A client approached me today and said, “This must be quite a culture shock for you.”
I explain that I have now been here enough hours that the culture shock occurs on the drive HOME. I find the formality of white Orange County stifling and strange. And the wealth and detail obsession of West LA is off-putting. I question the motives of everyone white because their speech is so cloaked in hidden motive. I’ve grown used to the loud outward expressiveness of the shelter. I don’t feel like I fit in anywhere. I no longer know how to communicate with anyone in person.
The day began with a woman cussing someone out on her cell phone while waiting in line to check her bag in for 24 hours. Somehow a man in uniform that was holding an American flag standing behind her got dragged into it and before we knew it there was a fight brewing. I hid just out of sight and took in the movement of the staff with interest. They circled, unsure if it would pass the tipping point of expulsion. A couple times one of them would hollar, “knock it out or you both’ll be outta here.” Eventually the argument simmered, like a pot discovered just before it boils over.
I’ve taken notice to the expanding number of deaf clients. Wendy thinks some state public assistance program must’ve been cut. They travel in groups and try to communicate with us. Nobody here knows sign language. If they keep me here long term, I’d like to learn.
After lunch, a woman came in the gate that wore nothing but a mini skirt, flip flops and a bra. One of her nipples half showed over the top edge of her “shirt.” I laughed while watching every male head turn. The clients didn’t even pretend to not stare. And the more they stared, the louder and more energetic she showed herself. Eventually she sat and ate the lunch brought by The Dream Center.
“Thas a man ova there.” One of the clients thought he was helping me out as he pointed to the scantily clad breasts.
“I know it is.” I informed him.
“Oh! You got a good sense then!”
“I used to work with women. That is not a woman under that skirt.”
I’m actually shocked with how few women there are, actually. The ones who are in the shelter are typically there for only a short while and very attached to a male addict.
“You coming to the Halloween party?” asked Eric.
“When is it?”
“On Halloween.” He couldn’t help but crack a sarcastic grin.
Yes. Yes, I think I will. Even though it’s not during my court ordered hours. There will be a talent show and I wouldn’t want to miss any of the fun.