Saturday, November 7, 2009

Leave the Light On

This wonderful old light fixture hangs at the top of my stairs. I can see it through the window when I pull into the driveway after dark. It's a friendly little beacon. It's quirky and dependable -- kind of like the family it welcomes home. I love the rosy glow of that light, especially after a long day.

Like yesterday, for example...

You've heard me say that things are just different in South Pasadena. That it's kinder here. That in the cruel, impersonal jungle of Los Angeles, South Pas is an oasis of cornball, old-school neighborliness that borders on fetishistic. (And we like it that way.) It's not that the rest of LA is mean -- it's just that so much of South Pas is nice. Really nice. It's kind of weird how nice it is here. People smile and hold doors open here. They throw block parties. They bring you homemade marshmallows and fudge during the holidays. Oh, I'm sure there are some rude, angry, self-centered people in South Pas -- I just haven't run across them yet. (No doubt they skip the old-fashioned Fourth of July Parade.)

But, we can't always stay within the borders of our happy, little village. Yesterday, my daughter and I were waiting to pay for a laptop charger at the Best Buy in Hastings Ranch when a tall man in an expensive suit cut in front of us.

"Hey," I said, "The line is back there."

"Whatever," he said, and then ambled over to the check stand to buy his Transformers DVD.

So, the guy was a first-class toad but not worth getting riled up over. I explained to my daughter that sometimes grownups forget their manners. Next, we drove to a fabric store in Alhambra. At this point, my daughter realized that she needed a bathroom.

"Can you tell me where to find the bathroom?" I asked one of the cashiers.

He looked at me, sighed and said, "Um, no. We don't have a bathroom."

"I have to pee!" My daughter started to freak out, "I think it's going to come out NOW!"

"You don't have a bathroom?" I said.

He stared at me. "No."

I blinked. He didn't.

"Can you let me know which store in this shopping center has a bathroom?"

"I'm pretty sure none of them do," he said. Then, like something remembered from a training manual he added, "Sorry."

I don't think I'm going out on a limb when I say that I know for a fact he was not sorry.

"Hurry, Mommy!" Now my kid was crying, "HURRY!!!"

"I don't know what to tell you," he said, and then went back to straightening and unstraightening shopping bags, right next to a sign that insisted sewing holiday decorations brought back old fashioned family values.

I'm not sure how we managed it but we got home without soiling clothes or car seat -- no accidents, just a lot of tears and a few broken speed limits. Later, I realized I was out of Tylenol. I drove to the South Pasadena Rite Aid on Fair Oaks.

"I'm just curious," I said to the woman stocking paper towels. "Do you have a bathroom I could use?"

"Oh sure," she said with a glow every bit as warm as my lamp in the window. "Let me get the keys."

It's good to be home.


Cafe Pasadena said...

Different, yes. Probably cuz So Pasa & the rest of de SGV unlike the SFV, aren't part of L.A.

In fact, I've come across many who actually live in L.A., yet who've never heard of many of their neighbor cities.

Kinda like living across the street & yet never knowing who lives in the other house or talking to them.

Mister Earl said...

Thanks for the story, Laurie, and nice touch weaving the lamp back into it. I had read the bottom line on Twitter.

Here's what I was thinking: next time this happens in that fabric store, you grab a bolt of fabric off the shelf, have Little Bit stand over it, and say, "Now tell me again you don't have a bathroom."

What were you doing in the fabric store? You gonna make some "Rolling Hills" tank tops? I googled that last night and all I could find was "Rolling Hills Estates" shirts. Somehow that just doesn't quite make it.

By the way, I do know some selfish residents in South Pas. I call them residents because they don't deserve to be called neighbors.

WV: I kid you not: SAINT

Dixie Jane said...

It's as if the call of nature doesn't live in the fabric store and I am positive they have a bathroom. The employees surely don't go outside behind a bush.
I like Mr. Earl's idea of standing over a bolt of fabric.

Many years ago on a car trip to Houston I stopped at a filling station for a restroom necessity. I was only allowed to use it if I bought something. Is that silly or what? I think I bought a quart of oil so I could use the restroom.

Your lamp at the top of the stairs is beckoning. I love it so much.

Mister Earl said...

Speaking of bathrooms you can always use: Starbucks is the new McDonalds!

A man my age always needs to know where there's a bathroom. One day in New York, I walked from Central Park South to SoHo, and I was dying. Didn't know what I was going to do, when out of nowhere appeared: A Starbucks!

