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  1. #1
    No One of Consequence wilomn's Avatar
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    The Old Lady and the Fiver

    Here in L.A., especially the last couple of years, you see all sorts of people either begging or offering menial services for whatever they can get. Almost every on ramp and off ramp is occupied by cardboard wielding disheveled looking vagabonds some of whom are no doubt exactly what they appear. Then there are those who hang out at gas stations offering to wash your windows, or just asking for change. Depending on the neighborhood, seems the closer to the poverty line the average inhabitant is the more you see of this type, you find them at fast food drive throughs or manning the doors asking for change. Generally I ignore them. Sometimes I try to figure out if they’re genuine or not, but usually I figure most of them are there by choices they made even though I know that’s not true for all I see.

    Some, the cardboard wranglers, manage to come up with clever ditties to garner your sympathy. Some feign injuries. I cannot count the number of sad looking people who limp down the ramp looking so sad that were I not the cold hearted bastard that I am I might actually feel sorrow. Maybe for them, maybe for the state of things that has brought them to the need to beg to eat. Of course when you see them hightailing it to the car with the window down or walking with a normal stride once the cars start moving, well, let’s just say that for me, no innocence was lost. I’ve seen it too many times. And the whole “will work for food” gimmick, I’ve NEVER seen a single person offer a single beggar a single job. I won’t even get into the god bless crap on 99% of the signs.

    But sometimes, every once in a while, they’re not what you expect. Sometimes they do want to work, they don’t want something for nothing. I know of a couple I see fairly regularly at one of the stations I get gas at. They’ve actually got squeegees and one old man has genuine windex he uses to wash your windows. He’ll do them all too, not just the windshield.

    This, however, is not about him. Tonight I came across an old lady, really old. She had to be 70. I don’t think she was homeless, she was well kept and the plastic bags in her little metal wheeled device with the plastic casing in black, white and red plaid were neatly bundled in their various compartments and she had a long handled brush, 3 maybe 4 feet, most of it was hidden in the carryall she pulled along. She was clean and while I am fairly certain that her bottom teeth were either missing or hiding in one of the many side pockets of the former rolling suitcase like device, her uppers were straight and clean. She smiled a lot. She offered, in an accent I can’t place but suspect had origins in the Eastern Block, to wash my windows in the parking lot that services my bank and grocery store.

    Initially I declined her offer because even though I do believe I am good at reading people, I know I’ve been fooled by lazy sacks of crap who could do better but prefer the easy way. And let’s face it, if what I’ve seen reported and by extrapolating by what I’ve personally seen, some of these pillars of society make a pretty damn good living. This old woman though, her I thought genuine.

    I pondered whether to simply pass her by, as I almost always do or to make a donation as I occasionally do, when I was finished with my business. You see, I don’t mind helping out a fellow traveler who’s down and out but it bugs the out of me to contribute to someone who, in my opinion, doesn’t really need it. It’s a fine line, especially this last year for me. Without my family helping me, I could be the guy with the squeegee.

    So, I finish up at the bank, having decided that she’s the real deal and I’ll just give her a few bucks. I don’t want her washing my windows and what’s 5 bucks to a high roller like me anyway, right? Here’s where things take an interesting turn; the first of several.

    I walk out, fully intending to hand her a 5 and move on to the market. I’ve got a couple of kids who will want to eat sometime tonight and I need a couple things to make some spaghetti. They’re old enough that I don’t really have to feed them, but I usually do at least a few nights a week. But I digress.

    I’ve got the money in my hand and my plan, as I’ve executed it before, calls for me to walk up, hand it to her, tell her, “No, thanks anyway, I don’t need my windows washed,” and leave. No conversation, minimal eye contact and certainly not a conversation, mostly one sided thought it is, at all. Out I go, but she’s not there. Well, she was ambulatory, so I figure she’s moved on, but, just in case, I take a quick look around the corner a few feet from the door I just exited. Lo and behold, there she is.

    She totally ignores the money and REALLY looks me in the eye and asks, “sir, are you a writer? Are you a screenwriter?”

    To which, of course, I answer, “No.”

    “Do you write poetry, are you a writer?” she asks.

    “On occasion,” I tell her, thinking that I’ve written a few thousand words that most would never see.

    She then goes on about how banks have no public restrooms and how terrible that is, pretty much confirming for me that she, while on the fringes, is not quite what most see as normal. I’m cool with that and she goes on for a couple of minutes, rambling a bit but never really losing the path she’s started on. The gist of it is, that people need to take care of each other and there aren’t enough places that do. I explained to her that looking to a bank for anything in any way helpful was looking in the wrong place, but I don’t think she got it. But, she told me something that resonated.

    “Write the truth,” she said. “People will listen to the truth if you tell it. What ever medium you use, the truth needs to be out there.”

    However far down the road age and circumstance had taken her, she still had a good point. And during all this, she hadn’t taken the money I was trying to give her. She kept eye contact with me and I’m pretty damn good at disengaging from conversations I don’t want to be in. I’m not shy about just walking away if it suits me. She never touched me, though she did sort of reach out as if she wanted to a couple of times, not in any weird way, but the way people do when they’re talking to a friend and want to emphasize a point. During our conversation, or more like her speechifying, another woman, who I had heard the old lady make the same windshield washing offer she had made to me, pushed 3 dollar bills into her hand and walked on by. The old lady made a point of stopping our conversation, taking a step around me to put her in direct line of sight with the departing lady, and said, “thank you, thank you very much.” Then she continued talking with me.

