Tuesday, March 3, 2009

A momentary crisis in Santa Cruz

Well, it was more than momentary--about 15 horrible minutes, actually. I had driven to friends' for dinner, and was returning to my old friend Lawrence Stern's condo, when I took a wrong turn. I've taken lots of wrong turns, esp. on this trip in strange neighborhoods, but this was a REALLY wrong turn, onto a railroad track. I stopped immediately, and my Honda Civic hybrid, which I love dearly, would subsequently move neither forward nor back, with a tire spinning on the track as if it were on ice.

I called 911 and stood out in the drizzle with many cars passing me by, though my stuck Honda was clearly visible. I was frightened that a train would come along at any moment and destroy my vehicle. After about ten minutes (the highway patrol had not yet appeared) a car did stop, with two men and a woman, all Hispanic with little English. They couldn't budge my car until another man stopped, and together they pushed me back onto the road.

When I told Lawrence about the incident he informed me that the trains don't run at night. Would have saved a lot of adrenaline had I known that before!

The next day I wrote a letter to the editor of the local newspaper to thank them, as I had done so in a rather perfunctory way the night before. I do hope my Good Samaritans read it and know how grateful I am.

I'm reminded of a long-ago incident when a female friend and I had a flat tire at night in L.A. and three young Hispanic men came to our aid. One of them said, "My mom would kill me if I told her I'd passed by two ladies in distress." Is there something in the Hispanic culture that encourages this?

Back to SSA

The Social Security Administration was once my employer, and in Los Angeles I returned to the organization, but to the El Segundo branch. This is not an office that directly serves the public, but deals with cases sent to it. What a difference between that and my old Crenshaw office! This one is much smaller, with, it seemed, much more friendly and cohesive staff. They all put down their forms and their mice and listened to my PowerPoint presentation about West Africa, after which they had prepared a delicious potluck lunch. A former colleague from Crenshaw, Anne Sekino, had arranged my visit as she now works at El Segundo, and she had arranged for a surprise visitor: Eleanor Williams, a former colleague of ours, whom I had not been able to get in touch with. What a pleasant surprise!

That was the only booking I had in the L.A. area, but I spent the rest of the time meeting old friends for lunch or dinner. I hardly had any meals with Sara Meric, my host in Santa Monica. Had a wonderful Indian meal at the home of an Indian-Ghanaian former student, along with another former student. Met my nephew James and his wife Ana at a restaurant, and got to see my great-niece Caitlin for the first time. What a lovely, sweet baby!