It was quite a morning. I was determined to get to my client's house. Alone. Driving alone in my car, in my pink business suit. Okay. No heels. Princess flats that looked kind of out of place, but I would be able to keep my balance.
I managed it. The pantyhose nearly did me in. Try getting a pair of panty hose over two bowling balls on your knees and there you go. But, I was upright. I had makeup on. My hair was scrunched and spiked just right. The chanel suit was on. I had my black cane which took away from the professional look, but something had to give and this was it.
I visited my client, made it up those twelve steps to his house. Pish toshed him when he asked about my limping, the cane. Lied. Said, I had a small injury. No big deal. I'd rather have him think I twisted up my leg biking rather than knowing that I have rheumatoid arthritis at the ripe old age of 49. Helped him pick his next three employees.
By the time I got back into my car, I was nearly crying with pain and fatigue. But, I did it, damn it all.
I decided to stop at the library on the way home and pick up three books that were on hold for me. Bing had promised to do it later, but I knew she would forget and I didn't want to keep depending on her and bugging her. I parked in handicapped and used my shiny blue handicapped sticker.
I limped to the door and some old geezer gallantly held it open for me, smiling with such warmth and friendliness that I felt like sinking into his arm and asking him to carry me the rest of the way.
I got my books out of the pick up section and saw a long line at the check out counter. I decided to do the self check out even though I fucking hate that machine and it hates me right back. It NEVER lets me check out all of my books. There is always a problem with scanning at least one of them.
And nothing changed this time. I was scanning books and wouldn't you know, one of them refused to scan. I sighed and started to put my card away and prepare to get in line when I heard this soft male voice say,
"Excuse me, miss. But...um...your, well, yeah...your wallet seems to have fallen on the floor."
I looked up into a young latin man's face. A face like a very clean cut Freddie Prinze, Sr. He was moving slowly, bent at the knees and picked it up veeeerrrryyyy sloooowwwlly, keeping eye contact with me the whole time and saying, "I am just going to reach down and pick it up and hand it to you. I'm not doing nothin else, okay? So, stay calm."
I was momentarily confused. Why was he acting so oddly? And then, yeah...I got it.
He was a young latino man. I was an older white woman. My wallet was on the floor. This could be dicey for him if he touched it.
He handed it to me. I thanked him profusely as he simply ducked his head and left.
Embarrassed, I put the wallet away and waited my turn to check out the book.
I felt a tap on my arm and looked around to see the older, friendly gentleman who had helped me in the door.
"If I was you, I'd check my wallet," he said, in a near whisper. "Those guys...they do a lot of sleight of hand. Did you have anything important in that wallet like credit cards, your driver's license, or social security card?"
I shook my head no (actually my whole life was in that wallet) and stepped up to the counter. Mad. HOW DARE he assume something like that? I should say something, I thought. But, no. I felt in pain and vulnerable and suddenly a little weepy.
I got my book, shoved it into my book bag and lurched around, determined to find my Freddie, as I had already named in my head and thank him again.
And then I stopped. WHY should I thank him again? Would I do this with anyone else? No. Well, maybe. I wasn't sure. All I knew was that for me to single him out would be like saying you are a credit to your race or even, though you had that gang tattoo on your neck and you are probably a crook, I want everyone to look at me, the liberal white woman.
Instead, I found my way back to my car, got in, rubbed my aching knees and then put my head on the steering wheel and cried.
I cried because I don't want my daughter to grow up in a world where people are judged like this. I want my child to grow up in a world where, as Martin Luther King, Jr. said, the content of someone's character is so much more important than the color of their skin. Or their sexual preference. Their religion. Their career choice. I want her to walk with queens and maids and steel workers and librarians and have it simply not matter what the fuck their skin color is or if they sleep with males or females or no one, if they worship in a synagogue, a mosque,a church or a frackin forest. And we are just not there yet, are we?
I thought about my hero, my Freddie. What was his life like? Did people shrink away from him in stores? Did people hold their children closer when he walked by? How awful for him. Because, he was obviously this decent man, this good person. He saw an older woman who was using a cane drop her wallet and not notice. He wanted to help her but knew that if he, a latino man with a tattoo on his neck and a skinned head were to go near her, to try to help...suddenly there would be problems. He probably didn't need any more problems. He could have walked away. But, he didn't. He did what he could to help in the best way he knew how, by making sure that he moved and spoke slowly, didn't ruffle that white woman's feathers....
So, this is a big thank you from the woman with the cane in Swanne's library who dropped her wallet today, Freddie. Or Juan. Or Jim. Or Billy. Or Max. Or whoever.
You were my hero today. And I just wanted you to know that.