Last week, I was doing my routine lunch break roaming. I generally don’t have a destination in mind, I just kind of roll with it, and if something eventful happens—cool. If not, at least I racked up some steps, amirite? Well, two days in a row I had an eventful walk. Here, let me tell you all about it. Stay for a spell, WON’T YOU.
1. The Lady In the Road
On Thursday, my free-form pavement pounding found me crossing the Rachel Carson bridge. I only know that’s the bridge I was on because there are pennants hanging all over it that say RACHEL CARSON with some broad’s face on it.
A thing to note about me is that I am VERY SCARED of bridges, but I try to cross one on foot every now and again as a psychological exercise. On windy days, I am fraught with fear. FRAUGHT. And one time I was certain the man in front of me had a bomb and I started to have blurred vision.
I made it off the bridge though in case you were wondering.
OK, back to the Rachel Carson bridge. I was on it. Everything was going as fine as it could be for someone with a crippling fear of hovering atop a disgusting river. I was almost to the end of the bridge when the man who was walking a few yards ahead of me took off into a sprint. I shrugged it off as a sudden burst of energy, but then panicked because what if he knew that the bridge was about to buckle!?
Turns out, he was running to assist a woman who was sprawled out in the middle of the road just a bit away from the end of the bridge. Several other people were gathered around, cars were pulled over, a bus too.
There was a white towel laying near her head.
I knew almost immediately that something was wrong.
In case you couldn’t figure that out.
The Alcoa building was right next to the intersection where this scene was playing out, and several people had congregated on the sidewalk. I walked up to an older woman and asked, “Was she hit by a car?” But her response to me was screeching in Pittsburghese, “OH MY GAWD THAT WAS TURRIBLE! THAT WAS TURRIBLE! OH, I CANNOT BELIEVE THAT HAPPENED!” and then she balled up her hands, stamped her feet, and screamed, “OOOH GAWD!” and walked away from me, tears spurting from her eyes.
I clearly wasn’t getting the 411 from her, and I deduced that whatever had happened, it took place mere seconds before I came across the bridge. So by this point, numerous people were on the phone with 911, and little ol’ Erin hanging around, with an iced lavender latte in one clammy paw, was not going to help the situation in any sense whatsoever. I lowered my head a bit and slowly walked away, and then once I got to the next block, I started crying. That poor lady! I don’t know her, or what she was doing, where she was going, but I knew that I just wanted her to be OK.
And I barely care about people, so that says a lot. I must have been struck by the gods of humanity at a weak moment, I don’t know.
By the time I made it to the next block, I could hear sirens in the distance, and my legs turned to noodles. So then I dove into an endless abyss of hypotheticals and what-ifs.
I texted my friend Debbie who works in the building right next to the accident scene and she replied to me later on to tell me that it ended up being a woman who works in her building, and that luckily she was OK – just sore and bruised.
Such a relief!
Caring is a weird feeling.
2. Bring Some Home For Daddy
I occasionally see this super disheveled yet exuberant man ambling about the ‘Burgh aimlessly, I guess the same way I do except I don’t yell uplifting platitudes at strangers or sing to myself.
I walked past him one day about a month ago while he was looking into a store window and he was momentarily sidetracked from whatever mental mathematics he was chugging through with the aid of his fingers and an imaginary abacus.
“Oh, you have a nice day, pretty lady! Yeah, you have a nice day, now!” he sputtered jovially, and I thanked him because I’ll take compliments from anyone, NO DISCRIMINATION HERE, but I did pick up my pace a bit because…yikes.
It occurred to me that he looked really familiar, like maybe I had seen him the last time I was in the psych ward, but then I realized he looked like one of the baggers at Kuhn’s, and that is a huge feat for me to remember someone who works at Kuhn’s considering I’ve only gone there maybe 10 times in the last 16 years.
Hello, Henry-oppa does all the domestic bitch work.
I described him to Henry who admitted that he did sound familiar based on my impeccable profiling skills. But this wasn’t good enough and I set off on a mission to take his picture.
Fast forward to last Friday. A beautiful spring day, lots of activity downtown. Glenn mentioned that there was a stand in Market Square giving away tomato plants or something and I wanted one, so I stopped there first and found the stand. I just stood there for a few seconds and no one gave me anything, so I got mad and moved on to another booth where I got to try a sample of some kind of honey water. It was OK.
None of this has anything to do with the point of this story, but I felt the need to include it.
I did a huge loop around the Point and circled back onto Liberty Avenue, which is where a lot of hot messes can be found.
Just as I was approaching Planned Parenthood, I saw him. He was rummaging into a basket of chalk to help one of the protesters desecrate the sidewalk with her cheap message. I thought to myself, “Wow, a two-for-one special!” as I readied my phone.
Just as I took the picture, the man turned and looked straight at me. I mean, see for yourself:
I froze, wondering if he was going to be angry. Instead, he moved toward me quickly and put his fist up, so I was like, “Oh ok. I’ll play” and humored him with a fist bump. This was already breaking my NO HUMAN CONTACT rule, but whatever. I was in a good mood (no thanks to those motherfuckers in Market Square, denying me a tomato thing).
I barely have it in me to say…
He pulled me in, so fucking fast, into a suffocating bear hug.
It was like that Tango move. You know the one. Where the dude just yanks the broad into him.
THAT HAPPENED TO ME ON THE SIDE OF LIBERTY AVENUE.
IN FRONT OF PEOPLE.
I froze. Completely shut down. