Mirror Image Edutainment, Alan John Mayer
Monday Morning 7:57 No Appointment at the Section 8 Office was the original title to this post, but after thinking it over, this must be Love or Fear, and I am still not done editing it.
Is fear holding me back?
Probably. We always have a choice to choose one or the other, love or fear. How long has it been now since I learned this in self-help workshops, ages ago, and yet I haven’t quite internalized it; yet. Wisdom is not just understanding, but applying. I’m working on this, please be patient as I turn myself into a writer before your very eyes.
This morning I had an opportunity to put God to the test, so to speak.
I got into my car, with the bulb failure and check engine lights to greet me all aglow. At least I have a full tank of gas, I thought, as I drove off to the Section 8 office, expecting to see a long line of applicants who, like I, during the holidays, would have made several attempts to infiltrate them with requests. This time I’m going to park in the front parking lot, I tell myself, rather than walk down the two hundred foot long hallway to the receptionist’s desk. Oops, the five spaces to the south have been crossed off.
NO PARKING HERE.
The words on the concrete jump out at me. The three spaces to the north, though handicapped, are all marked reserved, each for a certain suite, and there are two more spaces marked off NO PARKING. I back out of the awkwardly planned trapezoid lot, thinking, “Welcome to the Section 8 office —
“We’re no worse than anybody else.”
I maneuver into the narrow driveway leading to the back of the building, only to be blocked by a huge trash truck driver who decides he wants to turn right onto Van Nuys Blvd Blvd. ahead of me; he cuts me off. “Let me in,” I say, holding my arm up in the air expecting him to read my sign language. Nobody home.
Aah, the Valley, millions of lives, dozens of stories.
I park the car. As I get out, I think of how cute my Pokey little puppy was, sitting on the carpet in my dining room, obeying my “stay” command, with the cat teasing him with his wand, like this:
“Okay,” I said, as I gently shut the door in his face. I don’t want him to think he has to stay on the rug all day, until I return. I can’t afford to pay a shrink for the both of us. But by ‘okay,’ Pokey understands ‘okay, Pokey little puppy, come along with me and let’s spend the day at the park.’ To see more of Pokey and his two toilet trained cats, link onto UTube: Meck&Miao and Pokey, or just google it. I suggest Homecoming, the documentation of the day the cats met the puppy.
As I reached for the door to the Section 8 building, I was immediately confronted by a sign:
“DO NOT PARK IN PARKING LOT.
STREET PARKING ONLY.
NO SECTION 8 PARKING.
YOUR VEHICLE WILL BE TOWED.
Welcome to our building, I thought, now I have to move the car. No you don’t, a voice spoke. Where is this voice coming from? I thought. I went within. Remember how embarrassed you were to get handicap plates? Well, this is one of those moments it pays off, you can be proud; but that’s a sin. Stay away, Satan. That cute young parking attendant in West Hollywood the other day, the one who took such a liking to my chick/dude magnet, Pokey), said I could park in any lot and not get towed. Your Honor, I let my ego rest.
I walked down the two hundred foot long hall, longer than any bowling lane I’ve ever scored at. Not one other client here, I thought. Great; either I’ll get in and out quickly, or they are going to tell me to come back to an appointment. As I approach, I see the security guard hunched over his table, five feet before the Section 8 office door, which he guards from his post at the front entrance. I enter the silent office, and approach the receptionist’s desk, thinking,
HAPPY HOLIDAYS! Rosa the receptionist is here. She looks Cuban, even though she’s blonde (every three weeks). She’s cute, about twenty. I remember the last time I saw her, she was telling a client, “I’m sorry. I don’t speak Spanish.”
¿Quién és, esa muchacha?”
* A blonde Cuban girl who doesn’t speak la raza???
* A Section 8 worker who does not speak our official State tongue?
It was so silent, I could hear the clock on the wall tick. “Seven-fifty-seven,” it said. A sudden surge of pride took over me, for keeping my commitment to myself, for having shown up early. Stay away from pride, I heard a voice say. Rosa stopped chatting with her colleague, and prepared to acknowledge me. I was about to say, “good morning,” when the ‘Security’ guard came up from behind, drawn to me like dogs to a hydrant. His purpose is to stand at the front door over his collapsible card table, assuring the world remains free of terrorists, who at any moment, might possibly attack his domain.
I feel so much more secure, knowing my world is protected from impending disaster.
