Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Reflecting


I don't know how others see me. I just know how I see me. So I am surprised at times when the worlds collide.

Living in a larger city such as Seattle, you tend to keep your guard up, especially when you are walking down the street in Pioneer Square (our historic downtown neighborhood that typically attracts the less affluent citizens of our city). I have always liked Pioneer Square with it's 19th century buildings and 'been around the block a few times' attitude.

A couple of days ago I went to lunch with a friend at a pizza by the slice place in Pioneer Square. We sat outside and ate our slices New York style, folded down the middle to contain the grease in the pizza. There was the usual crowds of tourists fresh from the Underground Tours clutching their maps of the area and looking vaguely desperate as they searched for something historic to photograph. They stuck out in sharp contrast to the street folk who heckled them from benches around Occidental Square.

My friend, who has been quitting smoking now for about three years said he needed some matches so we wandered over to a small store sandwiched between Dome Burger (named after the King Dome that was imploded about 7 years ago) and a bass guitar store. I waited outside while he went looking for fire sticks.

Rule number one in any big city is that you don't stop moving. Rule number two is that if you do stop moving, you don't let your guard down. If you violate both rules you quickly become visible and a magnet.

I violated both rules. I stopped and began daydreaming about god knows what and my street face slipped off. Within seconds I noticed someone approaching me out of the corner of my eye. I tried to slip my street face back on, but it was too late. I looked over and there was a semi-normal looking woman approaching my personal space zone. I say semi-normal because she wasn't pushing a shopping cart and she was dressed in normal street clothes, but I sensed she had fallen on hard times.

Then she spoke.

"Would you buy me some chips?"

It took me a few moments for this to register because I was expecting a pitch for spare change.

"Chips," I asked?

"Yes," she responded. "I need something in my stomach to absorb the alcohol." I looked up at the store and saw a row of potato chips.

"What kind of chips do you want?"

"Any kind," she said. I began heading towards the store to buy her some chips and she waited like a patient stray.

Then I heard her call out after me, "Cheddar cheese and sour cream."

I scanned the rows of chips and sure enough there were the cheddar cheese and sour cream variety. I grabbed a bag, paid for it and walked outside. The woman hadn't moved an inch. She lit up like a Christmas tree when she saw I hadn't scooted out the back door. I handed her the chips and a couple of bucks. She looked so happy and yet so sad, I did something I never do, I hugged her. Then I turned to join my friend who was on his second cigarette by then staring at me quizzically.

As I walked away the woman called after me, "God bless you. I'm going have a chip right now." She tore open the bag and held one of the chips and saluted me with it." I waved.

"What was that all about," my friend asked.

"Poor thing, " I said. "She needed some chips."

"Why did she ask you?"

I thought about it for a minute and then answered, "Because she knew I would buy them for her."

My friend nodded and we walked back to work.
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