Saturday, February 04, 2012

Hop and why I'm bad at talking to strangers

This afternoon the kids and I were in a holding pattern of time-occupying activities, mostly involving products made by Apple. No one was really fighting about anything (thanks to this) and it was such a nice day outside that I opened all the front windows.
(Note that I didn't say, it was so nice outside that we actually went outside, both kids vehemently rejected that idea, which they definitely get from my side.)

With the windows open the chihuahuas were overly aware of even the slightest movement on the street, so I got fed up and went to the front to close the windows.
And lo, there was a little Asian man motioning to me, on my dirt lawn. I went along with the window closing, and at each window, he was there, still motioning.

"I guess he's not just saying hi, this is going to require me to go outside," I thought to myself.
I opened the front door and gathered that he was in need of work and/or money, but I wasn't quite sure so I made this expression: :/
Which made him slip off his shoe and show me his *severely disfigured* foot (!)
To which I made this expression: : o

But still, I was hazy on his objective.

IMO, if you have just proved that you have a really jacked up limb, I will feel obligated to compensate you for the hand (or foot as it were) that fate dealt you. Unless you're a really terrible person, I'm empathetic.

So I thought, "well, he's riding a bike, his English is entry level, he's got a bum foot, I'll just give money."
(This is the kind of logic that drives everyone around me crazy, but it's a lifelong problem. Is there a 12 step program for bleeding hearts?)

At this point, I deciphered that he wanted to do yard work for money.
Which if this was Depression Era Sockswithsandalsland, CA, would be perfectly normal thing to ask, but seeing that we have dirt for a lawn, and the ability to hire muchos personas for pesos pequitos, his idea seemed like an exercise in futility.

---this is too much text already, we need a photo to break this up!--

---This is not actually what he looked like, but this could be his wild cousin or something!---

I said "Hold on, one sec," and went back inside for what I thought was a $20 in my wallet.
It was a $10.
Not a $10, ugh!
Three days prior, I was in meeting whose topic was, seriously: how little $10 could buy.

I thought, "Ok, a check, I guess I'll write a check. I can't just say 'Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed!"
Then with the checkbook in my hand, I started feeling more impulsively generous.
So I filled out a $50 check to "Cash", went back out the door and handed it to Hop (that was his name, 'swear, 'cause he quizzed me on it later).

Instead of the reaction I expected, he made this face: :/
To which I also: :/

More confusion, and then he communicates he needs $80.
And I'm thinking "my lawn is dirt, $80 bucks could get me halfway to new sod, dude!"
I communicated all I was offering him was $50, and I was indifferent to how much labor that would buy me...

(segway to my "If you Give a Man a Rake" reenactment of events)

...So he agreed and he said he needed a rake.
And once you give a man a rake, he's going to ask for a push broom.
And when you give him the broom, he'll notice all the trash blocking the side gate.
And he'll ask you for $30 more to clean up the trash.
When you refuse, he'll start cleaning up the trash and you'll feel obligated to help him.

Because after all, it is your mess and your trash.
So you start to help him

When he notices the dried Christmas tree next to the trash, he'll ask for a tree saw.
And when you give him the tree saw, he'll ask you if you have another green bin.
When you tell him you only have one, he'll ask you to go next door and ask your neighbor to use hers.

And so it went. Hop was my overpriced single serving clean-up friend.
While we worked on my embarrassing trash pile, I asked him about his family, Vietnam, and he told me about communism, his sister and how he got his messed up foot (he was hit by a car as a child, and no one took him to a doctor.)

Let me be clear, I did not have a Hallmark moment on my driveway.
We talked in broken sentences, and I think he was wondering why I was asking him at all.
But he seemed pretty normal, and my best guess as to why after 11 years in the U.S. he was knocking on doors like mine for odd jobs, was a drinking problem, but not because he was crazy.
Alcholism is just a guess, but I'm so awesome at alcoholic-detection, I should be at sobriety road blocks.

---This story is so long, need a photo again!---

---This is not me, or our garage, but that's kinda what the pile looked like---

I did however learn why he needed $80 specifically. He had a big cavity that needed to be fixed and there was a dentist that offered to fill it for $80. With zero tact, I asked to see his tooth, not for proof, just because I'm weird, and he was missing about half of his teeth.
That did it.
When he told me that it was nearly impossible already to chew normally, I said "okay, you got it, I'll give you the extra $30 so you can chew."

After I had bundled my flattened cardboard, I trusted him to get rakey in the yard without me.

Later on as it was getting dark he asked to use the bathroom. If he hadn't been *literally* 4'10" (seriously, he was incredibly small!) I would never otherwise let a strange man into my house. As he was walking back out Hop told me he'd be back to tomorrow to finish and gave me a huge hug (he was SO little!)
I am still on the fence on the hug-motive: Really appreciated my overpayment?, or he just wanted to get way too close a younger/giant woman?
I'm leaning towards the latter.

I went inside, and tried to talk the kids into driving to get BBQ for dinner (fail), sat down, stared at Word Girl on the screen and felt exhausted.
Not exhausted because I did any hard work at all, but because interacting with people stresses me out. The entire time I was thinking, "how can I leave? I've interacted for over my 5 min max."
I hate this about myself. I dodge my neighbors even though they're all super nice people. And I pick the automated checkout everytime because then I don't need to interact with anyone.

I have no real conclusion to this story but to say this is why I would be a bad overseas missionary, even though I love humanity. If Hop stressed me, then I would fall over dead if I had to sort through this.

1 comment:

Dia said...

I'm not buying the "bad at talking to strangers" thing. You crashed our MOPS meeting and we all had a blast!