I was talking to a friend yesterday, and she remarked how interesting things seem to happen to me. Well, now, I don't know if I'd call them interesting, but they do put me into the category of "Magnet for the Absurd." Or as my co-workers used to say, "Oh, that's vintage Vonnie." I just seem to be at the wrong place at the wrong time or do the dumbest of things without even realizing it. I've been told my mind is in the clouds. Truth be told, my mind is working on a story and I'm not always aware of my surroundings--until it's too late.
Take the day a guy flashed me on my way to work. I'd eased my Thunderbird to the curb in front of a house, got out of the car and turned around to see
the man of said house--naked--standing at the open doorway, stroking himself. I quickly looked away, thinking nah, I didn't see what I thought I saw. So, just to make sure, I turned and took another gander. Sure enough, he was smiling and stroking, posing and pulling, grinning and grabbing...and just like him, I could go on and on with this. So. I squared my shoulders and hurried into work, told my supervisor what I saw and called the police. The phone conversation went something like this. "Ma'am, could you identify him?" And in all my air-headedness, I replied, "Oh yes! If he was naked from the waist down, I could spot him in an instant. I don't know if I ever got a good look at his face though." There was a long pause and I think I heard someone snickering. "Could you give me the address?" When I gave it to him, he sighed and said the guy had a history of exposing himself, but was seeing a court-appointed therapist. Well, lucky me to be there when he fell off the wagon--or out of his clothes.
Once I'd gotten my kids through college, a girlfriend and I took a Caribbean Cruise. Too bad my luggage didn't make it to the docks. There I was, stuck on a ship for seven days with no change of clothes. Having never traveled like that before, I was too naïve to pack my carry-on with more care. In it I'd crammed my camera, jewelry, make-up, curling iron, nightgown and several romance books. You know, essentials. Two weeks after I'd arrived home, my luggage did, too. It had gone to Rio de Janeiro.
The cruise ship was nice enough to give me a replacement suitcase and a stipend to spend on ship for clothes. Too bad the ship only stocked small sizes and I was most definitely NOT small. I bought men's t-shirts and shorts and was relegated to hand washing my one set of undies in the sink every night. Two evenings, cruisers were expected to wear evening gowns or tuxedoes to dinner. Guess who didn't pass dress code? Oh, and flying home to BWI airport from Miami, my new luggage was lost, too. It had gone to Texas. So, my luggage got lost coming and going. What are the chances of that?
Ah, but I'm getting ahead of myself. While on our cruise, the ship docked in Jamaica. I'd signed up for a day trip to Dunn's River Falls used in many movies, like James Bond's "Dr. No". We climbed the falls, the cold water spray a relief in the steamy heat of the island. Once I made it to the top, I ambled to a series of shacks where locals were hawking their wares. I spoke to a lady selling beads and joked with her about needing love beads since I'd been alone for eight years. Little did I know the man in the next hut was taking in my every word. He had wood carvings and I was intrigued, asking questions as he slowly led me into his hut. What kind of wood was he using? How long did it take him to carve this fish? Did he use the same size knife or tool for all his carvings? Next thing I knew he'd banded his arms around me and pulled me to him. He was fondling me--fondling me, mind you! "Take me to America with you. I'll make you a good man. I'll make love to you until you can't walk." The man was well over six-feet and so was his...so was his....oh, myyyy. I made a fist, put on my "angry Mother face" and growled, "Get your hands off me or I'll deck you." I must have startled him for his hold loosened. I turned and ran for the tour bus.
My sons chewed me out when I got home and told them the story. "Mother (it's always a bad sign when they call me that...kinda like a reverse of me calling them by their first and middle names), what were you thinking of when you went off on your own like that?"
I went off on my own in Berlin, too. Calvin was happily working on his book in a coffee shop, and I wanted to see more of the city. So I set off for parts unknown, taking pictures and enjoying the energy of Germany's capital.
On Rykestrasse, it was the policemen guarding what looked like a church that snagged my attention, and I walked over to what I later learned was Berlin's Ryke Street Synagogue. Nearly 70 years after it was badly desecrated and damaged in the 1938 Nazi pogrom known as Kristallnacht (Night of Broken Glass), Germany's largest synagogue had recently reopened after being restored to its original glory at a cost of 5 million euros (7 million American dollars). Neo-Nazis had made several bombing threats and thus the armed guards. I was unaware of all this as I neared the religious-like structure that chilly March morning.
An elderly couple were there, hugging and sobbing. I approached them to see if I could help. A silly idea, really, since I spoke no German. Luckily the man spoke broken English. His name was Abram and hers, Sarah. They were brother and sister, living in Israel. This had been their synagogue growing up until WWII when their entire family was taken to a concentration camp. Abram and Sarah, being the youngest, were the only two of their family to survive. They'd returned to Berlin to see their childhood synagogue, their family's place of worship, restored--and they were overcome with emotion. I can't recall what I said to them, but in an instant they both had their arms around me, and the three of us cried together, as if we were old friends reunited.
They held my hands and asked me to go inside with them. I declined, telling them I couldn't intrude on their personal reunion with their synagogue. Off they toddled, holding hands, their heads touching as they talked. I waited outside for a while before I entered.
I had to go through several metal detectors and a guard took me aside and spoke German to me. Not having a clue what he'd said, I smiled. Hey, it's the universal language. Right? Right! He repeated whatever he's said earlier. I shrugged. He called over a stern looking female guard. She looked me up and down and repeated what the male guard had said. I told her I was American and did not speak German. In an irritated huff, she motioned me on.
I approached the elevator, admiring it's carved wooden paneled doors and trying to decide how best to tour the building. I decided to start at the top and work my way down. I pressed the button for the top floor and felt I'd entered the hushed embrace of something very sacred. I found the door to a special meeting room and opened it, taking a couple pictures of the twelve ornately carved chairs around a table waxed to a bright shine. I moved on to the next closed door. Now most people would see a closed door as a sign, but not me. I opened the door to the shocked expression of a rabbi. He asked me what I was doing there...at least I think that's what he asked me. Did I mention I don't speak German? He took me by the arm and escorted me to the elevator. Once I stepped on it, he too said the same German phrase. I thought maybe he was asking me if I was Jewish. I told him I was a Baptist. He shook his head and leaned in to press the button for the third floor. That night when we had dinner with my step-son, Kelly asked what we'd done that day while he was at work. I told him about my experience at the synagogue. He asked what phrase they kept saying to me. I tried to repeat it, bungling it, of course. He evidently got the gist of it and gave me a correct version. I nodded and told him that was it. He nearly fell out of his chair laughing. They'd been telling me the zipper in my pants was open.
As my kids would tell you, I'm not fit to be left alone. In fact, Mike told Calvin not to let me go off on my own in Paris or Berlin when we go next month. To which Calvin said, "Why, when your mother has such wonderful, unique experiences?" Even so, he shot me a warning glance. I think I may be grounded...