the “bag lady” on the bench…

When we were in Texas a few years ago I went to a “literary appreciation” lecture at one of the universities in Dallas.
Walking through the Laura Bush Gardens outside the university library I saw a woman sitting on a bench talking on a cell phone. On this university campus where everyone was perfectly dressed, and perfectly groomed with perfectly manicured nails, their hair teased to perfection, I felt “shabby” in my button down shirt, blue jeans, and running shoes, but this woman was so obviously out-of-place I stopped and stared. She wore a long, washed-out, clingy “tee-shirt dress”, the kind people wear over their swimsuit to the beach, but the slits at the side were so high they showed her underwear, the fabric was so tight that her belly was bulging every which way (plus she wasn’t wearing a bra…oh dear) and her long, frizzy hair, though tied in a pony tail, hadn’t been brushed in so long, it looked like a bird’s nest.
She saw me staring, so I smiled at her, so she smiled back, with a mouth full of rotten teeth. Poor thing, life ain’t fair.
I walked away wondering whether someone like that could ever manage to get dental treatment in this country, and how a homeless woman could afford to own a cell phone.
I had difficulty locating the room where the lecture was to be held, but when I asked for directions the students couldn’t understand my accent, and either just stared at me or said “Huh..?”
Why can’t Southern folks can’t understand me, I speak English, don’t I? Whenever I’d go to eatZi’s, our favorite bakery in Dallas to buy a loaf of their delicious “Herb” bread, the woman serving me would say, “We don’t sell that kind of bread.”  I’d have to go round the counter and point to it. “Oh you want the Herb bread?” she’d say. “Yes,” I’d say, “That’s what I said, “Herb bread,” and she’d look at me as if I were a lunatic.
That night on the campus I went up and down the four flights of stairs a couple of times searching for the room, slowly but surely becoming more and more irritated by the minute. I’d given up my search and was on my way home when, by chance, I found the correct room: it was downstairs, right next to the front entrance. Duh!
The lecture had started when I finally walked in, hot, sweaty and bothered from running up and down the stairs.  I was surprised to see that the bag lady from the bench – still wearing the same “tee-shirt thingie“, her hair still unbrushed – was the visiting lecturer from “Noo Yawk“.
She gave really a good lecture.

Degas sculptures at a museum in Pasadena


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26 Responses to the “bag lady” on the bench…

  1. souldipper says:

    That was a close call, Rosie. I remember watching an incredibly gorgeous woman eating in a hotel cafe. She used cutlery every which way, chewed with her mouth open, spat food as she talked with a full mouth, picked her ear during the meal… Her manners in no way matched who she presented. She ended up being one of the government officials with whom I had to meet on behalf of my School Board.

    The Degas sculptures remind me of figure skaters without skates.

    • dearrosie says:

      Hi Amy,
      Thankfully I’ve never seen someone cleaning her ear at a restaurant – pooh. How did you maintain your dignity when you discovered she was one of the government officials?

      I also think the Degas figures look like they’re skating…

  2. magsx2 says:

    It reminds me of a friend of mine that works in real estate. One day theis really rough guy walked in, very unkept and no shirt whatsoever. Anyway my friend went out back and everyone seemed to disappear, the boss wanted to know what was going on. To cut a long story short, the boss found out he was actually looking to buy a house, unite whatever, anyway at the end of the day, he had brought 4 houses outright as an investment.
    The boss then of course got all the commision. 😀 You just never know, who some people are.

    • dearrosie says:

      Hi Mags,
      That’s a great story especially that the boss got all the commission. It reminds me of my friend who worked at a clothing store on Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills. She’d often serve people who looked like bag ladies and think what a waste of time especially when the person would say “I won’t buy anything today. I’ll send my assistant to pick up the stuff tomorrow” Next day the assistant would arrive in a huge car with a chauffeur…

  3. Cindy says:

    I knew right off that she was an eccentric, but have to wonder why she let her teeth go to such extremes. Degas sculptures are considered ‘sentimental’ my many, but they have such a special place in my heart 🙂

    • dearrosie says:

      Cindy, I really don’t understand why someone would let her teeth get so bad. I hope she had them fixed with the money she earned giving the lecture.

