Saturday, March 30, 2019

Government Cheese

My friend Tonia and I volunteer at the Food Closet at an Episcopal Church in Palo Alto.  Tonia is a better person than me, so she goes every Friday.  I am on the substitute list so I only volunteer about once a month.

But that has been enough time for me to absorb the frozen-in-time quality of the neighborhood Food Closet.  It has been an institution for at least 35 years, and its rules and strictures are odd, unchanging, and completely accepted by both the volunteers and the clients.

The facility is a small room on the side of the church that is divided by a counter.  If you want a bag of food, you must follow these steps:

Step One:  Go to the back door and pick up a foam triangle with a Sharpie number written on it from a pronged dispenser.

Step Two:  Go to the front door and wait outside until your number is called, at which time you write your name in the sacred spiral notebook so that a volunteer can either look up or create an id for you in the ancient FilePro program on the ancient PC.

Step Three:  Approach the counter, where a volunteer waits to let you select one item from each shelf in the back.

The food available varies widely from day to day, as it is donated by a variety of corporations and individuals in the neighborhood.  There is usually a combination of canned goods, the previous day’s unsold prepared meals from the grocery store, day-old bread and cookies from the bakery, extra produce from neighbor’s gardens, and a random assortment of things people found in their pantries and decided to bring over.  And, of course, bricks of government cheese.

Step Three can take anywhere from a few minutes to half an hour, as the clients ruminate over their options, expostulate on conspiracy theories, share their dietary quirks, give you unsolicited advice, try to distract you into giving them two cans of Spam, or just sort of stare off vacantly into the middle distance.

Every day of the week there is a different set of volunteers.  I am a Friday volunteer, so I may not work Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday – ONLY FRIDAY.  So, for all I know, there is a completely different arbitrary procedure every other day of the week.  The two ladies who run the Friday volunteer crew are lovely and have been at this for 35 years.  There’s not much they haven’t seen.

Each client can come to the Food Closet twice a week, but there are a whole bunch of regular Friday clients, which gives the place the feel of an old-timey sitcom.  It is a wild and wacky place, and I love it.

Would you like a cling-wrapped chunk of government cheese?

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

I Have Seen My Future, and I'm Okay With It

I haven’t posted for a while. I wish I could say it was because I have been busy and productive, but that would be a lie.  Alas, I have simply been honing my skill at doing nearly nothing all day.

This morning I drove over to a friend’s house to take a walk.  On my way up the driveway, I grabbed what I assumed to be my local morning paper so that I could work the Sudoku outside the home, since I get a lot of dirty looks when I work Sudokus inside the home. 

Imagine my consternation when, post walk, I decided to do the Sudoku in my car, and realized that the newspaper on my driveway had been a Wall Street Journal!  The WSJ does not have a Sudoku, or recipes, or anything I am interested in, only News.  Somewhere on my street is a frustrated venture capitalist who HAS MY PUZZLE.

I am a stubborn woman, and I wanted my puzzle, so I drove to the CVS and bought a newspaper.  Actually, there was only one newspaper on the floor by the door, so it may have been the manager’s personal newspaper, but the clerk sold it to me for $1.50.

Many of my daily detours are determined by public toilets.  Before enjoying my puzzle I needed to find a public toilet.  There is a Safeway next to the CVS, so I thought, I will use the Safeway toilet, get something to cook for dinner, and then do the puzzle.

Before entering the Safeway, I sat in my car and read 50 recipes for chicken enchiladas.  That’s right, 50.  I am so good at wasting time.  I finally settled on a recipe for Enchiladas Suizas, which means Enchiladas Swiss Style, because of all the dairy in them.  Now you know, and you’re welcome.

After stowing my groceries, which included a six pack of mixed red and white wine which met my exacting criteria of costing between 10 and 12 dollars after the discount, I took my puzzle to the bagel café.

As I was enjoying my bagel and puzzle, a tiny confused elderly woman wandered in.  Luckily, the store was not busy, because this woman needed A LOT of help.  She desired to purchase some bagels and cream cheese to share with her afternoon art class.  Seems simple, no?  Most emphatically no.

This was not the café manager’s first rodeo, though, and after about 20 minutes the woman had a box of bagels and some cream cheese.  The woman then stood there for a minute, looking at the box on the counter, the paper bag containing cream cheese and napkins, her unnecessarily large handbag, and her credit card, which was still in her hand.

Heaving a sigh, the manager came from behind the counter, helped the woman put her credit card away, and offered to carry the box to the woman’s car.  They set off out the door.  The manager returned in a few minutes, still holding the box of bagels.  It turns out that the woman had no idea where she had parked her car.

At that moment I saw my future, and you know what?  I’m okay with it.

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Will Swap for Doll Panties

My parents live in Northern Virginia, where it has snowed quite a bit the last couple of winters.  I live across the country in California, so it is not possible for me to come shovel their sidewalk and clear their car.

Mom and Dad have two fully stocked refrigerator-freezers, so as long as the power isn’t out too long, they can and have holed up in their townhouse and waited a week for the snow to melt.

But in my most recent phone call home, my mother revealed that she is now swapping doll panties for snow removal services.

This is my understanding of how this transpired:  Mom was chatting with a somewhat younger neighbor lady, let’s call her Barbara.  Barbara mentioned that she collected vintage dolls and needed to find someone to repair or replace some doll clothes, in particular panties, which never seem to pass the test of years.

My mother has been sewing since she was a wee nipper in farm-town Texas.  Mom is a helpful soul (and also extremely bored) so she sewed some doll panties for Barbara.

Fast forward to the next snowstorm: Mom went to the front door to assess the snowpack, and lo! Not only were her stoop and sidewalk shoveled, her car was cleared!  Flummoxed at first, she concluded it must be Barbara.

I hope Barbara’s dolls need lots of underthings so this lovely symbiotic relationship can continue to flourish.