Monday, August 03, 2015

Encino Hobo

Used without permission
but with the greatest of appreciation.
Yesterday when I was taking Boo out for a walk I noticed a Ralph's grocery cart left at the curb in a residential street. Ralph's is about a mile away from my house on the corner of Ventura and Havenhurst.   I know Ralph's has a truck that comes through the neighborhood periodically to collect the carts that seem to run away and "get lost" but I don't know how often it comes. 
Since Boo and I walk at least a mile when we stroll, I thought it would be a good idea to push the cart back to the grocery store.  I was out for a walk, the cart needed to be returned, win/win. That is, until I set out on my good deed.
First of all a grocery cart being pushed along a residential street makes more noise than you might think. I was attracting more attention to myself and my dog than my usual walks. The rattle made Boo a little uncomfortable but soon she was doing to her business sniffing around for recent Pee mail, left by the other neighborhood dogs.  This was fine for me since I got to stop every few feet and the cart rattle would stop for a moment.  
Now, although I have lived in this house a couple of decades, I don't know very many neighbors. The houses are set back from the street, mostly gated and other than a couple of show biz friends, I am not that familiar with all my homies. This is not unusual in Los Angeles. In a suburb where there are few sidewalks and no real foot traffic on the streets, you just don't connect too often.  The joke is, you never meet your neighbors until there is an earthquake and we all end up in the front yard in our pajamas.  The last earthquake of any magnitude was back in 1994.  We didn't live in this neighborhood at that time. 
This is not to say it is not a friendly place.  I always say hello to others who might be walking down the street or walking with their dogs.  My neighbors are very friendly, especially the dog owners. I have gotten acquainted with several "regular" dog strollers.  
So I was settling in for a normal neighborhood walk,  the only difference was: this time I was pushing a grocery cart.  In my mind there was nothing to it except I was doing a good deed.  Not so with the people I met.
It took me a few minutes to realize what was happening.  I was in my casual "working in the yard" clothes, with a dog on a leash pushing a grocery cart through a neighborhood where the site of a Tesla silently driving by is not unusual.  Ahead in the street I see a man walking a couple of his dogs.  I have seen him before and our dogs have sniffed each other.  I felt Boo straining on the leash to greet her friends.  But, when the guy focused on me he crossed the street and held his dogs back from approaching.  I said "hi" but he pretended to be preoccupied with settling his dogs and did not greet me back.  I was puzzled by this reaction and the reaction of others I met along the way. Then, I realized, they were not seeing a neighbor walking a dog, I was a homeless man trolling the area. There are people who come through the neighborhood on trash day collecting the recyclables from the containers ready for pick up. My neighbors saw nothing but the grocery cart and assumed I was one of those people. 
I smiled to myself because I knew all would have stopped for a moment of politeness if they knew I was one of the neighbors.  I continued the experiment as I encountered several others out walking that evening.   Part of the time Boo and I walked down the very busy sidewalk of Ventura Blvd. In that setting it was easy to cast me in the roll of homeless bum.  No one was rude, they just treated me and Boo like we were invisible.  
The closer I got to the market the more visible I became to people.  At one point I knew people were now seeing me as a man returning the cart after placing groceries in the car, not a man pushing the cart down a street. I even got a "thank you"  from one of the Ralph's employees who was gathering carts from the parking lot.   He had no idea I had rescued that cart from the neighborhood a mile away, but I graciously accepted his thanks.  
After the cart was in its rightful place, Boo and I continued on our walk. 
Stolling back through the neighborhood it was as if I suddenly was lit up.  People were waving, asking if my dog was friendly and passing the evening in kindness.  What a difference a simple cart makes.  In our prejudgement of those around us that cart is the difference between an home owner and a hobo. 
I don't know why we have become a nation of judgmental people.  Who is to say the next guy you see pushing a grocery cart down the street isn't just a neighbor trying to do a good deed? Could even be me and my dog Boo. 
As you were,

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