• Vol. 10
  • Chapter 09


I did a double take when I first saw her; she looked so much like Dame Edna – tall, with coiffed silver hair, and butterfly glasses. But the wavering smile, the hesitant gaze, and the timorous manner were at odds with the imposing stature. From my hot dog cart parked near the same intersection every day, it was easy enough to notice patterns, schedules, and human foibles in the lull between mealtimes, and she was a regular.

With a poppy-hued umbrella, startlingly noticeable Pepto-Bismol jacket, and low-heeled pumps, she held onto her shopping bag and her old-fashioned purse with a death grip, as if they anchored her to the street. In a busy downtown, where bustling, dodging, and striding were the standard forms of motion, she would always appear at the corner at the same time, falling back on habit, but convinced that she was not doing it right. Amid the cacophony of horns, the construction zone signs, and the smell of baking asphalt, she was an anachronism.

One day, I saw her step off the sidewalk and tentatively approach a car that was waiting to make a turn, bending down to talk to the driver. It was a model of automobile in perfect keeping with the lady’s dress, from a time of cheap gas, when Detroit ruled the world. After a brief conversation, she shook her head, stepped back, turned, and walked away. I could see unshed tears brimming in her eyes.

In many ways, even in the anonymity of an urban concrete jungle, there is a strange intimacy among regulars. From talking to other people in the neighborhood, I found out that she lived alone, her spouse had died some years ago, and she had recently been diagnosed with dementia. The doorman at her building told me that this lady went to the street corner daily, expecting to be picked up and taken to meet her husband. She returned devastated, convinced that he had forgotten her.



One day, she stepped up to the same vehicle, nodded, and miraculously, the driver opened the door for her. As she sat down in the back seat, the cynic in me noted down the license plate, in case malicious intentions were at play. Fifteen minutes later, the car pulled up to the sidewalk, and she got out a different person, confident, beaming, as she bent down to thank the driver through the open window.

From then on, the same car would show up daily, take her for a quick spin and bring her back transformed. Her doorman told me that as she walked back into the building where she had lived for so long, she would tell him that she was so happy her husband had not forgotten. In this wordless vignette, I bore witness to a quotidian act of generosity and loving kindness so unconditional that while the main actors stayed anonymous, the audience was changed unalterably for the better.