He’s a big bull of a man. With his tall cap, he towers over me by two inches. His chest alone must weigh a hundred pounds. He’s black as the night, with two big black frying pans for eyes, and the scent of White Rain Body Wash for Men fills the air. It’s the cool ocean wave breeze, the kind I like. I have to admit; I even find it sexy. I must be one of the few whose ultimate fantasy is a date with Mr. Clean, Meister Propre, as he is known in Europe. I want to tell the guard how good he smells, but Fear reminds me he has the power to haul me off to jail. Been there, done that, not interested in repeating mistakes. My innocent compliment could easily be twisted into something else; truth is stranger than fiction. So I remain quiet. I can always tell him tomorrow; he knows he smells good without my needing to tell him. Perhaps he doesn’t need the same validation I do; probably has a wife and kids at home for that.
So I look around. Other than Meister Propre, Rosa the receptionist, and Alan le Client with his simple request, there was not a soul in sight. “You start over here,” barks the guard. I stepped the five feet back, toward his card table. “You start over here,” he repeats. Is this man serious? I wonder. I look around at the empty lobby and hallway. “The last two times I was here no one called me over,–” I said, as he interrupted me.
“You start over here,” he reaffirms, this time with a dose of aggressive authority. He takes a stance in front of me; like a linebacker getting into some football position I never did understand, nor care to. I stood there, with him looking down at me from sixteen inches away, stunned, overpowered by the scent of the ocean breeze.
For more on Pokey and his two toilet trained pet cats, google Meck&Miao. Pokey will follow.
LOVE OR FEAR? I asked myself, thinking of my cats and dog at home, probably chasing each other, or without me there to say, “Pokey get off the cat”, he’s probably humping one of them. He is after all,
“I got it” I told the guard, “last time I was here, the guards were engaged in conversation,” I said, speaking honestly, a trait I need to curtail. He looked into my eyes. “I guess that’s why I wasn’t stopped” I added. Stepping the five feet into his lair, I held my arms out to the side, and looked over at his magic wand, lying on his table. I was expecting him to wave it all over my body with fairy dust. I need to satisfy his need to know I have no bombs taped to my body; that I am not a threat to his position, or to others. He looked at me, as if I was being a smart ass. It isn’t going to help if I tell him I live with PTSD, I thought. If you have to say anything, shut up!
“We’re closed,” he said.
I let my arms drop.
I had dropped by this office four times during the holidays, each time to find it closed. There was a sign taped to the door, along with three other signs, but it was too small for me to want to look for my glasses to read; go back to the car, return, too much. As government office, I assumed they would be closed all holidays and then some, (and I wish everyone home with family for the holidays), but Section 8 made it simple; they just closed down from the 23rd through the 3rd. On Friday, the third of January, I called twice. On both occasions, after listening to the long outgoing message, finally, I was greeted by a friendly voice.
“This message box is full, and cannot take any more messages.”
I felt anxious, standing opposite this big bull of a man with the one hundred pound barrel chest who, through his glasses, looked as though he was about to roll over me like a steamroller leveling newly laid asphalt. But that cool white rain scent belied the man’s tough demeanor. Not only his lair smelled like White Rain for Men, the whole hall did. I took a breath, and looked him in the eyes. He’s a child of God, a voice reminded me, as I opened my mouth.
“God be with you,”
I said, as I turned, and made my way out. But when do they open? a voice asked. Even though you just parted on a good note, go back and ask the man. You know he won’t let you past to ask Rosa the receptionist, but you can ask him. No sense in wasting more time. Just as I reached for the handle, the door opened, and he appeared again, as if he knew I was coming back in.
“When do you open?” I asked, politely.
“We’re open right now,” he said. Visions of my experience in 1986, in the East German Democratic Republic popped into my head. This is as insane as the time I went into the flagship restaurant in East Berlin with my doctor friends, the restaurant was completely empty. There was not a customer in sight; every table had a reserved sign on it. My East German friends were told individually there were no tables available, until I approached, wearing my red jeans, and red Reebok sneakers, and suddenly, there was a table available (for me, with D. Marks in my pocket.)
“Ich komme gleich zurück”
I told the waiter, as I went back to the lobby to get my friends. I returned, and we sat down at one of their reserved tables for what turned out to be a most unsatisfying meager meal. Thank God the East German Democratic Republic exists now only in history books. Will we learn from our failures? It would seem Europe has; particularly speaking of my German cousins. Hope for mother is gone, but there is a young generation who like me, is nothing like their ancestors.
