Sometimes things happen in my head that I just can’t condone.

This morning I was driving back to work from a breakfast meeting up on Alberta. Winding my way along the residential streets I saw a shopping cart piled high with black plastic bags. The bags were enormous and brimming with bottles and cans. That in itself didn’t seem strange, although I immediately realized how strange it was that this scene has become commonplace. What was really strange was that I expected to see a certain kind of person associated with this cart. I kind of did a double-take when I saw a Latino couple standing next to it.

When did my brain decide that shopping carts piled high with empties are the purview of African American men? And that that scene would not warrant a double-take?? I have no idea when this happened, and I’m ashamed to admit it. I worry what else my brain has been up to while I’ve been otherwise occupied. (Although it’s not like my brain can keep a secret, which is no surprise if you’ve been reading for a while.)

All of this was going through my head as I pulled over to the curb. I jumped out and went back to say hello to the couple. The man had a beer bottle in his hand. As he turned it over a trickle of beer splattered onto the street. I held out the hundred to the woman, who accepted it with a smile. “Thank you!” they both said.

They told me their names are Jose and Angelina. The man spoke good English and told me he had gotten sick a few months ago and been laid off from his job. They were having trouble paying their bills and had applied for some assistance with the electric bill. Yesterday they were told that the emergency assistance fund was depleted. “We have to do something to make money,” he shrugged, cocking his head toward the cart.

I asked what they would get for the bottles they had collected. The cart was overflowing, and there were bags tied all around as well as piled inside. “Oh, maybe twenty dollars,” he said. “And that’s a full day’s work.”

He’s recovered from his illness and hoping to get hired again soon. “Thank you,” he said again.

I probably won’t see them again. It’ll be someone else next time.

Pushing a cart full of empties.

I pray my brain will honor them with a double-take. It’s the least I can do.







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3 Responses to Double Take

  1. DJan says:

    What is distressing to me is that the level of poverty in this country is increasing so quickly that many of us filter out the pain of others so we can continue to hold our heads above water…

    I notice a slight change in tone in your posts lately, too. More introspective and more concern comes through, and I realize that I can’t tell if the change is in you or me, or both.

  2. Jill Ginsberg says:

    Hmm, interesting observation. I think what you sense is real. Great to hear from you, as always. Thank you!

  3. Ginny says:

    I remember when I used to have to do that to make it through. It was the only thing I could find to do with two little kids. I didn’t live in Portland at that time but it paid the bills for me.

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