I almost throw the towel in today. Initially, I pick UNO as my place to write on this frigid day. I was a student there over 30 years ago and I seem to remember a lot of handicapped parking when I was in attendance. There has been so much renovation since then that I'm sure that the parking situation is much improved from those days I spent in my car "vulturing" for a space in the late 70's and early 80's. Besides, I have a handicapped tag. Of course, I will find a place easily this go round. I'm also anxious to see how changed everything must look, especially the theatre department. I spent much time there as a student. Most of my English classes (my major) were in the same building as the theatre.
I had entered college thinking that I really knew my way around literature. Within a year, I realized that I was woefully uneducated regarding it. Miss B, my English teacher at my small town Catholic high school had tried to warn me about this but when you're 18, 19.....almost all the way up to 28, you honestly think that you know it all. Miss B had warned me that my high school was a tiny pond compared to all the literature that was out there.
"You are going to LOVE the beat poets," she told me. "But, you aren't going to learn about them in this school."
I had smiled sweetly at her and came to UNO as an English major, By second semester, I realized that it was a very big world out there and while I was well versed in Shakespeare, a few of the Catholic mystics, Victorians and Romantics, that wasn't even a fraction of what was out there. I remember being stunned into speechlessness by Shelley's OZYMANDIAS. Miss B was right about those beat poets. I wept all through HOWL by Allen Ginsberg. ("I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness, starving hysterical naked...") I fell in love with literature on the 4th floor of the Admin Building at UNO.
But the parking still stinks. Even with my handicapped tag, there is just no parking to be had unless I'm okay with parking at Elmwood Park and hoofing it to the University. Which, I am not. It's freezing cold. I have a cane. I am no longer the nubile 20 something who thought nothing of a long hike to my classroom.
So, sighing. Plan B. Panera. It's nearby and late enough that it shouldn't be too crowded. Except that it is. Crowded. As I walk in, I nearly knock heads with a young man who is a dead ringer for Jesus on The Walking Dead. His light blue eyes make me go as tongue tied as a teenaged girl. He bows apologetically and then brazenly winks at me as he walks out the door. Well, he's done his good deed for an old bag today.
Once inside Panera, I find a seat and find myself next to two African Americans. A man and a woman. He is pep-talking her in a way that never works. He's cajoling her for not trying hard enough to be successful in her life.
"Look at me," he tells her, smiling smugly. "I came up from nothing. I worked my way through college by holding down two jobs. I found time to practice yoga every single morning. It kept my head on straight. I only put good food, good FUEL in my body to nourish it. And now, I have a life to be proud of."
The woman is smiling wanly at him. Anyone can see that she is having a rough day, week or month. It is obvious that she is barely holding back tears. She's trying hard to look as though she's listening when what she really wants, really needs, is for him to stop lecturing and just hug her.
I wish I felt comfortable enough to tell him that for her. To tell him that he's going about this task all wrong. That when someone is that far down, they need some help, advice, a workable solution for the here and now. What they don't need is a lecture that will just make them feel worse for eating potato chips for breakfast. For not meditating but instead....watching Property Brothers and wishing that they had so much money to spare that they could whine about a house not being "open concept" enough or not having granite counters.
In fact, I kind of want to punch his face, his self satisfied nose. But, no. Bad idea. No need for a dust-up in Panera today.
Instead, I gather up my things and as I walk by them, I lean down and quietly tell the woman that I hope that things look up for her soon. She doesn't answer, looks suspiciously at me. Still. I feel better about things as I walk to my car.