. h A AFTERWORD A Prayer, After All BY JIM PARKS HE DFW AIRPORT’S central queue lies in the shadow of the FAA’s air control tower, east of the Hyatt Hotel West, and just south of Terminal 2-W. There are 15 lanes and ‘each one holds upward of a dozen taxis for an average two to three hours. One by one, the taxis advance, as a computerized, video surveillance controlled dispatch center directs them to one of the giant airport’s four remote terminals, arrayed along a multi-lane, limitedaccess freeway. During peak hours, between dawn and midnight, a minimum of 300 of the metropolitan area’s 2,500 licensed taxis are holding on line. Most taxi operators here are recent Middle Eastern Islamic immigrants; they are clearly the majority in this subculture within their sprawling air-transportation complex that covers more than 100,000 acres of prairie and serves as a hub in the nation’s transcontinental trade routes. Several times in the course of the day, these drivers face east, and with their foreheads touching the oily tarmac and their voices drowned out by the roar of the huge jet engines, they repeat their ritual salah the canonical ritual prayer required that Muslims recite five times each day. Those who don’t pray, play soccer or toss footballs, or stride up and down the lines of taxis looking for conversation and companionship. Occasionally, they cluster in loose circles to argue about the Persian Gulf war. In one such circle, a Palestinian pauses in his discourse to draw an impromptu map in the dust on the hood of a taxi. He calmly explained that his people are displaced inside their homeland, forced either to live in camps along the Gaza Strip or the Occupied Territories of the West Bank of the Jordan. The international dilemma; as it began in 1948 and advanced through the wars of 1967 and 1973, comes into focus in the aging yellow Chevrolet sedan, which was once used as a police cruiser as most of the cars in line have been. “They [Israelis] love it if you tell them you want to leave the country altogether … go, maybe, to America or wherever. But if you want to stay, you have to live in that shit Hillsboro writer Jim Parks sometimes drives a taxi in Fort Worth. and nowhere else,” he says. “I don’t think the average American has ever had it explained to them in quite that way,” one of the few native Anglo Texans who works the airport says to the Palestinian. But to the Palestinian, linkage of the Palestinian homeland question to a resolution of the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait is clearly a logical progress along the road to peace. Of the metroplex’s 2,500 permitted taxicab operators, he is one of an estimated 1,500 who are from Iran, Iraq, Palestine, Jordan, Syria, Pakistan, or Nigeria. He is a man who has already voted with his feet. He says he left his home four years ago in search of steady work, an opportunity to live free and make a living. He found it in Dallas, where he works 16 to 18 hours daily, like most cab drivers who wait in front of hotels to take passengers to DFW, then return to DFW to take other passengers to other hotels. The Anglo driver also works a minimum double eight-hour shift, seven days a week, to meet his financial obligations of cab lease S. GAIL Wm:0 .5 and fuel costs. It’s not until most drivers have worked the first three or four days of each week that they break even. Cab leases here run from $30 to $45 per day, depending on the age of the car and average between $250 and $300 weekly. Airport-based taxi operators generate between $100 and $125 per day. This means that to make a living they probably spend as much as eight to 10 hours of each day sitting in the lines of the DFW central taxi queue. Today, along with the war, the topic of conversation is a gasoline price war in nearby Grapeland, where two rival convenience stores at a rural intersection have forced the price down to 92 cents per gallon. The problem, says the Palestinian, is the four-barrel carburetor in his car, originally jetted for leaded fuel, doesn’t mix the low-octane fuel for maximum power. He has to mix it with the more expensive premium unleaded gas which has increased in price about 20 percent since the August 2 invasion of Kuwait. On February 1, six months after the inva 22 MARCH 8, 1991 4.1
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