And I'm not proud, either. Last week, on my way to my mom's, I realized that I was not going to make it. I bolted into a Ralph's, headed right to the men's room, which was locked, and jumped right into the ladies room next to it. I've never understood why stores with two one-user bathrooms don't designate them both as unisex.

altadenahiker said...

See, that's why they were never allowed to leave Brigadoon.

The light is beautifully symbolic, but oh, I feel like kicking some Alhambra ass right now.

Sharon said...

Love your little lamp and really enjoyed your story. It certainly is interesting to see how different people behave in the public setting. Oh the stories I could tell!!

Trish said...

Laurie---you've hit the nail on the head about SoPas. It is an oasis of nice (well, ok, you've obviously not been in on some city council meetings in the past).

There are negative people in SoPas. I think some of them move to SoPas to try and get some of the nice to rub off on them. But it isn't one of those things that rubs off, it is acquired by action. Like letting a little girl go pee even if your employer has said the restrooms are only for employees. Stick THAT in your "family values".

It does remind me one time in England---I needed to cash a traveler's check. Everyone in town refused even if I bought something like Dixie Jane (it was Amex and this was not out in the sticks). A little pharmacy was my last chance. I walked in, asked if they'd take it, they said "sure! just make a purchase of any kind". In that I needed most of the cash of the 20 pounds, I found something small for 45 pence...but certainly came back later that week to purchase other things I needed.

Part of the reason I keep reading your blog is because you're learning what I grew up with in SoPas---that small town feel and love, surrounded by a rather rude world. I wish the world could grow up in SoPas...maybe we wouldn't have the anger and wars...

Alex said...

If one ever would like to meet terse employees and patrons, Best Buy would be the "best bet":)

Laurie, I believe you were at the Joann fabric store in Alhambra. Just fyi, if you ever find yourself in a similar situation there, the Fresh and Easy Neighborhood Market across the street has a bathroom right at the entrance. And the employees there are (usually) quite nice. And of course, there's always Target:)

Alex said...

Oh, and I completely agree with Mr Earl: Starbucks is the new McDonalds, though if you are ever in the Bay Area, note that they have locations that only have a womens restroom. Blasphemy!

Mister Earl said...

And Alex: Note that I don't care if it's marked "Womens" as long as I can lock the door! ;-)

Oh, and Vons is annoying. You can't pee unless you get a "token" from the manager. Not even a carbon token. If Ralph's had been So Pas Von's last week, it could have been ugly.

Speaking of Bay Area, I'm from there and I'm a Giants fan. One time a checker at Pavillions or Vons (owned by Safeway) questioned my Giants cap. I said, "Well the owner of the Giants owns your store, so you better watch out!"

Yakpate said...

LA: your story-telling skills are compelling... you had me hanging on every word!

Have you ever thought of writing a novel with a SouthPas setting? Imagine: a protagonist who haunts the village day and night, snapping shots for her blog... and from her unique observational perspective she discovers... turn the page, turn the page!!!!!

Cafe Pasadena said...

It's good to know if we have to Pee,
like your Sweet Pea or Mr.E,
So Pasa is the place to Bee.

Judy Williams said...

That light fixture is like a piece of candy. I was taken aback the first time I saw it.

Your story just makes my blood boil but the Rite Aide sequel certainly seems to smooth over the roughness of earlier in the day. Let's hear it for S. Pas!!

Margaret said...

Sorry, about your encounters with gremlins yesterday. Love how the light of your beautiful fixture also shines in you.

Shanna said...

Let's see now - Cafe wrote a poem and Judy did not write one. Then Judy wrote about something to eat, candy, but Cafe did not. Hmmm...

dbdubya said...

Trish is correct, Laurie. There are some angry, nasty, vindictive people in South Pasadena. But they are very definitely the minority and stand out because everyone else is as you described.

Nice story. You should confirm the name of the store so that we all know not to shop there. Not that I would be in a fabric store, but I can always thumb my nose and I drive by.

Virginia said...

OH LA, love your light and love your story. And may I add that I knew exactly what Dixie Jane meant by "filling station"! She and i may be the only ones that still use that term, well probably Mr. E as well. Great one today Sistah!

BTW, when people quiz me about if the French are rude to me, I want to fall out laughing. Your story happens everyday here. There is very little customer service or work ethic any more. Sad but true. Now when I get a friendly, helpful salesperson, I want to give them a hug and recommend them for a raise!

