Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Lady Roma

It's been a while since I've posted any stories. This is due, in part, to the fact that I've moved to a different part of Los Angeles where there are fewer homeless individuals to be found. Yet even here I have seen several and met a few. There is a flamboyant character I hope to speak with soon who flaunts his live pet macaw while panhandling on the corner of Beach and Imperial, not far from where I met Lady Roma. I suppose it's just a matter of knowing where to look.

Tonight my wife and I went to the Chick-fil-A in La Habra, right over the border in Orange County. It was in the upper forties tonight, just chilly enough to make you uncomfortable. As we were walking into the restaurant we noticed a lady standing to the left of the door. She was in her mid to late thirties, decently-well dressed for the weather, and had bathed recently.

She held the tell-tale, hand-made sign replete with misspellings and confusing sentence structure. I didn't read the sign, both because it was smaller than normal (little larger than a post card) and because as soon as we approached her she asked for money. Aside from the fact that I am the world's worst multi-tasker, it seemed rude to read the sign while she was talking to me; as though I were appraising her written message against her spoken one. The only thing I can remember reading was the phrase, "I aM a sinGuL Mom." A boy about eight years of age stood obediently next to her as a physical validation of the claim.

My wife and I spoke with her briefly then went inside to decide what we should do. We chose to ask them to eat with us. Once the food was ready I went back outside to invite them in. I had noticed that she spoke with an accent earlier, now I learned that she was from France, and only knew a few phrases in English.

I reverted to sign language and large gestures, squeezing my brain for anything useful left over from the semester of French I took in junior high. We wanted her and her child to come in from the cold and share our meal, but they refused to budge. The boy even shook his head and chimed in French phrases at excited intervals explaining why that wouldn't work. I even tried a poorly enunciated "Pour quoi?"
but this only elicited a longer stream of French than I had managed to get before, none of which I understood any better than her English. After several minutes of fruitless coaxing we took them the food we had purchased and went back inside to eat our own.

It was frustrating, in part due to the language issue, and in part due to the fact that they couldn't be convinced to come inside. Judging from the way she gestured toward the doors of the restaurant I wondered if she had already had a run-in with the store's management. Perhaps she just felt uncomfortable eating with us. My wife and I wondered if she was a gypsy. That might explain why her son was so well coached in the dialogue and party-line. Who knows?

I was unable to learn her name. By the time we left the restaurant she was gone.


Mark said...

Hey Josh,

Dude, this is an awesome blog - what a great idea! (I've written news features about the homeless before, but a blog is so much "alive.")

Don't give up... dust it off and get 'er done!

Matthew S. Kennedy said...

Very cool Blog... I have a website called, “California Homeless Resources”.
http://www.homelessresourcesca.org/index.html and a blog dedicated to the homeless as well: http://homelessresourcesca.blogspot.com/

J. A. R. said...

Thanks both of you!