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Thursday, April 23, 2009

Kindness gives me the Giggles

I don't know what was in the air today but it made my heart swell with happiness, giddiness, and genuine kindness. You'd think with the weather cooling quite a bit today, a far departure from the past couple of days, that my kindness would've taken place yesterday instead. But, nope, the gusts of winds did not do anything to hamper my day. I rather enjoyed it!

I started out with a startled jolt at 7:30am and then, while laying on my bed for a few minutes, wondered why on earth I was awake so early when I had another hour of scheduled sleeping. I finally got out of bed at 9:00am and rushed to get ready for babysitting this morning. I must say, it's been such a pleasant work day today. And in such a long time!

I really love the two girls I babysit on Wednesdays but sometimes -- well, most times -- they can be quite a handful. If one isn't a sourpuss then the other one is! And, let's face it, I haven't had that much experience monitoring two young children. So it is always an educational day at this household. But today, of all days, turned out to be such a pleasant and relaxing day. Rather than dragging me to-and-fro from game to game, we spent half the time just sitting on the elder girl's bed reading Laura Ingalls Wilder's "Little House on the Prairie". (I must admit, I've never read the book before! But have heard much about it, mostly from my former art teacher Sarah.)

After babysitting I decided it was too nice a day to waste by going back home right away. So... with my leisure time I decided to hop around from thrift store to thrift store in the hunt for some good apparel treasures. And boy did I return home with some!

Before I get to that, I did want to share the strange swell of kindness I experienced today. So many pleasant experiences in one day! First off, I was still reeling from the high I experienced after finally getting a customer representative from Southwest Airlines to reinstate my "expired" points so that I could get my free plane ticket. It was such a distressing experience that the good feelings I received from solving that problem was able to last me for quite a few days. And I'm still grinning.

Drawing upon that happiness and sense of content, while I was on the 43 bus on my way to the first thrift store -- the Crossroads on Irving Street -- an older gentleman in a wheelchair talked to me. He didn't look particularly clean and his clothes seemed rather raggedy, not that it bothered me. He tried to talk to a girl who sat near me reading a comic book; she never bothered to look up or respond to his inquiry about what she was reading. He talked to me instead after a long pause and I felt comfortable enough responding. It was so spontaneous. I'm usually quite apprehensive about speaking to strangers on the bus. I can easily strike up a conversation with a sales associate while shopping, or feeling the comraderie with fellow lost tourists staring up at a map, but on buses and trains, I like to keep to myself.

Anyway, it was mostly small talk and the bus engine was so loud I couldn't hear half of what he said. I remember that he was taking two classes at City College -- Cultural Anthropologie and Mandarin Chinese. Apparently he had just completed a midterm for his cult. anthro. class and he felt pretty confident about it, which seemed to be a surprise for him. He mentioned the difficulties of nailing down the tones for Mandarin; it took him one and a half years. It was very general talk but it made me so proud of myself for responding to him and just being my pleasant self (which, actually, isn't all too natural for me). I don't know. It just made me happy to know I didn't ignore this fellow who only wanted to converse with someone on the bus. I only mentioned his appearance because usually that's the first thing we notice and it usually determines whether or not we respond to a particular person. His disability and his gruff looks were not in his favor, except today.

I finally arrived at my first store and found a nice purple purse to purchase. I was browsing through a rack of skirts -- my sister wanted to purchase one for a baby red egg party -- when a kind old woman (grandmother) asked me if I thought the pair of shoes she was holding up was worth the purchase. She turned the shoes upside-down so I could see the price sticker. $27.xx for a pair of gently used Nike's. Now, we all know Nike isn't well known for their particularly admirable business practices. Mostly because they don't have any admirable business practices. BUT - they do know how to make quality athletic shoes. So, I told the woman that was a good deal. OH! - the fun part is we spoke in Chinese. At some point we moved from Cantonese to Toisanese. I'm more comfortable in Toisanese and as soon as I realized she also spoke it I switched my language, or, er, dialect.