PS If Hiker does some ass kicking, will you go with her and take photos??? :)

TheChieftess said...

Somehow I don't think politeness and neighborliness is as much of a regional thing...but instead, a sign of the's the "me first, screw you" way of thinking that seems to have permeated the world view and then of course it's the "it's everybody else's fault I'm in this situation (insert whatever situation applies)"...oooops! my cynicism is cropping up....

ok...I admit...I'm a politeness and niceness junkie...I find the stores where I'm a real human being to them and frequent them...rarely at a mall or big shopping center...

TheChieftess said...

PS...Love the lamp!!!

Petrea said...

I take it the employees pee in the alley. No wonder I avoid Alhambra.

I really like your photo today.

Stéphane Kardos said...

My wife and I met so many rude people since we moved to the US, especially on the road, it's crazy here, it's just "me, me,me!" I'd love to live in South Pasadena if we could, sounds lovely.
Cracks me up when some Americans say that French are rude.
Thanks god they are plenty of lovely people here too.
I agree with Virginia, I'm so happy now when I meet somebody very nice to me in a shop.
Voila, bonsoir tout le monde :)

Petrea said...

Stef, the idea that the French are rude is an old trope, like a rumor that gets passed around but never checked for proof. The people who believe it have either never been to France or they haven't met a French person.

I think we have a lot of nice people in all the Denas. Except that guy at Best Buy, but obviously he was an out of towner.

Mister Earl said...

I had no experience with the French being rude except for one guy at the money exchange at Orly airport. My flight to London was delayed and I had no French money, so I needed just enough to buy a candy bar. He looked at me like I'd just peed in his little booth!

dbdubya said...

Unfortunately, I had a bad experience during a 24 hour layover in Paris while in transit home from Chisnau, Moldova where, even though no one speaks English, everyone was polite and friendly and all the signs in the airport were in Romanian, Russian, and English, unlike Charles DeGaualle where all signs are French. Within one day I was ripped off by a shuttle bus driver, lied to by a hotel clerk, and my travel partner was the victim of a pursesnatch in a subway terminal. Other than that, it was a great experience. Unfortunately, much of the US is no better. I'll be returning to France in a few weeks and will hopefully have a much better experience than the last time.

Laurie said...

Thanks, everyone! Yesterday was such a bummer, I'm sure it is the reason why I ended up in migraine hell today.


I love all of your thoughts and comments. I'll catch up with you tomorrow!

Shanna said...

Although the airport in Paris was horrendous, I had a GREAT expexience there. We gave the helper there all the euros we had left - about $75.00 USD.

I spoke in my limited French and she spoke in her limited English. We parted with smiles and good wishes and merci beaucoups!

Petrea said...

It shows that the people of a country represent that entire country wherever they go. Hmm, I wonder where Europeans get their stereotyped ideas of Americans...probably from Alhambra store clerks at large.

Tash said...

I would of loved that lamp anywhere - but now, it goes together with the great of your best. So sorry about the little tike's discomfort.

Anonymous said...

My little guy and I have used the bathroom in the Alhambra Jo-Ann before. It is very messy, and hiding in the Employees Only Area, but a nice young lady working there did take pity on my three-year-old. That guy was apparently just a jerk.

Also, a long time ago I asked the Rite Aid manager if my little guy could use the bathroom (which is also in the Employees Only area), and he told us to go right ahead. Ever since, we just help ourselves to it when the little guy needs it, and have never needed to ask for a key. It's always been open.

Mister Earl, that's true about Starbucks, it has come through for me many times, and I'm not talking about coffee! Also Mister Earl, Pavilions has restrooms right inside the stock area off the produce section - no token required.

Cafe Pasadena said...

And, all these years I thought de So Pasa's & de Alhambrakytes couldn't get along because of the 710 controversy.

Apparently, it was another stinking issue that was pissing U2 off all this time!

Kaori said...

I can see you live in a warm and friendly area! I miss being able to borrow sugar from your neighbors :)

Trish said...


the 710 IS the major reason Sopas'ers and Alhambraites can't talk...but U2 pissing off the ner-between...;-)

Mr Earl---not all Safeway/Vons/Pavilions employees knew about the Safeway/Giants connection. Now Bill Neukom is the managing GP and Sue Burns death this season, it's a little less connected.

Victor said...

Love the little details.