Sunday, 6 December 2009

public places

Went to church today. Found a seat in the back. There was a woman who had some kind of breathing problem directly behind me. Very audible wheezing, probably chronic disease and on the verge of needing hospitalization or at least a couple of puffs from her inhaler, and maybe some oxygen. People in that condition really shouldn't be out in this cold when they have those kind of breathing problems but they come out anyway, so what are you gonna do? So anyway, I was facing forward, waiting until they passed out the communion to get a look at her. Hmm...a black woman up in years, looking half asleep, half alive. I didn't like the sound or looks of her and decided to talk to her right after the service.

Just then, my cell phone started ringing. Rats. Forgot to turn it off when I went in. I hate when that happens. Good thing I was in the last row back there. Holding the little cup of grape juice, I jumped up, grabbed my bag and exited. It just so happened that my bible study leader was out there. This woman can't be much older than me, but she's a school teacher and for some deep seated reason, I feel like a student caught without a hall pass. Nothing goes unnoticed. I nodded, smiling, pointing to my bag which was still ringing, like a crying child. Of course I can't find the phone in the bag. Everything else, yes. So I head for the women's room, take the juice in the bathroom and put it on the counter. Going through the bag I finally locate the phone. By then it had stopped ringing and I thought I may as well listen to the messages.

Around that time, another girl from my bible study comes into the bathroom. She compliments me on my hair. That's the second time she said something about my hair. I guess I wasn't looking so great the first few times she saw me. No wonder, I'd have to fly home from work to make it to the woman's house on time and was usually late. That would trigger my schoolmarm fears. So anyway, I figured I oughta touch up my makeup after taking the juice. Oh man. Another woman from the bible study is standing on line. I pick up my stuff and say hello, and head out of there. By then, the lady with the breathing issue is gone.Gee I hope she gets some help.

So I've been wanting to sign up for a ministry. I used to teach the 3 year olds years ago at my other church, so I figured I'd give the nursery a shot. Last week I wandered in and checked out the nursery. Right off I was introduced to the head of the department, and we exchanged emails. Today I filled out the application. Asked if I was ever arrested for anything other than a traffic ticket. Hmm....does that one time I was handcuffed and read my rights count if it was just a misunderstanding over a court date? I don't think that's what they are looking for, so I left it off anyway. It was several years back and driving related. Nothing criminal in my background and no sense giving false impressions with potentially incriminating information. Probably not going to even show up when they do the background check. If they want that sort of thing they can do the paperwork. I want to present as SPOTLESS. Not some kind of whacked-out crazy woman driver or nut-job wanna-be nanny-hand that rocks the cradle.

One of the questions: Are you now or have you BEAN in counseling. Of course I've been in counseling. Good grief. Marriage counseling counts right? So what are they getting at here? Why no question about medications? If I had a child in the nursery, I would want to be 100% confident that my baby wasn't being touched by some addict with cigarette breath and nicotine stains on their filthy fingers. I'd have to have a look-see at the care providers before I would leave my child. The leadership in this church recognize that they have a responsibility to the children and their parents to root out the weirdos. I am not one of them, I tell ya! I Hold a job which requires toileting and bathing of ADULTs, many of whom are incontinent, and incoherent with dementia. Special needs, man. Do I seem defensive? I am. So. I am hoping that they will not find some small reason to keep me out of the ministry. I just want to fit in quietly. No scenes. Just show up on time and provide consistent and skilled tender loving care to the kids. That's it. Nothing fancy. No cupcakes or party games. Just do my time and go to service.

Following the service I went over to do my laundry. Packed it all in the car. Been doing my own AND my dads these days. I could use the parent's machine but I don't want to break it. I have a tendency to want to over pack. Anyway, I found 2 laundromats which are acceptable. The one is in Lakewood and it draws crowds of spanish speaking people. Weekends are rough, as you often have to wait for a dryer. They have 4 extra large flat screen TVs mounted in the center aisle facing all directions and each has a different screen going with different language. I guess the Hacitics have their own laundry as I never see any Jewish people in here. Maybe they all have their own laundry rooms in their nice houses. That's ok. Someday I too will have a laundry room. Not now, but someday.

I don't mind doing my laundry out. It's good exercise for now. I used to find the people in laundromats amusing but as I got older, the amusement wore off. Every once in a while if I am feeling sociable and have something to say, I will talk to someone, but for the most part, I mind my own business. Today I walked in and it was fairly crowded.

