Day 1 in Monterey was sunny and gorgeous, the ocean a deep turquoise. Day 2 the ocean was silver gray with clouds overhead. Day 1 felt warm; Day 2 felt cold, although the temperature might have only changed five degrees, 61 and 56.
Day 1 I got here about 1:00, unloaded the car, picked up a few dozen pine cones, ate some food and headed out to my favorite thrift store, which would close at 3:30. It was going on 3:00.
I made a big pile of stuff while another couple did the same. They were newbies and didn’t know that couldn’t pay with plastic. The woman was disappointed, since her ATM card was in their car, several blocks away.
“We won’t make it back in time,” she said.
I was a little relieved that I didn’t have to wait while the elderly man rang them up. The couple left, complaining about the no credit card rule, and I chatted with the old British guy about this and that. He knows me. I come in twice a month, and he’s usually there.
After that, I went to the St, Vincent de Paul, and the long-haired bearded guy behind the counter told me that they were under new management, and that the other guy and his daughter had been fired.
“He says he’s retired, but he’s not,” the hippie guy said.
I knew he wanted to talk about it, but I was on a mission. The 3rd thrift store would close soon, and I wanted to get over there.
Debra runs the animal benefit shop, and she sometimes closes up earlier than 4:30. When I got there, she asked me what I’d been up to, and I told her about the big homeless drive I’d done back in the Bay Area. A woman my age came up to us and said that she was homeless.
“What did you do?” she asked me.
Long story short, we had a nice if not awkward, conversation about being homeless, and she vented about how she has never had a break. She continued to tell me about all the rich guys she has dated, but how she never really clicked with any of them. She explained how she lives in her van and sells vintage clothing at the flea market and how last weekend she had netted $15.00 after her $25.00 charge to rent her space.
I left wondering what I should’ve/could’ve done for her. I decided she had wanted to be heard.
Day 2, I went to Carmel and did the rounds down there, five thrift stores in a one-block radius. Then I headed to the cancer benefit shop where an older customer had misplaced the bracelet she was trying to buy. The two Botoxed/plastic-surgeried women behind the counter didn’t seem to know what had happened to it. One of the women took my stuff to ring up and rolled her eyes at me.
“I guess I’ll be old someday, too.”
When I didn’t say anything, she said, “I guess I’m already old.”
I was polite and kept my opinion to myself. Then I bought some bananas and yams next door at Lucky’s and headed to the Goodwill.
In the children’s aisle, I ran into the homeless woman from the day before.
“What are you doing, buying more stuff to donate?” she said.
I could tell from her tone of voice that she was in a different mood today. Then I made the mistake of telling her too much, saying I needed to do yard work before the rain.
“I thought you lived in the Bay Area!” she said. “You have a house here, too? Oh, you’re one of those rich ladies, a rich lady who shops at thrift stores even though you have all kinds of money!”
“It’s not like that,” I said.
“I was just being nice yesterday!” she said.
As she stomped off, still ranting about rich ladies with two houses, I thought, Wow. This is so awkward. I don’t know what to say. So I said nothing.
She is right. I do have two houses. And to her, I look incredibly rich. The fact is that I am house rich and cash poor. I don’t go on vacations except to Monterey. I choose to use the money to keep my little beach house that I inherited in the divorce, along with the mortgage and the property taxes.
If it weren’t for my sister’s long-term healthcare policy, she would be up a creek without a paddle. I wouldn’t be able to help her with her huge monthly board and care costs.
What a difference between sunny Day 1 and the decidedly grumpy Day 2.
I was smart and avoided the homeless woman, same age and same name, as I paid for my pile of 53 pieces of silver-plate cutlery for $10.00 since it was Senior Day (and the boys’ shirts) and wondered, why isn’t she selling silver at the flea market?
Believe me, I was afraid to suggest it to her.