What is wrong with people? If you were on the road today, maybe you noticed: folks were driving like fools. In my short spin around town, I encountered more than the usual amount of bad driving. One guy turned the corner into the wrong lane of a two way street and was headed right for me. We both slammed on the brakes and he swerved back into his lane in time to avoid a head-on collision. As we passed each other he gave a little shrug, like “Yeah, so I forgot what the double yellow line means, lady. What of it?”
Just a couple of blocks away on a one-way street, a woman in the car next to me started to merge into my lane at a pretty good clip. I leaned on the horn and yanked the wheel over to the right as she flew by, so close I thought for sure she had scraped the side of my car. I honked the horn a few extra times for good measure just to show her how pissed I was. It didn’t help; I just got madder than ever.
Then I nearly crossed paths with a man coming off the ramp of the Morrison Bridge who had turned the wrong way down 2nd Avenue. I honked at him, waving my arms in a futile attempt to communicate his error. I watched him slowly travel the entire miraculously empty block in the wrong direction, then finally turn the corner.
Sheesh. I found myself slipping into a funk. “Now, stop that,” I said to myself. “You have no business going there. No business at all.” I had to admit, though, there was a certain amount of bad vibiness in the air. I decided to do something about it.
I found an empty parking place and pulled over. I checked my pocket to make sure the hundred was still there. The sun had come out and it was becoming a beautiful day. Over in the park people where cycling, running, playing frisbee; what a Portland scene.
Some young people were sitting on the grass, deep in conversation. One guy with a backpack had an orange kitten on his shoulder. So cute, I thought. The kitten was just sitting there. It could have run off but chose to stay with this lovely fellow. The guy shifted his weight and I saw that the kitten was on a leash. Then the guy reached back, grabbed the kitten by the scruff of the neck and put its nose right up to his face. There was something so mean – almost savage – about the guy’s demeanor. I felt slightly ill and watched for a moment, wondering whether to go over there and say something to him. Maybe steal the kitten and take it home.
The moment passed and I decided to clear out of there. It occurred to me that maybe I was the one heading one way the wrong way. Everything just felt “off”.
It was around one o’clock and lots of people were scurrying about. I walked by the food carts. People seemed to be mostly in pairs, or else talking on the phone or texting. Finally a woman appeared, walking straight toward me. She was alone. I stepped out to catch up with her as she walked past. “Excuse me, are you in a hurry right now?” I asked her. “I’m on lunch,” she explained. “Well, do you have just a minute?” I asked. “Maybe a quick one,” she answered. And she stopped walking.
I told the woman that I was giving away a gift and wondered if she might be willing to accept it. “Well, could I see it first?” she wondered. That made me smile. “Here you go!” I said, pulling the bill from my pocket.
“Oh.” She stared. “Is that real?” I chuckled and promised that it was. “Oh, my,” she said. “I don’t know…”
“You can use it, right?” I asked. “Well, of course I can!” she exclaimed. She reached out and shook my hand. “My name is Alice.” Then she looked me in the eye and said shyly, “Can I give you a hug?”
She gave me a big hug and I asked her if she knew what she might do with the money. “Some bills gonna get paid!” she said with a laugh. Then, “My daughter’s birthday is coming up. You understand what I’m saying?” She reached out and hugged me again.
“Thank you so much,” she said, shaking her head. “I’ve heard about things like this happening, but I never…”
She was still smiling and shaking her head as we said goodbye. I watched her wait for the light, then cross the street.
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