"as always, details changed to protect anonymity
"Where are you from? You aren't from Georgia," I said. His musical accent was a dead give-away.
"Guess," he replied.
"Louisiana. Totally." We both sat there smiling right after I said that. He then gave me a slow thumbs up and nodded.
"All day and all night, baby."
"Couldn't miss it," I added with a chuckle.
"This accent saved me."
"Yeah?" I raised my eyebrows, intrigued by what I'm sure was a piece of his story. I leaned into my palm and rested my elbow on the desk.
"I came here after Katrina. Didn't have a pot to piss in or a window to throw it out of. And I ain't exaggerating neither, baby. I'm talking the clothes on my back and nothing else."
"Family? Did you have any here?"
"Nope. That's where I ain't like most folk from Looziana. My family small, a lot of 'em out in the country and don't have nothing to help. Plus, I was a city cat, you know? I needed a city. So one of them church groups had a bus coming here and I got on it. Ain't had plan the first of what I'd do once I got here."
"Wow. So how did the accent save you?"
"I was in a shelter. For just one night and it was so, so terrible. Bugs, rats, people yelling and screaming and fighting. Had to get up out of there, baby. I had about forty dollars and blew it all on a cheap hotel room that night. Said I'd get me some rest and then go try to make something happen. Didn't have one dime when I checked out of that room. Not even a bottle of water on me."
"Then what happened?"
"Saw this man with a delivery truck outside of McDonald's. Walked right up on him and said, 'Brother, I need some help. I need to work. Give me a chance and I'll load everything off this truck faster than you can say shrimp etouffe."
And, okay. He didn't actually say "shrimp etouffe" but, admit it, it sounds better for the story.
He goes on to tell me about how the dude at the McDonald's truck said that he wasn't the boss but, like me, heard that sing-song accent and asked him where he was from. And that man said New Orleans and then shared his story. The truck man then took out his cell phone and called up a friend. "My man got this moving company. He could use some good folks to help him." That's what my patient told me the guy at McDonald's told him.
"So the guy hired you?" I asked.
"He had me meet him a few blocks over and said, 'Look, bruh. I'm gon' have you work today and see how it go. If that go okay, we'll go with tomorrow.' And I shook his hand and said, 'Hell yeah, man.' Then I worked my ass off. Moved that shit off that truck in two seconds flat."
"It is. Been working with that man ever since. Got me a house and a car and even drive the delivery truck out of state for the company. We doing good, too. Real, real good."
"I love that. Did you ever see the guy from McDonald's again?"
"You know what? Like once or twice. But I told that man that he saved my life. Just 'cause he was interested in the way I talked. Which is crazy because every time I left New Orleans, I used to wish I didn't talk so funny. But now I love my accent. Love it 'cause I know it start up conversations, you know? And conversations lead to relationships. And relationships lead to chances."
I shook my head, then stopped and nodded it hard. "Damn. That's a good word, sir."
"Yeah, it is. It don't take much. What make us feel like outsiders is what open doors to being insiders. Crazy how it all work, ain't it?"
"So crazy. Yet so cool."
So, so very cool. All day and all night, baby.