As I drive home one day after work, I stop at a red light between a local college and a high school. I’m about five cars back in my two-month-old red SUV. I notice a very old Asian man on the sidewalk wringing his hands in a state of obvious agitation. I look over at him, we make eye contact, and I look forward again waiting for the light to change. Seconds later, my car shakes, and I realize in horror that the little old man is trying to open my car door (thankfully locked – with my odd luck, I am very paranoid.) After failing to open the door, he climbs onto my hood. He’s yelling something in his native dialect. Much to my shame, I am horribly mono-lingual, so not only do I not know what he is saying, I have no idea what language he’s speaking. I just know he sounds angry. He’s so angry, his spit is spraying all over my windshield.
Being the ex-Girl Scout that I am, my first reaction is to ask the man very loudly if he needs help, should I call 911, is he in pain? He stops for a second, looks at me like I have lost my mind, and then proceeds to bang on my windshield with his boney fist and yell at me like I’ve done something terribly wrong.
The light is green now, for all the good it does me. I don’t want to move the car for fear of throwing the frail looking old man into traffic which is now flowing past me – well, except for the drivers in the cars stuck behind me who are honking at me and flipping me off. Some of the people not stuck behind me are cussing at me as they drive by.
A kind, Mr. Rogers looking man stops his car beside mine and calls me names I’ve never heard before. So I open my window a few inches and yell back, “What the heck am I supposed to do? I have Mr. Fricking Miyagi on my hood!” Not an entirely politically correct thing to say, but the old man did look a lot like a skinny Mr. Miyagi from The Karate Kid.
I put my hand over my mouth. What did I just say? I am usually the picture of PC. Have I been pulled into some sort of angry mob mentality? I squint at the little old man, whose flushed face is just a foot from mine separated by only a windshield. Well, if he looked like John Wayne, I’d have said John Wayne. Still, I’m hoping he didn’t catch the Mr. Miyagi crack. (In my defense, however, if he’d have looked like John Wayne, I’d have said John Wayne.)
I call 911 on my cellular phone. When the operator answers, I have to shout over the old man’s voice. How did that much sound come out of such a small body?
“911, what is your emergency?”
“An elderly Asian man has crawled onto the hood of my car. I can’t get him off.”
“Yes ma’am. Where are you?”
I told her the intersection.
“Are you in the parking structure?”
“No, I’m sitting on Lemon Avenue.” (Later the irony of the street name would sink in.)
“Your car is in traffic?”
“And the man is on your hood?”
“Yep. Can you please have someone come take him off? Wait, hold on a sec…”
The old man, seemingly irritated with my lowered level of attention to him while I was on the phone, is now pulling on my side mirror. The sparkling rage in his eyes is getting a tad creepy. He’s much stronger than he first looked, and the mirror is smacking back and forth in its housing. The fear of killing him in traffic is becoming slightly overshadowed by the love of my new SUV.
“No, No,” I shout through the glass, “No touchy mirror! No touchy mirror!”
Back to the 911 operator now, “Sorry, he was yanking on my side mirror.”
“Did he stop when you told him ‘no touchy mirror’?”
I hear a noise that could be a sniff—or a snicker. I hope she’s not snickering. I already feel like a cosmic joke. I don’t need to be an earthly one too. I swipe my hand down my face.
“Can you please send someone to take him off my car?”
“Yes ma’am, a car is on the way. Stay with me and answer a few more questions for the officer. Do you know this man?”
“Do you know why this man might be on your hood?”
“Because I’m a FREAK MAGNET and things like this happen to me. Can you PLEASE have the officer hurry up? — Hey, I said NO TOUCHY MIRROR!”
Another snicker/sniff. I’m hoping now she has allergies and it’s a sniff.
“Did he stop again?” she asks.
I hear her tell someone, “She says she’s a freak magnet and things like this just happen to her. She shouts with an Asian accent at the man and tells him no touchy mirror and he stops.”
Had I said “touchy” and not “touch”? Had I been speaking with an Asian accent? How embarrassing. I guess I had. Sigh…
On the phone, I’m sure I hear snickering in the background.
