The Loveliest Thing

woman holding tomatoes

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This was after the craziest thing, that came just after the damn-near funniest thing, which was proceeded by the most interesting thing.

I’m writing while seated at a desk that faces a second-story window. The view out the window is a bank parking lot in downtown San Francisco, so I see a lot of interesting things.

Sometimes they’re followed by crazy, funny things. Once in a great while, something lovely happens. But that’s rare. There’s an ATM on the side of the bank building so a lot of people pull in for a few minutes to hop out of their vehicles and withdraw cash. I see that about a hundred times a day.

A white pick-up truck pulled in yesterday, and I heard a lady shouting in Spanish so I looked up and out the window. She was really yelling at the guy who was driving, who presumably was her husband. They were both around fifty-something, Hispanic, and well-dressed. They were either headed to or just coming from something, but apparently, he’d had too much to drink. That might have been what she was yelling about but I don’t know a lick of Spanish so I wasn’t sure.

As he got out of the truck to head to the ATM she jumped out the passenger side and circled around while continuing to yell at him. He stopped and argued back, but it was all in Spanish so I didn’t have a clue what it was about. The interesting part came when she walked up and slapped him. It wasn’t a big deal, as he was a large man and she a small woman, but she really clocked him good.

He took it and then took another, and then put his hands up and told her to stop hitting him — I’m guessing — because she did. But then the funniest thing happened when he turned to go to the ATM and she went back to the truck. It was funny because there were three cardboard boxes of tomatoes in the back and she started grabbing them and launching them at him while he was making his ATM withdrawal.

He ducked while punching his pin into the machine as a tomato splattered just overhead. She kept yelling in Spanish and throwing, and some of them hit him while most missed, then he spun around to stumble briskly back to the truck.

This is when funny gave way to crazy because an SUV had pulled in and the guy driving must have said something to her. She went off on him in English, because he was a white dude who probably wouldn’t understand Spanish ranting, so that’s when I figured out the guy driving her truck was indeed her husband who was indeed drunk, and she didn’t care for it one little bit.

She started dropping F-bombs like crazy as she yelled at the guy driving the SUV, telling him to mind his own effing business because if she wanted to yell at her drunken husband and try to keep him from drunk-driving then who was that guy to criticize her, eh?

As her tomato-drenched husband started up the truck and proceeded to pull out of the lot without her, she suddenly realized she didn’t have her sweater and purse; two necessary items she’d need when abandoned to the chilly evening streets of San Francisco, so she bolted over to the truck, flung the passenger door open and retrieved them before slamming the door and cursing loudly at him.

I may not know any Spanish but I know cursing in any language, especially when it’s accompanied by slamming doors.

As the drunken husband tore out of the lot, the maniacal cursing lady just stood there and sobbed. The SUV guy had made his ATM withdrawal, so he started up the vehicle and proceeded to back out, then he slowly turned and sidled up next to the now sobbing lady.

What happened next was the lovely part.

Because, you see, she had been so angry a few moments before that she’d really reamed a new one for the SUV guy, who’d probably just made some simple wisecrack like “you tell ‘em, lady!” or some such in the middle of her tomato assault. She “F**K YOU!” ‘d him about ten times in the midst of it and even kicked the side of his nice SUV at one point, which some of you can totally understand if you’ve ever been around a wife who’s that pissed off.

But all that seemed to have melted away when this woman was left standing alone in the middle of a parking lot, her husband having chosen the low-road. She sobbed and drooped and looked absolutely shattered, which broke my heart and that of the SUV guy’s girlfriend, who got out of the passenger side of their vehicle and came around to stand in front of the woman, her face radiating concern.

Not a word was said as the woman sobbed and the girlfriend watched, and then, after a few seconds, the girlfriend embraced her. They hugged for what seemed a very long time.

I felt like the voyeur from hell now, but the story playing out was a fascinating one and it was all right in front of my window so I had every right to it, right?

I could hear it all now and the exchange was in English, so I understood every bit as the sobbing Hispanic lady told the girlfriend that her husband had just picked her up from work but he’d been drinking and she didn’t want him to drink and drive, because she loves him and they have kids and stuff.

Their three teenagers would be home waiting for them, but the husband wanted to withdraw more cash to go out drinking and dancing, and he wanted her to go but if she refused he’d just drop her at home and go himself.

She thought it was a stupid idea so she told him so, and demanded that he come home too but let her drive because he’d had too much already. He told her his mind was made up and so the act of pulling into the bank parking lot to withdraw their hard-earned cash from an ATM for that purpose is what set her off.

She apologized to the couple for going off on them, and they told her it’s alright because she was mad, and anyone would be, you know? Then she said she didn’t know how she was getting home because he’d taken all the cash so they offered her a ride, but she refused and said she’d walk because she only lived on the other side of San Francisco so it’d only take her a couple of hours.

They wouldn’t hear of it and tried to get her to accept the ride, but she was sorry she’d spoiled their evening as much as she had already, so the girlfriend pulled out some cash and gave it to her saying, “Please, it’s not safe to walk clear across the city, at least get something to eat nearby and then after you’ve calmed down take a bus home, okay?”

The woman finally agreed and accepted the bills that had to be forcibly squeezed into her hand. Hugs were exchanged as tears were dried and the woman walked away with a hearty “Adios, and gracias!”

The couple sat in the still-idling SUV and watched her until she disappeared around the corner, then they pulled out and went on about their business. They were better people from that moment on.

Craziness and fury begat something briefly funny yesterday, but then it turned lovely and made for better people all around, except for the guy who took that low-road. I hope he’s okay, but he needs a few life lessons himself.


 Footnote: Can you imagine the bank opening the next morning, so the bank manager says, “I need someone to get out the cleaning gear and go clean the tomatoes off the ATMs, at which point everyone on staff groans and says, “TOMATOES AGAIN?”