Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Would This Be a Bad Time to Talk to You About the Heifer Project?

I’m nearly done with my North Oakland survey. I’ve already covered the roughest parts of this ’hood, and now my last two walks have taken me into Rockridge, which is actually one of the tonier parts of the city. Nevertheless, I still managed to have an unpleasant interaction with some of the locals.

The two people who accosted me didn’t have any of the hallmarks of what I’ve come to recognize as North Oakland trouble. They weren’t both conspicuously wearing the same colors. They weren’t working on cars, or flagging down slow-cruising automobiles. They weren’t shaking hands at idiosyncratic intervals with people they’d just met, and they weren’t waving around money clips.

This was worse: These two, a man and a woman who both looked as though they need to seriously consider re-admitting fish, or at least dairy into their diets, were loitering outside a pet food boutique. They had clipboards and perky attitudes, and they were clearly after my money. Well, my charitable donation, anyway. I could just tell that if I said (truthfully) that I didn’t have any cash on me, they would steal something even more precious—my time—and probably shake me down for a signature on a petition, as well.

When the confrontation went down, it was far weirder than I imagined it would be. They both stepped out into the middle of the sidewalk, blocking my way. I had headphones on, but I could see that the woman appeared to be gesticulating grandly, and perhaps actually singing. When I got closer, I could hear that she was chortling in a faux-operatic voice, “YOUUUUU have the power to save WHAAAALES!”

Now, I’m not going to say I am blameless in what happened next. But I will say, in my own defense, something that I really thought everyone knew already, which is that it’s a really bad idea to bring up the subject of whales with overweight people.

Honestly, I can’t believe I even have to say this, but if you ever see a person of heft huffing and puffing her way down the street, and she’s minding her own business, just trying to keep her heart rate in the zone her trainer recommended (because, see, she’s working on the situation), please don’t get in her way. And whatever you do, do not invoke the image of an enormous mammal too ungainly to survive on land. Because believe me, this woman already has blubber on her mind, and now she knows that you do, too.

I didn’t really have time to explain about the heart rate needing to stay up, so I just barked that I needed to keep going, and dodged around them, in a manner that was perhaps a little more brusque than was called for. As I passed, I could see the two of them exchange an eye-rolling glance at each other, and I heard them snicker a little, as if to mockingly say, “Well, I guess Miss Thing is too busy for the whales today.”

Now enraged at these bright-eyed and bushy-tailed creatures, both 20 years younger and 30 pounds lighter than myself, I turned around and muttered, “I can hear you, you know!” And by “muttered,” I mean, “yelled at the top of my lungs,” because I was still listening to music and honestly could not hear anything well, least of all myself. And then I stormed off, because what else can you do when you’ve just created an almost entirely unnecessary scene in the middle of an upscale shopping district four days before Christmas?

All this is a fairly long way of explaining that I’m somewhat relieved to have the meanest streets of North Oakland behind me, but not as relieved as you might think. Because at least the drug dealers don’t make me feel fat and utterly depleted of my youthful idealism.


Don Clausing said...

That was a good one, Nicole. And I'm glad you're done with North Oakland, although I'm still trying to figure out what those two young men where doing introducing themselves to everyone. Mormons, maybe?

Nicole said...

Dime-bag dealing Mormons. Only in Oakland.