She asked if there would be a discount and I said no, but that I had a birthday discount I hadn't used and she could have it. So we went up to the counter and I gave her my discount. I had saved it for a month in case I found something to purchase (which later I did, at another store), but I just felt like giving and sharing today. (I know! What am I breathing in today?! Happy dust?!?) She was very grateful and kept thanking me. I'm not very good at accepting kindness so I just shrugged it off and told her it was no problem. We talked for another five minutes outside the door. I hadn't realized that she waited for me while I made my purchase. That was nice of her. She talked about her children and grandchildren and how none of them really spoke Chinese and how my Chinese was very good. She also asked if I was married but I exclaimed, "Married?! I'm only 22! Only 22! Why would I be married already?" She just said, "Why not? It's just the right age." Maybe in her time I thought. Maybe in her time.

It was just a pleasant and lovely and unexpected encounter. It's been a while since I've assisted any Chinese old ladies, but it's always such a joy when I do. I also love it when they compliment on my Chinese speaking abilities. I have major issues with Mandarin and Cantonese, but when it comes to Toisanese, I can kill. For an American-born Chinese person at least.

We finally departed and I kept looking back to see where she went. She said she was going to take the N-Judah across the street. I had to catch the 43 up the block. But I kept turning back to see if I could still see her. But I couldn't find her. Oh well. It's a shame I'll probably never see her again. Or recognize her for that matter. 3 out 4 of my grandparents are still alive but I don't generally get to enjoy this type of small talk anymore. It was nice to speak to a grandmotherly person. Maybe that's why I was so ready and willing to share my discount. She felt like family I guess. I don't know. Something was in the air for sure.

I went to my second thrift store of the day and found a nice blousy-cardigan. My stay in the Haight/Ashbury area was short. Didn't feel like wandering through the street. Plus, it got cold all of a sudden.

I decided to catch the 71 bus all the way downtown and enjoyed my stay there. I'm always downtown so it does get old sometimes. But there are so many stores there that I still have much to discover. I didn't find anything discounted enough to suit my at-the-moment feelings, so I decided to try and catch the 38L to a third thrift store. On the way to the bus stop an African-American woman, who was using her cell phone, dropped what looked to be a dollar-bill on the ground and I picked it up and gave it back to her. I tried to call her first but despite being only one feet away she didn't hear me. Or maybe she didn't know I was speaking to her. I had to tap on her shoulders, which I hate to do, and I gave her a slight startle. She thanked me and I returned with "no problem" and went on my way. It was just a dollar, I could've kept it and probably wouldn't feel too guilty and yet I was so quick to give it back to her. I really don't know what was going on today.

Was I just nice to the first guy because of my indoctrination to the plight of the disabled? Was I only friendly with the grandmother because she reminded me of what I missed of my own grandmothers? And was I so quick to return a dropped dollar bill because it wasn't a bigger bill? Is the altruism I felt today completely genuine or is it slightly affected by the fact that I am socialized to sympathize with someone in a wheelchair or the elderly? I can't say yes or no, but I have to admit, it was a grand day and I wouldn't trade it for a million bucks.

But back to my apparel finds... I bought a lovely small crocheted purple satchel purse for $10. It looks clean for something that is used and old. I also bought a blousy-cardigan from Splendid in a raspberry-magenta color for $22 (I received 10% off today for not taking a plastic bag to celebrate earth day, though I do that all the time anyway). I was on the hunt for clothing from Splendid, Michael Stars, C&C California, Rebecca Beeson, etc. It didn't prove super fruitful but I did see a few nice things in several thrift stores. Just wasn't enough to convince me to buy 'em all. I like these brands because they're made in the US of A (though that doesn't mean it's entirely sweatshop-free) and generally all-cotton. Good quality cotton too. I'm talking Pima Cotton and Supima Cotton. Wished there were clothing made from Egyptian cotton. And I wouldn't mind more clothing made from Bamboo. Anyhow, have been on the look out for cotton dresses especially because of the expected hot, hot, HOT weather in China this June-July and need the breathability that comes with cotton fibers. My greatest find was a pair of gold metallic cutout flats from Corso Como (made in brazil) at the Goodwill store on Fillmore Street. They only cost me $4.49 when they retail for almost $200! I have the exact same pair in a green and that still cost me somewhere in the ball park of $30-$50 after discounts. So... that was a steal. Clearly, somebody there didn't know their shoe brands because I saw shoes in worse condition with a lower brand name priced at $14.99. Mm-hmm. Goodwill could really use my brand-savvy recognition skills. Haha. Words from a true shopaholic. :/

To end the day, do something nice for someone else just because. You never know what it might bring to another person's day and at the very least your own kindness will bring you all sorts of surprises about yourself. Maybe even the giggles.