The meetup with the pen pal went well. Let’s call her “Zoey,” because there’s a connection that goes beyond New Girl. Of course if she becomes a regular and doesn’t mind me using her real name, that’s fine. But I’m not going to “out” her on a first meeting. That’s just rude. She is just as cute and funny as me, so I think it will be a great thing to have another person to pal around with…. although perhaps not so much in the immediate future, because she’s vacationing to Peru (I think…. my memory is failing in my elder years). But I definitely see hiking in the hills and walking around town in our future. Talking makes walking so much easier, because I am not constantly enmeshed in thoughts like, “my feet hurt…. my legs are sore…. how much longer?” Talking shuts down the complaint department. Yesterday was just about spending some time together and seeing if we’d click on any level. We definitely did, starting out at Kramerbooks and when they were slammed, walking to Teaism, instead. I love tea at every moment of the day, but for Zoey, she was disappointed they didn’t have hot chocolate. So we toasted to new friends with cold water. My pot of Darjeeling went quickly, and then we walked to the Metro.
Two things about that.
I started talking about the weather with my seatmate, who said that it reminded her of Germany and Switzerland. In my head, I was thinking she must be military, because obviously Germany and Switzerland are known for their large black populations. My assumption was correct. So, I asked her what her job was in the military, and she said slyly, intel. She’d retired long ago, looking for all the world like a sweet grandmother, the type no one would look twice at while carrying sensitive documents. But perhaps she didn’t look like that, then. She was retired now, having scouted out secret documents during the Cold War. My mind was blown because this was an absolutely random encounter, exactly the kind of thing I live for in DC. I am certain that by now, there are tons of movies that talk frankly about the types of ops we pulled off during that time, most of them declassified by now. It was also very interesting that she wasn’t stapled to CIA, that smash-and-grabs for documents also happen with soldiers. I don’t know why I didn’t make that connection until last night, because I saw 12 Strong, and even though the soldiers had a CIA contact to lead them through Afghanistan to the warlord contact who was willing to team up with them to overthrow the Taliban, he left after that and the soldiers were on their own.
So, this woman and I are engrossed in conversation and before I even really had a chance to ask questions, it was her stop. I was so lost in thought that I got off at the “wrong one,” or perhaps the right one considering that I was only a couple of blocks from Busboys & Poets. I had a vegan salad and vegan mac-and-cheese, possibly the first time I’ve eaten actual nutrition that wasn’t all carbs this week. MMMM, bread.
I’m not vegan, or even vegetarian, but I truly do not eat enough plants. I have to remind myself that veggies exist.
While I was eating, though, I had a truly surreal experience, because there was a mentally ill person at the bar trying to score free fries from the restaurant. Two patrons offered to have his fries added to their tab. Then, when he got them, he would neither leave nor get a table. In Takoma Park, there are literally two governments, because part of it lies in Montgomery County and part of it is in the city of DC. I had no idea where I was in terms of that line. But what I do know is that there’s no real way to call someone regarding the mentally ill except the police, which brought up such a dilemma that I’m still thinking about it. He was definitely harassing other customers, because they didn’t offer to pay for his snacks without him strong-arming them. And yet, he was black, which said to me, no one call the police under any circumstances. This is because there was little to be done except take him to jail, because there’s no way they would have taken him to a psych ward. It’s just not in their purview. So, what to do? No restaurant wants a loiterer asking for money and, oh my God, emitting such a smell that it cleared out half the bar.
It’s hard to be compassionate when you really don’t know how. He needed more help than he could get in the restaurant, and the police couldn’t give it to him, either. I think because everyone was so sensitive to racial bias, that made it even harder. We didn’t know whether the police that showed up would show compassion or wrestle him to the ground. It’s not even equal odds at this point. None of the people in the bar were worried about racial bias on our end, because it was never about the color of his skin. It was about mental illness, full stop. But we couldn’t count on the police having an equal amount of compassion.
What he needed, in my opinion, was a few days in a psych ward to get balanced again, and then a truly safe place to stay. Neither of those things would happen unless he went to the county intake facility in Rockville, now closed for the night. Having to sleep in a jail cell might have only exacerbated the problem, contributing to putting someone in the system that can’t get back out, because he has no concrete concept of acceptable behavior.
All I could do was pray that someone would stick with him long enough to get the help he needed, because nothing was going to happen in the moment. We were all just on pins and needles waiting for him to leave, and not because we weren’t trying to help in the moment. It’s that no one could stay in the restaurant overnight, and it was kind of a scary situation because we did not know the extent of his mood and behavior quirks. For instance, when the fries were brought out to him, paid for by the other customers, he threw them on the floor and insisted that new fries be brought to him that he paid for himself, completely oblivious to the fact that he had no money.
My superpower was an out-of-body experience, where I left the situation and went back to Teaism, thinking about new adventures Zoey and I would have in the coming months (years?). There is just so much to do and see around here that it doesn’t take much to find a glorious afternoon, and great conversations that begin with the weather.