I met a man named Ron
WOW ... I thought as I looked at the clock in my car after parking on a quiet, palm-tree lined street in Beverly Hills. My 3pm doctor appointment was across the street and for once in my Los Angeles lifespan, I found easy parking and wasn't late. I was actually early.
What does it feel like to be early? What even happens when you're early? Do you have to wait much? Maybe they'll see me early? Do they get annoyed when you're early? But surely that's better than being late, right? My wheels spinning as I proudly exit my car.
Walking down the street, I instinctually reached for my earbuds to listen to music for the duration of my short journey.
Because that's what we do, right?
We listen to music. We text. We look on social media. We avoid eye contact. We live in our own, isolated world, where we go out of our way to avoid other humans at all cost.
Yup, pretty much.
Just as I was putting the earbud in my ear, I saw a crossing guard sitting in a chair on the corner of the street. An older black man, with a special kindness in his eyes. He was an old soul. I was drawn to him. And so I let the earbud slip from my ear and placed it back into my purse.
I wondered... how many people pass him everyday and never say a word? I didn't want to be one of those people.
So, I walked right up to him and said hello. He greeted me with a smile and said hello back. I noticed how many layers he had on and made a joke about how happy he must be that the weather cooled down. He laughed and said, "NO KIDDING."
A brief moment of silence. But I knew I wasn't done. Something was telling me to ask more.
"So where are you from?"
He said Florida. WAIT, ME TOO!! Then I asked which part. "Oh, near Tampa. About 45 minutes east. But it's a smaller town, you probably wouldn't know it." And at that moment, we both blurted out at the same exact time...
I'm from Lakeland!!!
You're from Lakeland?!
ARE YOU KIDDING?
His mouth wide open, about to fall out of his chair in disbelief, he managed to say he went to Lakeland High School and moved to Los Angeles when he was 23. I asked if he goes back often and he said every few years.
We chatted more, but the light changed, which meant he had to get back to work. We both smiled and waved as I crossed the street and went on my way. I hoped he would be there when I returned from my appointment, but I didn't want to get my hopes up.
ONE HOUR LATER ...
I reemerged. Surely, he would be gone. School got out hours ago. Why would he still be there? I quickly crossed the street, looked to the corner and couldn't believe it.
My new crossing guard friend was still there!
I went up to him again and said, "I'M BACK. DO YOU REMEMBER ME?"
Of course, how could he forget.
We talked again for about 10 minutes. His name is Ron. He is 69-year-old and said he never looked back once he made the move. He loves California and raised 4 children here. He retired a few years ago but got bored, so he works as a crossing guard to stay busy. He asked about me and if I had children. I said not yet. "Well, what are you waiting for?" Umm... have you seen how much it costs to buy a house and raise a family in LOS ANGELES?! We laughed. He said if I ever want to talk more, I know where to find him.
Then he looked me in the eyes and said...
"What are the chances to be from the exact same small town, now 3000 miles away, and we run into each other on the corner of the street and happen to spark up a conversation?"
But maybe that's what happens when you put down your phone. You make a friend.