I will not wear pigtails to the shelter again. That sentence has been written a hundred times on my mental chalkboard today.
In the laundry room I got a smile, an air blown kiss and a borderline gesture. The 72 year old fellah who gave me these gifts got a loud “no, sir” and a head shake. In return he laughed and gave me a thumbs up. Apparently, not only am I cute, I am also entertaining today. And that was my warning. I should have pulled my pigtails out right there.
I got a wink and a sign language something or other from another man, this time more my age, when he picked up his laundry. Behind his back, one of the staff ladies was yelling at him, irritated. Then she yelled over at me, “That man could at LEAST turn around and answer me when I call him!” She was a little flustered when I told her he couldn’t hear her because he is deaf. “I could write a book about this place” she muttered.
I almost told her I could too.
While carrying a sheet by the corners that was filled with ten tons of sheets and towels across the courtyard, a very large man said “You are the prettiest doctor I’ve ever seen.” To which I replied, “Good thing I’m not a doctor.” What kinds of rumors are spreading about me in this courtyard? Why must all babies be caught by doctors, even in the rhealm of homeless men’s theories?
And then, a debate with another community service worker (who swears he’s just a volunteer, even though I’ve seen him sign into the community service log book) about politics. He a socialist, me a libertarian. Leave it to a socialist to lie. He angered me by his constant referral to me as a wealthy, entitled white woman.
After a while I just got tired of it and went and hid by Wendy to escape the stereotypes and everyone’s seeming interest in turning me into something inanimate and alien. Interesting to be the minority.
Eric was counting vets in the same room with us and at one point, his head lifted briskly and his eyes scanned the courtyard. Almost immediately, Wendy did the same. The action was a bit like seeing your dogs lift their heads and turn towards the back door for some unknown reason. It leaves you wondering what they heard and you stand, frozen for a moment in time, because you know that they could either start barking an alarm or they could lay their heads back down and drift back off to sleep.
Eric and Wendy chuckled at each other and then resumed their tasks.
“If I had Wendy on one shoulder and Eric on the other, I would be the safest woman in Los Angeles.” I told them. I really did secretly wish this was so. I knew that Wendy would yell at the greasy old man and Eric would punch anyone who tried any moves.
Wendy awwwed and gushed at the compliment but Eric seemed to not hear, though I thought I caught just the edge of delight at the corner of his mouth. Eric is one of those men who stands like a stone covering a well of water.
A woman came in wearing a towel around her waste and Wendy told her she has to put clothes on. She unwound the towel to show she had shorts on underneath, to everyone’s relief. But as she did, she dropped a crack pipe. Oops. Crack pipe went in the trash and crack addict was ejected out of the gate and back onto the street.
On my way back to my car at the end of the day, a man asked me if I needed a place to sleep. I brushed past him hoping he wouldn’t make me. I clutched the mace in my purse tightly.
A half a block further I was hollared at by two men in suits from a convertable BMW.
“Hey, honey… are you looking for a job?” One of them asked.
My pimp alarm went off and I declined their offer. Johns must be getting desperate in these economic times.
Five seconds later my pigtails were tied up in a messy bun. I will not wear pigtails to the shelter again.