    Finally she wound down and I went to the market, got my green pepper and ground beef, and as I was walking back to my car I saw something that I’ll probably never forget.

    The old lady was talking to a guy who was sitting outside a little clothing store. It’s the kind of place that young women can buy slinky things for a moderate price. He was holding a yorkie type dogthing on one of those retractable leashes. My immediate read of him was Russian, pretty well off, has spoiled girlfriend shopping and he’s stuck with the dog. I may have been wrong. I also got the feeling that in a business situation, with someone like me, he’d have no problem taking advantage of me. Maybe I was wrong about that too.

    “Take the money,” she said, pressing a bunch of bills into his hand. “Feed your child, take the money.”

    “I have no child,’’ he replied, trying to give it back to her, obviously uncomfortable. Whether it was having this old woman with her cart and brush trying to give him the money she had so recently been given herself, being seen having this old woman giving him the money, or maybe having been caught up in her not to be underestimated ability to talk to anyone thereby perhaps having gleaned that he actually DID have children, he was obviously uncomfortable. That spoke well of him to me. It’s a tough situation to be in. She was VERY insistant.

    I continued on, my car past them a bit and me having no desire to be seen by her again nor to further embarrass the man she was pressing the money on. I get in my car and I’m leaving and I see him, maybe 20 feet from where they were talking, the exact spot I gave her the fiver in fact, and he was trying to give it back to her, obviously having followed her to get her to take it back.

    She was having none of it. She had given it to him and that was that. The whole thing was just odd. In less than five minutes she had been given 8 dollars that I know of. I could see more than 4 bills in the stack she was trying to give to the man. It was clear she was giving him more than the 8 bucks I knew she had.

    Did this go on all the time with her? It wouldn’t surprise me if she didn’t need the money, but it wouldn’t surprise me if she did. I could tell though, that she was genuinely sincere when she told him to take it and feed his child, to just take it.

    So, now I’ve told my story, as honestly as I could. Take from it what you will. I know I still don’t know what to make of it and right now, about an hour after it happened, I don’t know if I ever will.
    I may not be very smart, but what if I am?
    Stinky says, "Women should be obscene but not heard." Stinky is one smart man.
    www.humanewatch.org

  2. #2
    Don't Push My Buttons JLC's Avatar
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    A few thousand words...a few thousand more...I never tire of reading them, Wes.

    (Probably a good thing, huh?)


    This is a cool story, except that it ends like a song in which the last note gets cut off....leaving you hanging, anticipating that final closing sound that wraps up the melody into a nice neat package, and knowing it will never come. Beautifully done.
    -- Judy

  3. #3
    BPnet Senior Member Mike41793's Avatar
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    Is this fiction or did this actually happen to you?
    I liked this story alot, really shows a small glimpse of hope for the good side of humanity.
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  4. #4
    No One of Consequence wilomn's Avatar
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    Re: The Old Lady and the Fiver

    Quote Originally Posted by Mike41793 View Post
    Is this fiction or did this actually happen to you?
    I liked this story alot, really shows a small glimpse of hope for the good side of humanity.
    Actually happened. I didn't get it word for word, but the essence of it is genuine.
    I may not be very smart, but what if I am?
    Stinky says, "Women should be obscene but not heard." Stinky is one smart man.
    www.humanewatch.org

  5. #5
    BPnet Lifer sho220's Avatar
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    Re: The Old Lady and the Fiver

    Quote Originally Posted by wilomn View Post
    She totally ignores the money and REALLY looks me in the eye and asks, “sir, are you a writer? Are you a screenwriter?”

    To which, of course, I answer, “No.”

    “Do you write poetry, are you a writer?” she asks.

    “On occasion,” I tell her, thinking that I’ve written a few thousand words that most would never see.

    “Write the truth,” she said. “People will listen to the truth if you tell it. What ever medium you use, the truth needs to be out there.”
    Cool story...thanks for sharing. The part above reminds me of Procol Harum's "In Held 'Twas In I"...


    "Still write it down, it might be read
    nothing's better left unsaid
    only sometimes, still no doubt
    it's hard to see, it all works out"

    full lyrics here: http://www.elyrics.net/read/p/procol...-i-lyrics.html
    Lucifer Sam, Siam cat...
    Always sitting by your side,
    Always by your side...
    That cat's something I can't explain...

  6. #6
    BPnet Veteran wwmjkd's Avatar
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    just wanted to bring this back up to the top in the hopes that others who missed it might have a chance to read it. very well written, although I must bow to Judy's analogy. while I wasn't necessarily anticipating a nice closing melody, nor should anyone who has read more than two of your posts, I did wish it were longer.

  7. #7
    BPnet Lifer Annarose15's Avatar
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    Re: The Old Lady and the Fiver

    Quote Originally Posted by wwmjkd View Post
    just wanted to bring this back up to the top in the hopes that others who missed it might have a chance to read it. very well written, although I must bow to Judy's analogy. while I wasn't necessarily anticipating a nice closing melody, nor should anyone who has read more than two of your posts, I did wish it were longer.
    Thank you for bumping this. I hadn't seen it the first time around, and it really made me smile.

    Thank you for posting, Wes.
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~



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