I was driving the other day and at a stoplight looked around at my fellow people on the street. I saw a woman talking on a cell phone and walking, not that weird. She was wearing a denim dress that seemed modern. She was wearing sandals, fashionable, not Teva’s or shoes made of popsicle sticks. She had nice fingernails, I could see that they were longer than short and polished a light color. She had lipstick on and a smile on her face as she talked on her cell phone. She had a normal hair do. It was long and neatly combed.
But, she was wearing a santa claus hat. Not a trucker hat with an image of our friend Santa. In ninety degree heat and a sky hazey with pollution above her – she wore a red, felt, pointy Santa hat with a fluffy cotton ball on the end. It was a very official hat, as though Santa gave it to her himself, or maybe she has an in with one of his elves. I am aware of the fact that they work all year and since we are only six months out until Christmas I’m assuming it’s the beginning of crunch time. Maybe an elf was visting her and had to get back to the Pole and left his hat behind. Or he gave it to her as a souvenir.
I thought to myself, “Everything else about her seems so normal.” And then when I realized that the light would rotate red, green, yellow, at least three more times before I could make my left turn, I indulged in a little movie in my mind.
I imagined that I somehow met this woman in a non-creepy situation, maybe we had a mutual friend, maybe we struck up a conversation in a long line at the Gap about how great their 40ff summer sale is. But throughout all of her pleasantries she had the santa hat on. What concessions would I make for her because I never trust my intitial instincts when I meet someone who is crazy? Well, she could be in a play and wants to be in character, maybe she lost a bet with a friend and the loser had to unapologetically where a Santa Claus hat.
I feel like anyone embarking on a newfound friendship with her, has a glaring warning sign. Normally you don’t see the warning signs in people. Six months go by and you realize that your good friend or something, is a kleptomaniac or someone who likes to be pissed on.
This woman blatantly had a hat on that screamed, “I’m crazy. Don’t pick me, for anything.” And somehow I refused to believe it. I insisted to myself that her hat must have a logic to it.
By the time my light turned I broke off my imaginary friendship with this woman. I told her that I’m sure she’s just lovely but if she can’t reveal why she is normal except for this hat than I can’t take the risk – I already have scienologists hounding me to hang out with them – and I thought they were normal at first too. Had I had a few more light changes to sit there, maybe I would have seen that her cell phone was actually a buritto.
Then recently I was walking down Sunset Blvd. (not the strip – the shitty end that I live on.) and I saw a man sitting on the ground – in a perfectly nice sort of sportsgear type outfit, sipping something through a straw out of a plastic coffee tumbler, laughing to himself. Giggling, covering his mouth with his sleeve. I thought, “What a weirdo.” Then my urge to have a correct instinct about someone who could harm me was overtaken by my weird save-the-world-mind. “Jen, why can’t someone sit on the ground? Not everyone is afraid of bugs as you are. And look, he’s not laughing out loud, he’s stiffling a giggle. Remember when you couldn’t stop laughing about the time your friend leaned over a beer bottle and hit his tooth? You weren’t always laughing at the ‘right time.'”
I walked closer and the man started growling. He said, “Gimme change.” I paused, thinking still, maybe he meant regime change, political change, we could all use that. And I stood there. “I want fifty cents honey.” Then he began talking to his sleeve. His sleeve said something so funny and he giggled. I said, “I don’t have my wallet on me.” He said, “Okay okay okay.” (to his sleeve) and then he said to me, “I like your hair like that. All up and stuff. ” I walked away and he shouted, “Feel the breeze!” And then I heard hysterical laughter. I turned back around and he was pounding the ground with his fist.