Do I look like I really care? That was what my alter ego, that little evil self that sits on my left shoulder was telling me, as I smiled and said, "Fine, and you?" This was in response to an inquiry from a young lady standing on the sidewalk. Her over bleached blond hair was pulled back in a bandanna, her t-shirt had some weird saying on it, and her jeans were torn in that designer way.
I was getting out of my car, trying to balance a large birthday cake, a small bag of groceries, my purse, another shopping bag, and a diet coke. Normally, my response and smile would suffice, and if not, my arms full of bags, as I got out of my car, obviously trying to get to my apartment before I either dropped a cake, spilled a diet coke, spilled my purse, or any combination of these - would tell any polite person I was in no position to chat. But, oh no, this was not the case.
The young lady came around the car and entered my personal space. At this point I was trying to close the car as I fumbled for my key fob to lock the car. "I've seen you on the street, but where do you live, if I may ask?" she inquired.
Not wanting to go down a rabbit hole, I motioned across the street and replied, "In that building."
"Oh, well, my mother needs to move. How much is a one bedroom apartment?"
Avoiding the cost of rent, I explained I did not know because I had a two bedroom. By this time, I was hoping she would notice my arms full and my body language that was anything but indicating I wanted to stay for tea. But, no.
She continued, "You see my mother has lived here for eleven years and now they are going to throw her out, not raise her rent, just throw her out. And just because this South African with some big job moved in above us and was willing to pay a lot more."
This is when I realized she was slurring her words, was holding a cup, and her eyes indicated she was a little more than slightly inebriated. She continued her rant about how unfair it was. I agreed that I was sure her mother was upset but I was also sure there were other places she could move and suggested some rent control apartments for older people in the North Central area. (I knew about these from my extensive home search in December.)
At this point she said, "Well you can understand, she's old, about your age - at least you look about her age, and moving will be difficult for her. Change at her age is not easy. Besides she has her pride, she doesn't want to be thrown out of her home and neighborhood. You know how is for old people."
I had to rethink my approach here. As I re-balanced my load, thought about my serious need of an adult beverage to debate on her level, given her total state of inebriation, I decided to try to detach. "Well, this neighborhood is going through gentrification and it is unfortunate that when that happens, people who have lived here for many years, but do not own their homes are going to be displaced. Those who are not, are going to see their rent increased. I can remember when I was in college the gentrification line was at Calhoun street, now it has moved this far up the peninsula."
I smiled and moved across the street, hoping to leave her. Of course she followed. "My boy friend and I are trying to take care of her. We pay everything for her and her savings can just pay the rent. And, now just because that South African has moved in . . . and what was that word you used?"
"Yes, gentrification. Just throw people out. You see my mother has lived here for eleven years and now they are going to throw her out, not raise her rent, just throw her out."
Yep, I was down the hole following a white rabbit who was late for a tea party. Why me Lord?
"My name's Elizabeth by the way," she said as she followed me to the door to my building.
Meanwhile, I was trying to decide at what point to be rude and just end this. Then she said, "My boyfriend and I have thought about leaving Charleston and moving somewhere and buying some land - somewhere like Orangeburg."
Before my mind engaged I said, "I'm from Orangeburg."
"Oh, could you recommend a church. My boyfriend and I cannot get married, it is a long story and I will not take your time with that," (thamk you Jesus!),"but I figure the best way to meet people is at church."
To end the madness, I said, "I cannot help you there, I was not really affiliated with a church, but there are many churches there and I am sure you can easily find one that you would like."
As I got to the outer door to my apartment I started to enter my door code but decided to wait until she left before doing so. She finally took the hint. "Well, I did not mean take up so much of your time. I realize you need to get your bags inside. It's been nice talking with you. But my mother is going to be thrown out for no reason. You know that South African moved in."
Once again I told her how sorry I was, I hoped she had a nice evening, turned, entered the door code, and safely went inside the building. Well, so much for my feeling young and open minded. I had just been put in my place by an inebriated bleached blond young lady. And, to think I have never signed up for AARP nor do I wear sensible shoes!