nice

I made a scene in Chipotle tonight. It wasn't a huge deal, I didn't earn a teardrop tattoo or anything. But it did reaffirm that I am my father's daughter. I'll get back to that story in a minute. First I want to tell you about Larry.

Larry called me about ten days ago, responding to the ad I'd placed on Craiglist for a lovingly used knee scooter. He was actually calling from the emergency room, where his elderly mother was being treated for a broken ankle. Larry's call came while I was at the library, and I didn't listen to his voicemail until a little while later. By the time I called him back, he was in a bit of a state. He spoke very quickly and very anxiously. He wanted the scooter, his mother had been in the hospital all morning, even though they'd seen her right away, because the x-rays took forever to get back, and they'd been looking online for some kind of scooter, because obviously the crutches weren't going to work, they wouldn't be comfortable for her, and where did I live? Oh. Oh, that's too bad. We were just by downtown half an hour ago. If you'd called me back half an hour ago, that would have been perfect, because we were just there, by downtown, and now we're closer to home, is the thing.

I apologized for the delay and waited for Larry to tell me what he wanted to do. He wanted to come back, that night, to bring his mother so she could test out the scooter herself, and did I think I could help her with that? Did I think I could show her how to use it, demonstrate it for her? I could, and said as much, though the thought of this older woman hobbling around on one good leg when she was probably exhausted and in pain made me wonder whether it wouldn't be better for Larry to just assess the scooter himself.

But I didn't say that, I just said, "Sure, of course, it's really easy, no problem." I wondered vaguely what California tort law would have to say if she took a(nother) spill on my property.

"One more thing," he said. "It's just, and I don't mean to be difficult here, but I have to be honest. It's just that I'm incredibly allergic to animals, I mean just ridiculously allergic, I never used to be, I don't know when it started but it's very severe and I'm just wondering if the--"

"I have a dog," I interrupted. "But I didn't let him ride the scooter." I could tell by Larry's stiff chuckle that this wasn't a laughing matter, however. So I explained that my apartment is very clean, that the scooter was metal and vinyl, that I'd wipe the wheels down thoroughly beforehand, that I'd put my dog in the bathroom, and so on. But Larry made it clear that he wasn't coming anywhere near my apartment or my dog, and that I'd need to bring the scooter downstairs, where he'd have his wife clean it with disinfectant before he touched it.

"Ah," I said, because I didn't know what else to say. "No problem."

So Larry brought his wife, and his disinfectant cloths, and his two little boys, who sat in the backseat of their father's sedan while their grandmother gamely staggered around the sidewalk outside my building, getting the hang of the knee scooter.

But I've skipped the bit about the pencil, which Terence tried to whittle into something to substitute for an allen wrench, when we couldn't find the one that goes with the scooter. He found the instructions on Life Hacker and spent several minutes carving the tip of a Dixon Triconderoga into a tool we could hopefully use to collapse the scooter, so it would fit in Larry's trunk, if Larry in fact wanted it.

But the pencil trick was a bust, though totally worth the effort for the sight of Terence hunched in concentration over my bathroom sink, shaving flakes of wood onto the counter with a kitchen knife, all while wearing a blazer and dress shirt, because that is what he always wears. (And that is not a complaint.) Oh yeah, and he also cleaned the scooter with disinfectant, Windex, and stainless steel spray, despite my protestations that such lengths were unnecessary. Unnecessary, I said, since I was convinced that Larry wouldn't want the scooter because, well because he sounded high maintenance and difficult, to be honest. So I wasn't too bothered about the lack of accompanying hardware.

Larry did seem a bit high maintenance and difficult, but he was also a really nice guy. He was extremely solicitous with his mother, germophobic, nervous, talkative, indecisive, but gracious and friendly. He reminded me of every extended relative on my father's side. And his mother was spunky, scrappy, and good-humored, and very friendly as well, despite what she didn't hesitate to tell me had been a nightmarish ordeal so far. The way she glanced up at me with clear, sharp eyes when I sympathized with her predicament and wished her the speediest recovery possible reassured me that she was going to be just fine, both here on the sidewalk where I lived and back home where she lived, in New York. (The poor woman had just been in LA for a visit. Some vacation.) Larry's wife rolled her eyes good-naturedly at what was clearly a familiar scenario as she wiped the scooter down under her husband's guidance.