      The museum in Pasadena has many of the little Degas sculptures including a copy of “The Little Ballerina”. I love them.

  4. Sybil says:

    I’m with Cindy. Eccentricity is fine, but clearly she could afford dental care … hmmmm …

  5. I would delight in being as eccentric as that woman some day, and having people make the same mistake!

  6. This makes me think how surprised people are when my Southern accent can switch to Spanish. “But you don’t look it,” folks say when they realize I am not all they think I am. What is “it” and why the “but”? I come by it honestly born in Mexico. Love this post.

    • dearrosie says:

      Hi Georgette,
      It must be lots of fun to start talking in your Southern accent and then without taking a breath, carry on in fluent Spanish.

      I’d also like to know what a Mexican’s supposed to look like, I don’t even know what an American’s supposed to look like.

  7. jane tims says:

    Hi Rosie. Funny story. You never know for sure…. Jane

  8. Priya says:

    Did she have an artiste’s license? It guarantees almost any liberty, you know. That said, I suppose I’d appear too unkempt myself in most situations; but the teeth will not disappoint, I assure you.

    • dearrosie says:

      Hi Priya,
      Do you think she was a comedienne? I can imagine Woopie Goldberg doing something like that… Because really even if you were going to the gym and were wearing sweat pants and an old tee-shirt, you would’ve BRUSHED your hair!

  9. shoreacres says:

    Funny thing is, I’m often the bag lady in such situations. Working on the docks at yacht clubs can lead to amusing stories – and sometimes to truly hilarious ones.

    They can cut several ways. When I first began working on boats, people would stare at me when I opened my mouth and produced complete sentences, occasionally with words of more than one syllable. An educated boat worker? Who knew?

    And sometimes, I never got a chance to talk. I was walking down the pier one afternoon when a well-dressed woman and her little girl came toward me. She was bejeweled and daughter was dainty. I was covered with sawdust and wearing a tee. As we passed and smiled, Little Girl said, “Mommy, does she belong here?” “Oh, honey,” Mommy said. “I really don’t think so.”

    Shoot. And I even go to the dentist!

    • dearrosie says:

      Hi Linda,
      I love your boat stories. I get the same reaction when I open my mouth at my cash register and produce complete sentences. Good lord, here’s an educated cashier. They should hang me on the wall of the museum.

      “Does she belong here?” is priceless. It must’ve been something like “culture shock” for the little princes to see an un-bejeweled female dressed in jeans, and tee-shirt walking around covered with sawdust. (I can only imagine what YOUR hair looked like :D)

  10. Do any of us “belong” here? Well I guess we all do, by virtue of the fact that we ARE here. It’s a great philosophic and spiritual question you raise, Rosie!

    • dearrosie says:

      Hi Dinah,
      We dress in a certain manner and brush our hair and see the dentist and that’s how we “belong”. If you were to invited to give a lecture in Dallas wouldn’t you dress in a professional looking outfit?? And brush your hair?

  11. Val says:

    Sounds like she had a dental phobia. Or maybe her dentist had sighed and said “I’m not going in that mouth, no way!” 😉

    I’ve known people like that. Heck, up to a point, I am like that! (Though the teeth are not that bad and the ones that are, are due to a combination of genes and useless dentists here. I have a good one now.) That said, I plead “artist”.

    • dearrosie says:

      Hello Val,
      I think you’re right that she most probably had a dental phobia. Or maybe her mother had one and passed it onto her.

      Heck Val, I don’t think you’re like that. I’ve seen a video of you sitting in your house – I think you were in your bedroom – and you weren’t wearing a skin tight tee-shirt and your hair was brushed. I rest my case.

  12. Val says:

    It’s a large house in a rural area, but no – not a farm house.

    • dearrosie says:

      It sounds idyllic. You’re surrounded by all that wildlife, and green fields which you don’t have to look after, so you can just sit back sip tea, and photograph it all

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