“Is the police car close? HEY, drive around! CAN YOU NOT SEE I HAVE AN OLD MAN ON MY HOOD? YEAH? WELL RIGHT BACK AT YOU BUDDY!”
The snickering is now laughter. Who knew 911 operators had such a well honed sense of humor?
A police car finally comes around the corner. The policewoman goes down the street a ways and flips a U-ey to get back to me. Just then a nurse in the standard white “nursey” uniform and those amazingly comfortable but really ugly white shoes comes running down the street. She gets to my car, peels the old man off my hood, waves at me, and says thank you.
Thank you? What the heck? I roll down my window about two inches. (I keep my hand on the button in case Little Old Man gets loose.)
“Oh no, no, no,” I say shaking my head, “You don’t go anywhere until you talk to the police.”
I did not just sit in traffic getting cussed at so she could smile and wave at me like a pimple-faced babysitter going home for the night.
A red SUV (much like mine) parks across the street and a youngish, thin, beautiful Asian woman with black hair cut in a bob (which looks a lot like my dark brown hair also cut in a bob) jumps out and starts talking whatever-dialect-that-was to Little Old Man. He instantly stops struggling and looks to me in bewilderment.
Yep, buddy, I know just how you feel.
The policewoman finally gets there. She walks up to my window and taps with this sledge-hammer-sized flashlight. I inspect the window for nicks and roll it down.
“Are you alright, ma’am?”
She puts her hand on her gun. Will she shoot me if I say I’m not okay? And what’s she doing with that huge flashlight in the broad daylight? Is she going to give the old guy some sort of physical exam?
“I’m alright,” I say, hoping it’s the right answer. “I’m just a little freaked out. He crawled right onto my car, and I couldn’t get him off.”
“May I have your driver’s license, please?”
What? Is there a ticket for having too large of a hood ornament in this town?
I hand her my license. I hear a far away tinny voice. Oh crud, the 911 operator is still on the phone. She’s probably selling audio recordings of my 911 call to her friends at the station. I should ask her for a cut. I put the phone to my ear. They’re still laughing. I stab the disconnect button, and look back to the officer.
“Can I leave now?”
“No, ma’am. Please stay right here until I’ve had a chance to sort this out.” Flashlight at her side, she strides to the curb to interrogate the nurse and young Asian woman.
What’s with the “ma’am” thing? She’s starting to sound like Joe Friday from Dragnet for goodness sakes. “The facts ma’am. Just the facts.” I giggle. Joe Friday meets Little Old Hood Climber Man. Kind of like Godzilla meets the Smog Monster or The Three Stooges Meet the Wolfman. I giggle again and put my hand over my mouth.
I suspect these are not happy giggles but hysteria giggles. I basically handle just about everything with humor. It’s a wonderful coping mechanism for the type of life I lead and the luck I have, but it gets a little inconvenient at places like funerals and when the police are involved. I’m not drunk, but a sobriety test would be embarrassing.
When the policewoman finishes with them, she comes to tell me that Little Old Man had escaped from an Alzheimer’s facility right up the street when his daughter (the woman in the red SUV) came to pick him up. She left him outside the front door of the facility to get her car and bring it around. The man wandered down the street and thought big, white, pushing-fifty me was his daughter.
I guess he’s almost blind, too. Poor old buggar.
“They need to watch him better,” I say. “If it had been dark, especially on this street, I wouldn’t have worried so much about his safety. He might have ended up old-man pavement dressing.”
She purses her lips. I don’t know if she’s trying to keep from laughing or trying to keep from telling me how disgusting I am.
I may be getting paranoid about the cosmic joke thing.
She hands me my license.
“I’ll tell them, Mrs. Drummond. You can go now.”
No one believes me the next day at work. My husband only believes me because he’s lived through things like me catching my 10-speed on fire while I was riding it, having a bull gore my car in Oklahoma, and getting a staple through the roof of my mouth from cheese toast at Sizzler.
Like I said, Freak Magnet…
a.k.a. Black Hole of Luck.
Yep that’s me.