I was driving home from one of my schools yesterday, blasting silly pop music, window slightly open, about to get on the highway at 45th, when a red light slowed my homeward-progress. I made a small groan. Not because of the stoppage but because of the pan-handler advancing my way. Just came out of a very rough class with some very surly teenagers [who doesn’t love ending the quarter with a “Fuck you, old lady!”] and wasn’t in the mood to play the avert my eyes-feel like a horrible person for being annoyed by someone in a not so wonderful position game. But steadily she came.
A woman, about sixty, long brown well-worn trench coat, brown knit cap, tan face smothered with wrinkles. She stopped at the first car and shook her cup. The driver ignored her. She shook her cup once more, with a steady gaze into the window. C’mon light, c’mon light, change. Oh no, quick do something, maybe she’ll pass you. Suddenly adjusting my ponytail in the rearview mirror was the most important task in the world, compelling all of my attention. I could feel her advance. I work hard for my money, why should I have to part with it? How do I know what she’s going to do with it? She can’t get a job? Ugh, I’m the worst person in the world. Give her a dollar. I just bought a purse I don’t need at Target and I can’t give her a buck? The worst person ever. Oh man, I wish my window wasn’t cracked.
She shook her cup at me. I shook my head in her general direction, tight-lip smile, and continued to stare straight ahead. Is this the longest light in the world? She mumbled something, my Katy Perry was too loud, I couldn’t hear her. Was probably something about hunger or the lord or having a heart. Usually I would continue to stare anywhere but in her direction, with a what I hoped was a “I’m really sorry for your circumstance but I’m not going to give you money so please go away” look. She mumbled again. For some reason, I made eye-contact and allowed a much bigger than usual smile. She grinned and started talking again. I turned down Katy Perry.
“You know who you look like? Julia Roberts.”
I sputtered in surprise, she turned back to the curb, and the light changed.
I still don’t get this oft-cited comparison. But if someone who has a lot more significant issues to deal with in her life than frivolous People magazine celebrity chatter deems it so, ok, I’ll take it.