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I was somewhat depressed, because my unemployment benefits were about to run out and the job opportunities in Hayward, California were not the greatest. One of the counselors at the employment office suggested that it might be in my best interest to try to find work in a much larger area. The next day, I decided to drive over to the San Francisco Bay area to see if I might pick up some type of a job, even though it was an hour or better from my apartment.
Within 10 minutes of arriving in downtown San Francisco, I was completely lost. Driving in such a large city became almost impossible for me so I found a place to park, purchased a local newspaper and began to look at the classified ads. I could not believe my eyes, as there were hundreds upon hundreds of jobs in the San Francisco Bay area. The problem was finding where they were located and how the heck to get to where they were when you did not know anything about the city.
"Geary, Lincoln, Fulton, Monterey, Ocean. Where the heck were all these roads, streets and boulevards, and just how do you get there anyway?" I thought. Not only that, but the traffic was terrible. It was worse than terrible. You could not even cross the street without someone trying to run you over. The noise was unbelievable and there were people lying around all over the street begging for food and money from anyone and everyone who walked by.
I stopped for a short time and watched this old man play his guitar on the edge of street. I noticed that people, as they walked by him would throw money into his guitar case. The old man did pretty well, because there were a lot of dollars in that old black guitar case. I really could not afford to give him anything, because I was out of a job. So I didn't listen to his music for very long.
I walked around for a long, long time and then finally sat down on a bench to rest. I began to look all around trying to figure out where I was, trying to get some sense of direction, which was almost impossible. At that point, I did not even know where my car was or how to get back to where it was. Then I looked over and saw the Macy's Department store on the corner. I had heard of those stores before, but had never seen one of them. I decided to take my life in my hands and walk across the street to take a look at the front of the big store. Then I could tell everyone I knew that I had stood by the real Macy's department store, in San Francisco, California.
As I reached the curb and started to across the street, I noticed a girl who standing there all by herself. She was acting rather strange so I stopped, stood there and watched her for a moment or so. Then she tilted her head to one side and looked directly at me. She appeared to be somewhat retarded or something like that, so I just smiled at her and didn't say anything. She had a cardboard box on the ground beside her and when I looked inside, I noticed she too was getting money from the people who walked by. But she did not have very much money in the box. Maybe just a little change.
When people walked toward her, she started acting like she was all crazy again - like she was a little girl, maybe 6 or 7 years old. She wasn't a real old woman, but she sure was a lot older than that. When no one was walking by, she started acting ‘normal’ again. "Why do you do that?" I asked. "It's my job. It's how I make a living," she said. I looked into the cardboard box and saw a few nickels, dimes and maybe a few quarters, and then I looked back up at her. She wiped her nose with her hand and said, "I didn't say a ‘good’ living." Then she laughed.
"I have never seen the Macy's Parade department store before," I said as I pulled out my wallet.
I took out $10, folded it in half and threw it in the box.
"You're not from around here are you?" she noted.
"I'm from Hayward. Come up here today to look for a job," I said.
She walked over, looked in the box and picked up the $10.
"I owe you one, man. I mean that," she said as she shook the bill at me.
I smiled at her, turned and walked across the street to the Macy's department store and just stood there looking in amazement.
I remained lost for several more hours. Finally, I stopped a policeman, who was able to help me find my car, which was about six miles away. I left San Francisco and never returned, ever again.
That was many years ago. Since that time, I have wondered about that woman and what might have happened to her, as well as that crazy acting little girl that she had living inside of her. I never forgot that unusual laugh, those old, worn-out shoes and that raspy voice.
Unless I am mistaken and I don't think I am, that is the same laugh, same sad smile and same raspy voice of someone who I saw on television some years later. I have always wondered if in fact it was Whoppi Goldberg, if she even remembers me seeing the big Macy's department store for the first time in my life.