“May I come in now?” I asked the bull, looking into his frying pan eyes for compassion.
“Do you have an appointment?” he asked.
“No, but I am here upon my doctor’s orders, who told me to show up early Monday morning, and here I am. I need only to get my papers ‘ported,’ and sent to the county.” He looked at me, expressionless. “If you would like, I can call my doctor right now” I said. “He will verify this.”
“CAN’T YOU READ THE SIGN?” he barked, pointing to a stark white sheet of paper taped to the door by one who never learned how to use a measuring stick. “Of course I can read,” I said, mustering up all the politeness I could find, looking now at him as though he was a former student I had failed. I begin to read to post: “SECTION 8 OFFICE of Van Nuys, 6946 Van Nuys Blvd., Suite 100, Van Nuys, California, 91405. NOTICE: As of 11/11/2011, there will be no more walk in appointments granted. That was over a year ago,” I said.
I looked up to him. “All I need is my paperwork ported,” I said, thinking, this could be done today.
“You see that?” he said, “now go.
“Allow me to finish reading,” I said. “You asked me to read the sign, now let me read it, please. Walk-ins will be seen on Tuesdays and Thursdays only from 8:00 a.m. until 11:00 a.m..” I looked at the empty lobby then up at him, standing there, stiff as a board, his barrel chest puffed out, right before my face.
“You can’t be serious,” I said, looking into his eyes for a hint of compassion.
“You are serious,” I said, looking deeper.
“You are dead serious.” That was deep enough, I thought, as I stepped back.
“I will be back tomorrow morning at eight a.m., with a smile on my face, and bells on my toes,” I said, as I walked out to Van Nuys Blvd. It’s cold out, and noisy, I heard a voice say. Go back inside, and walk back down the two hundred yard dash to the back exit. I walked back in.
“May I at least walk back to my car?” I asked, stepping back inside. “I parked in the back lot. I should be safe with handicap plates?”
“Yes,” he said, looking down onto his table, straightening the papers on his clipboard.
“Thank you,” I said. “God be with you.”
I walked past his collapsible card table; I meant it. I want God to be with everyone; especially with me. As I passed the office, I looked in on Rosa. “See you tomorrow,” I said, with a smile, with dividends; she smiled back. I like her, I thought. No reason I can’t plant a seed of love.
Four minutes later, I was back at the Home. As is customary when I have left Pokey behind, I let him out to relieve himself, but today he had no interest in relieving himself. He ran straight for the car, got up on his hind legs, and danced around the car from door to door, for at least a minute, looking into the car, as if something were missing.
“Where is Steve?” he was saying. It’s Monday morning, and Pokey is expecting Steve to come over, as he usually does on Mondays. This is amazing. My dog is at first grade reading level, we haven’t even had the clock lesson yet, and yet he knows what time it is.
“Steve is not here,” I said, “not now.”
I watched Pokey dance till he gave up, came back to me in question. I opened the screen door. “Come in, Pokey,” I said, looking up at the clock. Of course Pokey knows what time it is; he peeked at the clock over the door as I opened it. It was six minutes after eight. I gotta write about these twelve minutes of my life, I thought, as I disrobed, got into bed, turned on my computer, and began the first draft of this post. Now, seven rewrites later, it may be readable. If it is, if you got anything at all from any post on this site, please
CLICK “I LIKE THIS”
and make me smile.
And so it is. Love or fear? Whatever the question; love is the answer. I did not permit myself to react to this man’s fear. I saw in the big black bully a man who wanted to run me over but couldn’t find a reason to, my thoughts were the seed of God, and I acted on that seed. I saw within him love, and I chose to react to that love. Rather than allow myself to be threatened, or to act out of fear, I chose not to react. Instead, I acted. In his eyes, I sensed the man could do nothing but surrender to the God in me.
The God in me bows before the God in you.
For a change, I acted out of God, a good step in the right direction to salvation. Suddenly that surge of pride came over me again, proud I had shown up, shown up early, and with God as my companion. Rather than to have re-acted out of my ego, I kept still within. Tomorrow morning at 8:00, I will re-appear, with a smile on my face, love in my heart, and bells on my toes; okay two out of three works for me.
Check tomorrow’s blog for an update on my developing love relationship with the big, black bull(y).