Meeting New Friends
Some times I wonder what other people's lives are like. Do they get assailed with the same frequency and variety of lunatics as I do? Do other people get chased, battered, fondled, bitten, or screamed at from a constant stream of skin-heads, neo-Nazis, Klan members, UFO abductees, past-life astrologers, levitation loonies, schizophrenic homeless, Scientologists, white supremacists, crazed cult clowns, young-earth Creationists, gang members who hate the color blue, drug dealers, and Lyndon LaRouche voters?
Take for instance the time, many years ago, when I was sitting in a fast food joint at Baldwin Park, California. I was tucked away in a corner, floppy gray hat on my head, reading a book while eating a burrito. A guy walks up to the table I'm at, sits down, and pushes a paperback book at me. I've no idea who this person is: he's rough looking, dangerous-looking, mean looking. Ah, golly. I hate it when this happens. I put my book down, then put my burrito down, and picked up the book. A dozen hundred-dollar bills fall out.
Shit. Shit shit shit shit.
The universe has made me its special plaything. What does one do at such a time?
I looked around the place, waiting for the FBI to fall on me like a duck on a Scarabaeidae. I spot a guy in the other corner, wearing a floppy gray hat. He looks mean, rough, and dangerous. And he's angrily staring right at my new pal and me!
Shit. Shit shit shit shit.
"I think you want that guy over there," I tell my table mate, pointing. I wipe his book clean of my fingerprints with Diet Coke and my shirt sleeve.
Without even thanking me, he uses one hairy paw to scoop up the money, and walks over to the other table. I try furiously to ignore them, but every time I look up they are staring at me with meat-eater eyes. Carnivore eyes. Kill-the-witness eyes.
So. I get up and go to the ordering counter and in a very loud, wavering, cowardly voice I ask for another burrito and drink (this was before free refills). I can feel eyes burning through my back.
But I have a plan!
When my new burrito is ready, I take it to my table, get more paper napkins, and packets of salt. Leaving my book and food behind, I walk to the bathroom, pretend to enter it, but enter the kitchen instead. I wave and nod to the kitchen crew who tell me "You can't ('may not,' I believe they mean) come back here!" I continue through the kitchen, out the back door, and run like hell. I even abandoned my car.
That was some 10 or 12 years ago: I was around 30 years old at the time. Now and then I still wonder what I would have done if these guys had still been there when I went back to retrieve my car. Would they have been pleased to see me?
How about the time I went to the Department of Motor Vehicles in Newport Beach, California. I was twenty years old, and I felt it was time to stop driving around without a license. My appointment to take the driver's test was all set, and I drove down there in my 1965 Plymouth Barracuda. I was very worried about failing the test.
Out of my car I fearfully crawl, with trepidation pinching my throat tightly. I lock my car.
Up to me runs a woman. She is about my age: twenty or twenty-two years. She is dressed like a 1850s pioneer woman: hair tightly bound to her head, dress starting at just below her ears and ending a yard past her heels, sleeves bound to her wrists. She has a pinched face, bushy eyebrows, and narrow eyes.
"I caught you staring at that girl!" she screams accusingly at me. At first I'm shocked; then I look around for the girl I had apparently looked at--- I didn't see anyone but Pioneer Woman. "There you go again!" she wails in astonishment. I get on my toes and look for a witness in case this woman assaults me: I look left, right, front, and, twisting, behind me: still no one else in the parking lot. "You're staring at her again!" the woman yells, filled with anguish, angst, and ire.
Mystified, and without my ever saying a word, I walked into the DMV hoping the woman would not follow. Mercifully, she did not.