The week on Galiano was one of the nicest vacations we’ve had in a long time. It was so quiet and restful, not to mention gorgeous. I took a lot of photos; here are a few of my favorites.
So, it was kind of hard to come home. Mentally, I mean. Getting home was easy. And surprisingly fast.
I drove the whole way up and the whole time we were on the island. I don’t mind driving, and Louise doesn’t enjoy it at all. She also likes to point out that I am not a very good passenger, and don’t seem to enjoy it when she drives, either. Fair enough.
Anyway, we were at a rest stop near Olympia when I asked Louise to drive the rest of the way home. “Sure,” she said. We got back into the car and she pulled out onto the freeway.
I was trying to relax and be a model passenger when I noticed that the other cars seemed to be going backwards. Then I heard Louise say, “Whoa.”
“What?” I asked. “Nothing,” she said. “Well, why did you say ‘Whoa’?” “I was just going kind of fast, that’s all,” she admitted. Hmm. This might explain the “going backwards” illusion. “Like, how fast?” I wanted to know.
She said “ninety” but I’m willing to bet she was sugarcoating it. I think we were actually approaching the speed of sound, as I noticed a funny ringing in my ears.
We made it safely home. I’ve spent most of the week getting caught up on work and house stuff. I fell a bit behind in my giving and put a hundred in my pocket before heading to Trader Joe’s this afternoon. I only needed a few items and wasn’t planning to stay long.
The first thing I noticed when I walked in was a woman standing with her back to me, white cane in hand. One of the store employees was helping her. “Strawberries? Yes, here they are. These say ‘extra sweet'”. “Yes, I want those,” she said.”I’ll take two boxes of the ‘extra sweet””. For a moment I envied her credulity. In my experience, anything claiming to be “extra sweet” usually isn’t.
The store employee wanted to know if she needed any other fruits or vegetables, or any cheese in the next section. “No, but I need some milk,” she said. “And I’m a slow mover.” Not only was she blind but she appeared seriously ill. “No problem,” he said. “Take your time.” As I maneuvered my cart down the aisle, I saw her take his arm.
A few aisles later I saw them standing in front of the vitamins. “I want ones that are close to these,” I heard her say, holding out an empty bottle. The guy was picking up one bottle after the other from the shelf, studying all the labels.
“Maybe I can help you,” I said. “Those labels can be really confusing, even for me. And I’m a doctor.” Anyone who knows anything about the training doctors of my generation got in nutrition might have run the other way, but they graciously accepted my help and we found a good substitute. They both thanked me profusely, and the woman said, “How lucky that you were here! That was a “god” moment!”
I finished my shopping and put my stuff in the car. I was pushing my cart back to the store when the two of them came out, arm in arm. They were talking quietly.
The young man walked her around the corner to the bus station. As he came back, I saw that his name tag said “Sean”. I stopped him and told him that his kindness had really impressed me and that I wanted him to know it hadn’t gone unnoticed.
“Thank you so much!” he said. “But, really, it’s a pleasure. She’s a regular customer and the sweetest person I’ve ever met. We practically fight about who gets to help her each time. You know how some people can be kind of demanding and not very nice? Well, she’s the opposite. Really sweet. Thanks, though. That means a lot to me.”
I had thought about passing the hundred to him but it didn’t feel quite right. I wanted our conversation and my recognition to stand on their own. After we said goodbye, I peeked around the corner. Maybe I would give the blind woman the money. She was just getting on the bus and the opportunity passed.
Determined to find the right person for the hundred, I strolled over to the transit center and talked to a couple of candidates. As happens sometimes, the moments ticked by and the bill stayed in my pocket. I walked upstairs to the MAX tracks and wandered around a bit. A tall Black man with red shoes got off the train. He saw a friend on the platform, greeting him with a slap on the arm and a hug.
I made another pass around and then decided to head back to the Trader Joe’s parking lot, where I had left my car. I stopped at the corner to read a few pages of the Willamette Week. Lots of people passed by in every direction. Suddenly someone was standing next to me, saying something I couldn’t quite understand. It was the man in the red shoes.
“Excuse me? Can you help me out with a dollar and eighty-five cent? I need it for the bus,” he said. “Please, can you help me out?” I tried to engage him in a bit of conversation but he was restless. “I gotta get the bus, ma’am,” he said again. Then: “My girlfriend’s real mad at me right now.” This was the opening I needed.
“Why is she mad at you?” I asked. He looked sheepish. “I didn’t come home one night last week.” “Well, no wonder!” I scolded. “So, do you have a dollar eighty five?” he persisted. He reached into his pocket and pulled out a quarter. “That’s it, that’s all I got,” he said.
My informal rule about not giving hundreds to people asking for money has been broken more than once (here and here). I was struggling with what to do and the man was hovering close, waiting. I took out my wallet, stalling for time. “A dollar eighty five, hmmm… let’s see.”
I didn’t have any singles in my wallet, or even a five. Just a couple of twenties. And a hundred folded up in my pocket. I looked at the man’s red shoes. They were watching me.
“Look,” I said. “I don’t have a dollar eighty five. This is all I have. Take it or leave it.” I handed him the hundred. It was folded up small so it took him a minute to see what it was. “WAAA!” he shouted. “Thank you! Thank you SO MUCH!” He kissed the top of my head and grabbed me in a big hug.
“How old are you?” he demanded. “54,” I said. He grinned. “Okay, I can call you ‘Auntie’ then, cause I’m 41! Thank you, Auntie! My Auntie!” He hugged and kissed me again.
He said his name was Letars. I took out my camera and asked if I could take his picture. A man with an eyepatch and no teeth walked by. “Dawg!” Letars yelled. “Hey, dawg!” The man stopped and looked at him. “Yeah, you! Come take my picture with my Auntie! This is my Auntie!”
We got our picture taken by the one-eyed man and I got some more hugs. He let me snap a couple more photos.
Letars figured he needed to get some change before he could get on the bus. He headed off across the street to the gas station in his red shoes, smiling at waving at the cars that stopped for him.
I couldn’t resist taking advantage of my Auntie status one last time. “Make sure you go home at night!” I shouted across the street. “Oh, I will, ma’am!” he answered. He turned around one last time. “I’ll never forget you, Auntie!”
Sweet. Extra sweet.
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