Tuesday, July 28, 2009

On the Town

No. 1 is officially settled in to her new digs in Berkeley, and this past Monday was the last work day to make it happen. Most of the work had been done by then, but we had to hang some blinds, do a little bit of painting and replace some knobs on the kitchen drawers. And then we had to register her car in this state and put the new license plates on it. The day went like this.

Scene 1: No. 1 and I went to the DMV and waited in a long line to do some paperwork and find out that we had to go to a Smog Testing center, which we sort of knew anyway. So, we went to the Smog Testing center. There are dozens of them, but we chose one near a Home Depot because we had to go there anyway for the screws for the kitchen knobs. The wait at the testing center was nearly an hour, so we had lunch at a Starbucks next door. Day laborers gather at the entrances to Home Depot hoping for work, and there were over a dozen men standing around waiting. It was noonish, and we sat outside at a cafe table with our lunch, and I wondered if these men would get anything to eat, or would they stand there all day. It wasn't long before a car pulled into the parking lot, and several people got out and opened up their trunk. It was full of sack lunches, and all the hopeful men gathered around. They stood in a huge circle while someone prayed for their meal, and they each took a sack. It was sort of moving, and I was glad someone was looking out for the men.

Then we decieed to wait out the rest of the time in the center's waiting room. That's where we met the Old Woman.

She was wearing sweats and walked with a walker that had cut-up tennis balls on the bottom of the legs. Her hair was wild, and her skin hung from her arms like a saggy sweater and she was talkative. We learned so many things about her—she grew up in Dekalb, Illinois and didn't mind the winters but hated the summers because of the humidity and the mosquitoes. She slapped her saggy arms to show how much she hated getting all bitten up by the things. Her husband fought in WW2 and was stationed in Traverse City, MI for a while. They rented a room there because there weren't apartments available in those days. Her husband died years ago, and her son died at the age of 53. She has twin daughters who live in California and a granddaughter who just moved to Oregon. She fell at the dentist office and broke her right arm. Then she fell at home and broke her right hip. The Old Woman was funny and upbeat but said, "The joys of aging are shit." I loved her.

With her, we learned that the young man who was running the testing center, the only employee all day, is getting married on Sunday and will have ten days off. He was excited. We shared a few laughs with another customer whose little girl brought a skate board to amuse herself and explained to us that she chose the skate board with the bulldog on it because the only other option was one with a purple Chiquia, and who wants that?

Scene 2: We went back to the DMV with our smog testing certificate to wait in line forever—again—to get new plates. While sitting in the waiting area, I discovered I had a dollar in my jeans pocket. I let my mind wander and daydreamed about someone in need asking me for money, and I would give them the dollar. That sort of thing hardly ever happens to me, but I envisioned it anyway. Once we got the new plates and walked outside to put them on the car, a woman stopped me at the door and asked if I could spare some change so she could take the BART home. I quickly dug into my pocket and pulled out the dollar. I handed it to her and said, "Here you go." It happened so quickly as if it were expected, and No. 1 asked why I did that? "Because I had to," I said. I couldn't say anymore because it caught me off guard and made me want to cry. I explained about the daydream later, though, and she agreed that I indeed had to.

Scene 3: Later on, we picked up Eustacia who was waiting back at the condo for us. We walked to Berkeley's campus to look around and let No. 1 take care of grad school business. We crossed campus and headed down the street to peek at Telegraph Hill. As we passed by a girl on the sidewalk, I could hear her crying, so I stopped and asked if she was OK. Well...she was not OK. Through her tears she explained that she had starved herself for the longest time and threw up all the time to be skinny, but then she gets to Berkeley and meets with her mentor, but in the group meeting, the mentor didn't even mention her by name. He mentioned a different student instead. "And she was fat," the girl said, "and her parents let her be fat. And my parents yelled at me all the time to be skinny, and here I am, and he didn't even mention my name, and now what do I have? Nothing." She went on to explain that her hair was thin (it was a big frizzy mop and very pretty) and she was pale and ugly. Actually, she was beautiful, so I said, "Honey, you are absolutely gorgeous, and I suggest you go back and meet with your mentor, and I bet you 100 bucks it will all work out." She wasn't sure, but we tried to console her until another girl stopped by and jumped, and then we left the new girl to the task.

I'm pretty sure this poor girl was a nutjob based on her rambling, but she really was in need. Not to mock her (too much), but our new line is "And she was fat and her parents let her be fat." Say that out loud and see if it doesn't make you grin at least a little. On the other hand, if this poor girl really did have crappy parents who made her feel fat and ugly when she is really just lovely no matter her size, then it's heartbreaking. Hopefully her mentor will call her by name soon, and the disturbed girl will see her true value.

So, that was my day in Berkeley. It was interesting and colorful, and I enjoyed it.


dive said...

"The joys of aging are shit".
Hee hee, Robyn. That lady sounds like she'd be fantastic company for Old Dive.

What lovely stories from your day.

The dollar was well spent.

kyle@sift said...

You need to be careful. All of these people are nut job con artists waiting for a way to take advantage of you. I thought you knew the ways of the city. Small town has softened you.

Lynn said...

he he I did grin. Poor girl, I'm so glad you stopped to help, I would too and I'm sure these things help. The Old Woman was hilarious, I love to meet such people.

The dollar tale intrigued me the most. I'm not just sayin' ;) but these things happen to me a lot. They are signs, visions, whatever. I believe in them and always act on them if I can. I also totally understand the desire to cry. It's somehow overwhelming, that kind of event. Totally with you.

What an interesting day! Better thna mine so far - spent a whole morning sorting out a stupid website glitsch of a company where I can keep clients' passworded galleries. Done now. I hope. I was losing the will to live until I came here and read all that lovely stuff from you! :)

Scout said...

Dive, the collection of stories did make for an interesting day.

Kyle, I can't tell if you're being sarcastic or not. I actually think it doesn't matter if someone else is a con. It's my responsibility to do the right thing regardless.

Lynn, I definitely believe in coincidences, but the daydream and panhandler fit together so nicely.

savannah said...

on the town is right, sugar! but then again, a day in be-zerk-ly is a lifetime anywhere else! (native californian, so i can say that!) xoxox

neetzy said...

Oooh on so many points. I've been to Berkeley and know how quirky it is (ask Katie).
I have two teenage daughters.
I have anorexic friends.
My father was obsessed with fat. I was always too fat. My mother smoked to stay thin and then died of lung cancer.
I fight the fat battle daily but still find I'm too effing fat. WTF?