Our brains are a funny thing, aren’t they? I’m guessing your brain is similar to mine…maybe not.
Have you ever been in your car, maybe heading home through city streets, when you see a person on the street and then, later, you can’t get that person’s face out of your mind?
Now, guys, I’m not talking about a half-clad beauty, although maybe the similarity of that experience would be the same. Something about that person won’t move out of the picture-screen of your mind’s eye.
It happened to me Saturday evening. It bothered the hell out of me for two days…still does. So I’ll write about it.
We had left my wife’s car at a Big O’ Tire place for a realignment problem. It became one of those three-phone-call fixes that grew the bill with each ringy-dingy.
#1 Ringy-dingy…Sir, the bad alignment has worn two tires to the cords. You need two new tires…uh-huh.
#2 Ringy-dingy…Sir, we regret to inform you but your right side front axle is broken. You need a new axle… ok
#3 Ringy-dingy…Sir, they sent us the wrong axle and it will be another 90 minutes. We’re staying overtime to get it fixed….yeah.
So, the $79 alignment had become $500 and that’s life. We picked up the car and I followed her to a Mexican Restaurant for dinner.
I allowed Amy to back-out of the parking lot first, and began following her home.
That’s when I saw her. And I’m still seeing her in my mind.
I passed her doing 10 or 15 mph, so the image was quickly past. The first thing I saw was the big white sign that said, “Funeral Money Needed.” There was a name on the sign I didn’t catch because I then glanced up at the woman sitting in the lawn chair with the sign at her side.
I need to interject something about “Funeral Money” signs. I see them every week, at least two or three. Young kids are getting shot and killed by senseless people with senseless guns. Their friends and families are holding up signs and waving towels and begging to wash your car for “Funeral Money.” There are two business I pass on my way home that allow these car washes so I see them each and every week.
So, seeing a “Funeral Money” sign Saturday evening was not something new. But the woman…She was a tall, gaunt, hollow-cheeked older white lady sitting in a lawn chair, staring straight ahead at nothing. Her narrowed eyes were not angry or sad, but empty. Empty eyes staring at emptiness.
I came to an immediate stop-light and turn to make and followed Amy on home. We had a few things to take care of at home and then other stuff popped up and I forgot the lady for a few hours. But when I got in bed I couldn’t stop thinking about her. She seemed familiar, even though I knew I didn’t know her.
Sunday morning, yesterday, I had to make an early run to Pasadena to an all-day meeting. When I was about a half-hour away from home I thought of that lady. I called Amy and told her I had trouble sleeping because her face was imbedded on my brain. I asked Amy to go look for her and offer some money and help.
She couldn’t find her. I got home from my meeting, we had dinner together, watched a couple of our Sunday TV favorites and then it was time to start my blog for today. The lady’s face came back into my mind.
Then I remembered reading the exact description of that woman. I remember the words that described this book character drew a face in my mind . It was the face of that poor lady needing “Funeral Money.”
So, just now, I Googled the book that described her. All of us here in Bakersfield are celebrating the 75th anniversary of “Grapes of Wrath.” The “okies” came here by the thousands and John Steinbeck wrote of their journey that ended here in Bakersfield.
Even though it has been years since I read the book the words about “Ma Joad” described my lady with the “Funeral Money” sign. Here are some of Steinbeck’s descriptions of her:
When told about the “California dream—the nice little white house surrounded by orange trees ripe for picking—Ma Joad said, “I’m scared of stuff so nice. I ain’t got no faith. I’m scared somepin ain’t so nice about it.
And then a scene with Tom Joad talking about his mother. “Her hazel eyes seemed to have experienced all possible tragedy and to have mounted pain and suffering like steps into a high calm and a superhuman understanding.”
I should have made a U-turn.