A silly spat, of unknown origin, with the grumpy old man pushed me into an evening walk with the girls. Suffice it to say, he was at fault and I, of course, was entirely blameless, innocent of any wrong doing, in my own wine-besotted mind for sure.
The post office is a short walk from home, and as luck would have it, I had a bill to post providing me with an excuse to stroll through my neighborhood. An unincorporated community with few sidewalks, it is incumbent on a pedestrian to look sharp and beware of distracted drivers, especially when crossing Highway 38. “Highway” is a bit of a vainglorious name for the two-lane, main drag of Mentone, with a posted speed limit of 40 mph. That said, few drivers pay any attention to the posted speed limit, so it can be a bit of a trick to get across as there are no signals or stop signs. Thankfully, most people see the dogs and brake accordingly, dogs being far more dear to their hearts than drunk, old women, staggering off the curb.
Having posted my mail, I was standing at the intersection waiting for a break in the line of traffic zooming uphill to their gentrified neighborhoods, drivers eager for their supper and social media, when a small, age-worn car pulled up to the stop sign next to me. The driver, seeing me looking up and then down the road, gauging the speed of the cars in relation to the gaps between them, called out to me in the chopped vowels of his native Spanish, “When I go, you go!”
Signaling my understanding that he intended to run interference for me, I stepped confidently into the road at the next gap in traffic and he cruised beside me as I trotted, or tottered, briskly across the street.
Do I need to describe the feeling of community this simple act of empathy inspired? This immigrant man, whose life was probably a daily struggle, recognized his own abuela (grandma) in me, a white woman whom he did not know at all, and compelled him to instinctively protect.
I understand that folks who live in vanilla bubbles may fear the people who are immigrating to this country, but I’m here to say, fear not! They are humans, like us, who have much to contribute.