Whenever I am driving, and I pass a light rail station, I start cracking up. Other drivers are probably thinking, "She's on something." Trust me, my uncontrollable giggling is justified. Some years ago, when I was 17-years-old, my dear friend, Taylor, and I took the light rail to Phoenix. We took our seats towards the back of the shuttle, and I noticed an old (I mean ancient) woman gazing at me intently. She was sitting next to an equally ancient man.
At the next stop she said, "My young dear... are you, what's the word... Chinese?" I affirmed her speculation, and a look of pure glee filled her countenance. "Oh, what fun!! You see here... I am a caretaker to this man, and he looks Asian, don't you think? I was wondering if you could speak to him, in his native language! Oh, by the way, dear... I believe he's deaf." I politely explained to her that I did not speak Chinese, and we might encounter a challenge, given that he's deaf. Also, I was a bit concerned that a 90-year-old was a caretaker for another 90-year-old... I mean, isn't that counterproductive?
The conversation continued. "I beg your pardon -- you don't speak Chinese? Hm... I should like to meet your parents. Anyway, my name is Ida,and I would like to take a picture of you next to this Asian man, here. A Chinese person smiling next to another Chinese person... what fond memories this shall inspire!" And so, my picture is in Ida's scrapbook. Normally, this would be frightfully concerning, but this is Ida we're talking about -- she just wanted a picture. She asked me my name, and I told her.
Then, things got a bit personal. "My dear, are you dating anybody?" I panicked... I seriously thought she was intending to set me up with a 90-year-old, deaf, wrinkly, Chinese man. "Oh Bekki... no need to answer that question. With a pretty face like yours, I am certain that you have a young man! Just a word of advice... do not kiss a young man, until you are standing with him on the altar. If that son-of-a-biscuit attempts to kiss you beforehand, well... Lord have mercy... he's only after one thing. Perhaps, I should buy you a promise ring..." Holy stars, I was uncomfortable. Meanwhile, Taylor is cracking up. For some reason, Ida wasn't too interested in Taylor... probably because she isn't Asian.
Ida grew so fond of me that she invited me to the Phoenix zoo, the following Saturday morning. Wrinkly-Asian-deaf-man would come, too, of course. I freaked, and I failed to even consider what I was about to say. A terrible lie parted from my lips. Actually, several terrible lies parted from my lips: "Uh... I have Church on Saturday..." Really, Bekki? That was stupid, but Ida bought it. "Well, that hardly surprises me, dear! You're so pious. I was thinking about going to the zoo in the wee hours of morning. Would that be more accommodating for your schedule?" Crap. "Well, Church starts quite early on Saturday... 5 am, even! You know how we religious folks are... we're so... uh... spiritual." At this point, Taylor lost it. She was quivering with laughter, but Ida failed to notice. The blessed woman was too busy admiring this young-Chinese-girl, the paragon of virtue and piety. Thankfully, Taylor and I had to get off the shuttle, but Ida left me with a firm hug and a parting gift. She gave me a picture of her, embracing a Mesquite tree, and her address was written on the back.
I never wrote Ida. I feared that she would hunt me down, take me to the zoo, or force me to engage in some kind of ritual in which I would vow to never kiss men until I married. It was a pleasure, however, to meet such a passionate and vibrant 90-year-old woman. As I got off the light rail shuttle, Taylor playfully shoved me, and said, "YOU, my friend, are a terrible liar." I concurred.