Norton’s Notions

By John Norton

A Conversation with a Syrian-American Limo Driver 

At 5 a.m. the limo driver who I had met at the airport on my arrival in Houston was back at the hotel to drive me back to the airport. He had worked until 2 a.m. and slept in his Town Car because he lives 45 minutes away from the hotel. “After this,” he said, “I go home.”

“What’s your name?”

“Nimoor, but I go by Mark because it is easier for people to remember.”

“Where are you from, Nimoor?”

“A land called Syria. You have heard of it?”

“Yes. I’ve always wanted to visit Syria and the Holy Land, but now is probably not the time.”

“Yes, it is the Holy Land but now is not the time. Maybe never now is it time.”

“Do you still have family there?”

“Yes, many family.”

“Any killed in the war?”

“No, none, they run to the bomb shelters. They are lucky so far.”

“Would they like to emigrate? To anywhere?”

“No, they would rather die in Syria. They will not move an inch.”

“How did you end up here in Houston?”

“That is a story. Twenty-nine years ago I was an interpreter in the Syrian oilfields, and working for an American who lived here in Houston. He was going 28 on and 28 off. I expressed an interest in coming to America and he said come live with me for a month and I will help you get a visa. And I did, and he did help, and I did not go back. Now I am an American citizen.”

“What do you think of the caliphate?”



“These are godless criminals. We have never seen their likes.”

“Will they win?”

“No. Someday there will be no ISIS. They have no support, these criminals. They are bad animals.”

“Is it good we jumped into the war?”

“It is good. We know what Iran’s intentions are, to rule Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, Jordan and Saudi Arabia. We know what Russia’s intentions are. Without America, Iran and Russia have their way. But is America steady? That is the question everyone asks and the answer nobody knows. I did not vote for Trump because of the things he says, but in Syria I support him. It is good. But America cannot come and go. It must be steady as it has not been. This unsteadiness is the worry.”

“What about Israel?”

“Israel is an enemy of Syria. But not full enemy. Oil tankers from Syria offload at Haifa. Syria sells oil to Israel. So an enemy and not an enemy. Also a customer.”

“Have you been a driver since you’ve been here?”

“No, not at all. An oilfield gets in your blood. I worked 27 years in the Gulf.”

“But you left the oilfields?”

“No, the oilfields left me. Prices went down and I lost my job. Now I drive these two years.”

“Your friend the American who helped you? Do you stay in touch with him?”

“Yes, for some time and then not so. Then three or four years ago, I went to his house but went to his neighbor’s by mistake. Can you believe I could not remember the house of my benefactor? I talked to the neighbor woman who said he had died of malaria from working an oilfield in Africa. She said I could talk to his wife. But I did not want to talk to the man’s wife. I wanted to talk to him. So I left.”

“How do you think the troubles in the Middle East will end?”

“The troubles will not end. There will be turmoil until the end-time. Until the world ends.”

“Are you satisfied with your decision to come here?”

“Yes. It has been hard work but I am not a stranger to hard work. I had nothing when I arrived and now I have something.”

“Do you celebrate the 4th?”

“The 4th is not so busy for me, so it is a day of rest. I do like to see fireworks.”

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