Avocados bruise, you know?
I left the dentist office and walked like the hunchback of Notre Dame to my car. My right shoulder had frozen while driving there. I was in intense pain and had little mobility in my right arm. Feeling bruised in my mouth and my arm, I decided as soon as I left the dentist office I would go back home and ice my shoulder.
While driving home, I realized I needed buns for tonight’s burgers and some bananas and avocados. Since I was near George’s International Grocery, I decided to stop there. I bought my groceries and a few other Mexican things that I love from there and limped to the checkout line. Most everyone talks Spanish, so when I go there I smile and nod a lot and understand little.
The clerk checked me out and I returned to my parked car. I opened the door but had great difficulties because of my frozen shoulder. So, I threw in two bags with my left hand, pushed my purse in with my body, but the right arm wouldn’t function, and I dropped my avocados under the car as well as my freshly packaged feta and olives. While I was trying to reach under the car and fetch my groceries, my butt hit the door and the door slammed shut. It began beeping when I tried to open it. I stared at my keys inside. My purse contents had slid out while I threw things in and I could see my phone, but, of course, I could not get to it. (Beeping continued and people eyed my car and me.)
The day was hot and humid. Few people around me spoke English and if any, very broken. I saw two tall Hispanic men that looked like they were going to lunch. Their attire spoke “businessman” to me. I approached them and told them of my dilemma. They looked a bit startled and stared hard at me. I convinced one of them if they would dial my husband’s cell phone, perhaps he’d have an idea. The man patiently dialed Denny’s number. The phone rang and rang, which I knew it would because he was painting the outside of our house. I hoped he might hear it but that didn’t happen. I thanked the businessman and went back into the store with my feta, olives, and bananas.
I asked another person for help and they said, “ Find policeman,” while pointing to a parked patrol car. I went up and down the aisle but saw no uniformed officer. I checked the taco luncheon counter in the Mexican store and their bakery store. No policeman in sight. So, I went to a lady running a register and told me her of my dilemma. She just shrugged and shook her head no. So, behind her I noticed a kind of service window and a man was speaking to someone on the other side.
I went behind the grocery clerk and said, “ Hi. Excuse me. I need help. My keys are in my car. Can you help me?” The red-shirted man smiled so kindly at me and replied in Spanish.
“I’m sorry, I do not speak Spanish,” I said.
“ Tengo un amigo mecánico. I call. Yes?”
I hoped he and I understood each other. I waited in the lunch area for about 20 minutes. I came out and found the Mexican man stocking shelves. I used my best gestures and asked, “ Hi. Amigo here?”
He immediately called on his cell phone again. His friend was near and told him it would be thirty dollars to get into my car. The grocery man said, “ Thirty dollars pay.”
I nodded and said, “Yes.”
I remembered someone had been shot in daylight in this parking lot in the spring. I pushed that interrupting thought away and watched as the mechanic and his friend worked diligently on this humid, 82-degree day. Holding my white plastic grocery bags, I cheered them on. They spoke Spanish. I spoke English, and we all were sweating in the same language. After forty minutes of trying several things, the door opened. I thanked them over and over. “Gracias, thank you, thank you. Gracias.”
As I wrote the check, I thanked them and hugged the mechanic. The grocery man found my avocado on the car floor. He handed it to me and said, “Aguacate magullan fácilmente.” I smiled and seemed to understand that he was warning me of bruising the avocado. Gratefully, I climbed into my car and drove home. I was exhausted, hot, hungry, but so pleased these two men helped me. When I got out of my car, I heard a phone ringing. It was a phone on my hood. I hadn’t even noticed it. How had it endured the trip home without falling off?
When I answered it was a man speaking Spanish fast and nervously. I didn’t understand a word, but I suspected it was the mechanic. I kept saying, “Are you the man who fixed my car? Did you help me get my keys? Is this your phone?”
To all these questions he answered, “Yes”. Then, he said, “Bring to George’s International Grocery, please.”
“Ok, I will be right there.” I backed out of the driveway and went back to the grocery. I went inside and searched for the man with the red shirt that had helped me. After walking every aisle, I found him.
“ Hi,” I said. He looked at me with a strange look on his face. I showed him the cell phone.
“Your friend, the mechanic. His phone,” I explained.
He immediately motioned for me to follow him into the luncheon area. There was the mechanic eating a taco at the bar. When he saw me, his grin was bigger than his mustache. I handed him the phone. He immediately got out his billfold and tried to return my check I had written him earlier.
“No, no,” I said. “You keep it. I thank you for your help.”
He said in broken English, “Thank you for returning my phone. You are very honest.” I hugged him and told him he was my new amigo. His smile grew broader and he repeated, “Gracias, gracias.”
I decided to have a chicken taco. I’d worked up an appetite in the last hour and half. So, I sat down alone and was enjoying my soft taco. A man standing by my booth asked me what was good at this restaurant. I told him I enjoyed the chicken tacos. He went into the grocery part of the store and then returned five minutes later. He was standing looking at me again.
“Are you eating a taco salad?”
“No, a chicken taco, ” I replied.
“Are you married?”
“Yes, I am,” I said lowering my eyes to my meal.
“That’s a shame. I’d like to marry you and buy you a good meal. You are a good looking woman.”
“Thanks, but I am married, “ I said as casually as I would ask him to pass the salsa.
He left. I left. The mechanic left. I smiled to myself as I walked outside. I wondered if the man who wanted to marry me thought I was an old hooker, a distressed bag lady, or he just believed in short engagements. As I climbed in my car, I remembered that avocados bruise easily. I realized that the morning’s activities had dislodged my aching shoulder and my catastrophes had been resolved. Just like an avocado, I had ripened. I understood two Spanish speakers without knowing their language. I hadn’t had a proposal in 48 years and today it happened. I might have a few bruises, but I learned a lot about gratefulness today. I’m pleased for the city that teaches me kindness through diversity. I’m thankful to be able to drive my air-conditioned automobile again. Most of all, I‘m appreciative of caring strangers.