Sunday, December 28, 2008

The Umbrellas of East LA

She looked miserable.

Selling fruit as a curbside vendor in this city has to be a terrible job to begin with. All day long you face the rejection of hostile LA drivers, car exhaust, and a multitude of other annoyances that come with using a traffic median strip as your workplace.

I drove past the fruit seller on my way to the video store. She looked like a grumpy toadstool, squatting on a parched strip of parkway lawn, hunched under a small black umbrella that didn't even shade her feet, behind cardboard flats of mangos and sweaty bags of oranges. Today was one of those freakishly hot December days in Los Angeles that just makes me want to slap everyone who doubts the reality of global warming. The sun beating through my windows had turned my car into a sauna, so I knew that the fruit seller was not having a good time. She had perspiration stains that dipped halfway to the hem of her shirt.

Back at the house, I pulled a large nylon umbrella that I use to shade my chair on set out of the garage and put it in my car. I drove back to the fruit seller's corner and bought a flat of mangos before giving the fruit seller the big umbrella. "I thought this might give you better shade and it's very light" I said as I passed it to her. She took the umbrella exactly how she took my $5 bill for the fruit, without a word and without changing her sullen expression.

As I drove away, I watched the fruit seller in my review mirror. She tossed the big umbrella aside unopened and crouched back under her black umbrella. At that moment I realized that I had unintentionally insulted her dignity by bringing her unasked-for charity. I should have asked her if she wanted a larger umbrella before assuming I could just solve a problem for her. Or, maybe she's just rude. But the nice thing to do in this situation is to just assume responsibility so I don't repeat the possible offense to anyone else.

As I unpacked the mangos in my kitchen I discovered a surprise hidden in the bottom of the cardboard box:

A dozen cockroaches.

I spent the next 30 minutes, shoe in hand, staking out the corners of my kitchen and pantry, having visions of what horrible poisons I am going to have to bring into my house to conquer my possible future roach infestation.

That fruit lady sucks.

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