There was this one short heavy black man who reminded me of one of the characters from 'What's Happening?' I glanced at him as I walked past him. He was speaking very loudly on the cellphone almost non stop. He noticed me looking at him and said, "Disoriented?" I have no idea what he meant but I answered " Quite" and made a mental note not to look at him again. He came over into my aisle and continued talking really loudly, as if wanting everyone to get the impression that he had some powerful position. At one point I overheard him say, " ...and I made him look stupid, real stupid." I was thinking, "I bet you did." As I finished loading the machines I noticed he had moved closer to me, and so I headed the other way. Not interested in talking to this guy. What I didn't notice was that he also left the aisle and went around the other way, also toward the door. He followed me out, held the door. I avoided eye contact and kept moving. By this point I was getting the creeps. As I walked toward my car with my empty bags, he came toward me while reaching into his pocket. I was thinking here I am in broad daylight. Is this guy gonna pull out a gun or knife? I opened my door as he pulled out a card and handed it to me. Griffin something. Branch Manager for some financial corporation. I said " What's this for?" He sai, "It's my business card. Give me a call." Give him a call? I looked at the card. I certainly would not be calling him. " Are you a mortgage guy?" "Yeah. Give me a call." He turned and went back into the laundromat. I sat out in my car, looking at this guy's card, stunned that two seconds of eye contact and one word would warrant this kind of response. That's the end of that. I don't want to solicit attention or business cards from anyone. I sat in my locked car reading the bible and then went back in to throw my stuff in the dryer. There was Griffin. Standing over by his wife and kids. I walked past. "Hey... Griffin." He glanced up and then turned away quickly. I guess he didn't want any attention either.

On the way home, I thought I would stop by Pep boys for an oil change. OK, so they couldn't fit me in. Tomorrow night? OK I made an appointment for tomorrow night after work, and grabbed some water and gum on the way out. I love the woman who rang me up. She was wishing each customer a very happy holiday which I thought was nice.

Anyway, I left the parking lot and headed on down the highway. Turned down the next block, thinking I'd take a ride past this little crackerbox I had seen for sale which was now under contract. I really wanted and to see if I still got the creeps from that street. This was one of a couple of neighborhoods in Howell in which I had promised myself many years ago that I would NEVER EVER live! What was it that bothered me about this street? I was driving along thinking it was the narrowness of the road without curbs, and the piles of leaves with cars parked along the street, the junky little capes and ranches which reminded me of being poor and worse, my own poverty. Not being able to afford even a stinking house on this miserable street, thanks largely to NJ taxes irks me. Well sure it would help if I worked full time,, if I changed jobs, but I love my job. So I shouldn't complain. The whole self defeating lifestyle is fitting in quite nicely with the pattern I've established with each dumb decision I've made and this time I am going to wait. Against the advice of hungry mortgage guys and realtors who insist it's a BUYER'S MARKET. As I drove a little further, I noticed a father out with his 2 boys in a go cart. That was nice.

Many of the shabby little starter homes were being fixed up. Hmmm....People making the best of it. Yes, I thought, this little community was almost bearable. I continued down the street, checking out these little bungalows, and drove slowly past a tall man who stood out on his front lawn. I glanced at him, and yes for a second there was eye contact. Oh no...I have to NOT do that. Keep driving. I got down to the end of the road and turned around. There was a fork in the road and I could have taken that way, but decided to go out the way I had come in. Past the tall man who was now standing in the middle of the street. Oh man. What the heck is he doing out there? I approached slowly and he stepped back a few feet. Wierd. As I came up to him, he spoke some words. Instead of moving on, I stupidly decided to stop to see what he was saying to me. Rolled the window down a few inches?

"There are kids around here." He was looking rather disturbed with greasy hair, dry flaky skin and red rimmed eyes, blue eyes. Looked like a drinker to me.
"I am aware of that."
Then he told me that I needed to slow down.
" I know you are lost but you need to slow down."
" Actually I'm not lost."
" Well do you normally drive around places you don't live?"
" Why are you asking me personal questions?"
" I just don't want you driving fast on my block."
" Alright" as I pushed the button to close the window.
I continued slowly up the block and stopped at the guy with the 2 kids.
"Excuse me sir, but did you think I was driving too fast before?"
" Not at all. You're fine."
" That guy down there said I needed to slow down, but I wasn't driving fast at all."
"THAT GUY? Ignore him. He does that to everyone. He's strange. You're fine. Just ignore him."
"Thank you."

So that's it. I guess I am learning after all these years NOT to TALK to STRANGERS! Don't stop. Don't talk. Just ignore them. And if they talk to you first? Keep your distance, keep your answers short, or just yell " NOOOOO!!!!!" and run away. As my brother Vinny says, " Run, don't walk." His number one rule : DO NOT make eye contact with strangers. He has also advised me to NOT talk to people in laundromats, Burger King, or public libraries (since that's where the people go who are not eating or doing laundry). Happy Birthday, Vinny! We are the same age for one week.

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