the change you need

“You’re a BIG woman…”

Says an intoxicated man in a Giant’s shirt, swinging on the rail in front of me, dangerously close.

“You’re more than a handful.”

I look around. Not many people on the Muni this afternoon and the ones who are, are not making eye contact with me. I am alone and I have four stops to go. Giant tried to pick a fight with the small man beside me and he scooted away two stops before. The Giant is looking to swing. He has blood on his teeth. Literally. He’s in that place between talking loudly and shouting.

“Today is my anniversary. It is my annivERSARY!!!”images

He bellows down the train. He swings on the bar and lands right next to me in the small man’s vacated seat.

“I’ve been married FOREVER.”

“How long is forever?” I ask, keeping him focused on himself instead of me.

“Well, we were married when the baby came and my wife has six kids and some of them didn’t get along and so I gave one a good whoopin’ and he’s in his thirties…anyway, got a restrainin’ order and all that shit…didn’t barely touch her but you know, couples, they get into it. We still have a sexual relationship.”

“Sounds complicated.”

He laughs so hard he buckles over.

“Damn straight it’s complicated. How old are you?”

I feel I have two choices. I can either continue to engage him or ignore him and risk him getting violent. I find in these situations, speaking honesty and clearly helps calm a guy down.

“I’m forty five.”

“Sheeeit, girl, you keep yourself lookin’ good for your age.”

“Do you still love your wife? Is this a hard anniversary, or are you celebrating?”

“Bit of both I suppose, but I could be convinced to celebrate with you instead. You seem like a nice lady.”

He sniffs my hair but thankfully he doesn’t touch me.

“Your hair smells nice. I like your hair.”

I have two stops to go.

“See my ring? This was my mother’s. I’m getting married to a really nice guy.”

“Oh shit, no, you don’t want to get married! Look at what it did to me.”

“Well, I found someone kind…who I can be kind to. That helps.”


He stares at his shoes.

“This is my stop. Happy Anniversary.”

He yells out the door, “I’m a Gemini!”

I yell back, “I’m a Leo!”images-1

I am off to fix my reading glasses. They are four years old and I bought them at The Great Canadian Super Store for about seven bucks. The paint is peeling off the rims and the lenses are scratched but we’re using them in the film so I need to keep them.

Last night I was so tired I flopped onto the sofa and heard something snap. It wasn’t my spine – though it could have been – I was thrown into a van and kidnapped all day – it was the arm of my glasses. Three optical stores later, I find a little tiny man in a little tiny store squirrelled away in a parking garage on Mason, like the very best nut.  “We Care” optical.

He looks up from his Asian Week paper with complete disinterest.

“I hope you do care.” I say, catching my breath from my fast walk to his store.

His face remains completely disinterested. I tell him my whole story and end with, “I doesn’t matter how, they don’t have to fold, just see if you can make the glasses stay on my face without being crooked.”

He says absolutely nothing and heads to the back room and returns with a tool pouch. I sit, mute, while he drills and files and affixes…ten minutes later, he hands them to me for inspection. He speaks.

“Choose new frame, this one terrible.”

“I know. But we need it for movie continuity.”

He’s put in a whole new thingie where the plastic broke off. He hands me the fixed specs.

“Oh, thank you, thank you, you have really saved me today! You don’t know how grateful I am!”

Deadpan. “Thirty-five dollar.”


As I pack up to go, he squints at me. “A film, eh? You make lots money?”

“No. This one is for free.”


“Because. I love it.”

He looks at me like I’m an idiot. “Okay.” He shrugs and returns to his paper.images-2

I head back to the muni. A man in a brown suit is hustling for change in the station. Some women give him some and he assures them he’s embarrassed to ask, but he thanks them because he needs to take Bart to a job interview. “Good luck, brother” they say. I approach the ticket booth and he hits me up too. “Excuse me, Ma’am…Ma’am…do you think you could help me? I just need forty-five cents more to get to my job interview.”

I’m a bit tired of getting hustled, I’ve been hit up all day and I’ve been leered at by strangers. But am I being hustled? he’s in a decent suit and he has a briefcase. But didn’t those women give him enough?

t usually make eye contact, but this time I don’t. He hits up the lady behind him, she gives him some change. I see that he actually puts the change into the ticket booth beside me, hoping for the best.

“Please, Ma’am, he says.”I only need thirty more cents.”

But I just get tired of it all. Pan handler after pan handler today. I look at him wearily and thrust out my hand with only two dollars in it.

“Listen buddy,I think I’m twenty five cents short myself, ok?”

He is not my buddy. And maybe he’s not a hustler? Maybe he’s a black man in a brown suit, trying to get to his job interview and everyone is assuming he’s lying. He looks at me stern and proud and snaps one of his quarters into my palm.

“Take it. and. God. bless.” He fires those words into me with great angry dignity. Then he strides off.

I call after him, stunned, “But don’t you need-?”

He cuts me off, “I can get what I need just fine.”

It’s a long quiet ride home.


I get off a stop early and go to Rick’s favourite bakery to get him some veggie focaccia. My God. Why am I surrounded by troubled people today? I’m not exactly in the Tenderloin. This is Golden Gate park! A man is yelling to the heavens, shirtless, a bottle of vodka is spilled at his feet. It almost looks like something holy and weird from the book of the saints. Another guy is at the bakery door, as old as Saint Nick. I buy the foccacia and a bag of snicker doodle cookies. When St Nick asks for change, I say with full honestly, “I’m sorry, I haven’t any. But would you like a cookie?”

His eyes light up. “Oh yes! Can I have two? One for now, one for later?”

“You bet.”

I also hold out the cookie bag tentatively to the vodka crucifix but his eyes are rolled up in ecstasy.

I head home and change, run through my lines, and then get back on the train to meet Rick for theatre and eats. We see Caryl Churchill’s Love and Information. About ten minutes in I want to shout “pick up your cues!” And later Rick and I discuss whether that is an American thing. The speaking slowly. Besides that, it was a smart and satisfying play and I’m so glad I saw it. It was exciting to be in ACTs brand new Strand theatre. I felt I was humbled as a writer tonight. I need to learn more about widening my world and simplifying my text.

On our way to the parking lot we have a great discussion about Churchill and the magic of her writing. Rick’s eyes are all shiny with deliciousness. “She’s one of my heroes” he says. Two people in front of us, obviously dressed for the theatre, shrug and say, “Oh, we didn’t like it at all. We would have left at intermission if there was one.”


“Amazing how subjective art is” I say.

For some reason the play and the man in the brown suit seem similar to me.

Stop. Listen. Learn.

There’s a human being here, trying to say something, trying to get somewhere. And he could end up giving you exactly what you need.

Share Button