’m happy.”

“Good. Take care of yourself. Take care of Yousif!”

Johanna is an editor and arm-chair sociologist whose job as a travel writer is the longest, most realistic game of make-believe the world has ever seen.