It turned out that a demonstration wasn't even necessary. Larry's mother figured out what she was doing very quickly, taking tiny hop-steps across the pavement while carefully resting her leg on the scooter. I walked alongside her feeling helpless but wishing to seem the opposite, and she gave me a look which I read as Okay. This is doable. I got this. I sure as shit don't like it, but I got it. 

"Your butt's going to get really tight," I ventured, with a wink in my eye, and I saw Terence suppress a grin behind her. Without missing a beat she informed me that she did yoga and her butt was already tight. She was eighty if she was a day, and it made my week. I wanted to think that if my mother had reached eighty, she'd have been just as full of sass. I threw my hands in the air. "You do yoga?? I don't even do yoga! You're going to be back on both feet in no time."

In the end, however, Larry didn't know if he wanted the scooter, because it didn't have a locking brake like the other one they were considering. He hemmed and hawed for a minute, conferring with his wife quietly while Terence and I moved politely out of hearing range. Then I stepped back over to them and asked, "Do you want to just take it, try it out? If it works out, you can pay me, send a check, come back by, whatever. If not just bring it back."

Larry was unsure about this, but I assured him it was perfectly fine. "Really, it's no problem. I'm happy to help. I just want her to be safe. I've been there and I know how awful it is. Just let her try it out and see what she's most comfortable with. I'm not worried," I added with a smile. "I have your number." Larry didn't strike me as the kind of guy who'd go to the trouble of changing his phone number just to steal a $100 scooter.

Larry was grateful and thanked me extensively while helping his mother back into the passenger's seat of his car. His wife nodded at me, then joined her children in the backseat while Larry continued to thank me. He kept doing so until he shut the door and drove his family home. He didn't shake my hand goodbye.

---

This afternoon, Larry brought the scooter back. He insisted on giving me twenty-five dollars as a sort of rental fee. I told him it was completely unnecessary and tried first to hand back the twenty, and then the five. He just shook his head. "Really, you were so nice to my mother. I can't tell you how much I appreciate it. Very generous of you, not knowing me, trusting me. So nice," he repeated.

When I pushed the scooter back into the apartment, Chaucer barely sniffed it before going back to his toy. If there were strange or unfamiliar scents on it, they didn't faze him a bit.

---

A little while after Larry dropped off the scooter, I took his cash to Chipotle to get dinner. The line was already several people long, and I ended up just in front of Captain Special Order Businessman, who wanted a few different items, all with extra this or extra that, cut into halves, No wait quarters, actually can you take the cheese off and put it on the side? More meat. Little more. Now wrap those tacos individually, no they have to be in separate foils, yes, and cut the burrito in half and wrap those separately and...

And so on. And fine, if that's your deal, if you're a Captain Special Order or a Princess Special Order, god bless you and your little entitled heart. You do you. Lord knows all of us are pains in the asses about one thing or another. Lord knows we've all held up a line or two with our needs at some time.

But then he was a dick to the employee serving him, because he didn't like the fact that, anticipating that his various special requests were going to hold up the line, she made the smart decision to help the next customer simultaneously, to keep things going. And when Captain Special Order Businessman figured out what was going on, he was a dick about it, pointedly asking her why she was helping anyone else when his order wasn't completed yet, and when she quietly and diplomatically tried to explain that there were other customers, he got snippy with her and raised his voice in complaint and you guys, it just pissed. me. off.

So I made a scene.

I raised my voice, and I said basically (because who remembers what they say in the heat of such moments), Yo, Captain Special Order, why don't you chill out. She's just doing her job, and if you're going to ask all of us to wait to accommodate you and your special requests, you're just going to have to be patient, okay? And he puffed up in his suit and demanded to know what his special requests were, which I was more than happy to enumerate for him and the rest of the line which by now was watching with great delight, whether because Frumpy Girl was dishing it to Captain Special Order Businessman or because it's just gratifying to see other people be confrontational while you remain Calm and Mature, I don't know. But watch they did.

It didn't last long and it wasn't overly dramatic, and the looks on the faces of both the abused employee and the cashier ringing me up were thanks enough (if I interpreted them correctly, that is) and made me feel like it was okay that it happened, and that I'm not an asshole. That I'm just someone who wanted to stick up for someone who wasn't in a position to stick up for herself - at least not without getting in trouble, probably.

I'd like to think she thought it was nice of me, that my heart was in the right place even if my head was not, but I don't know.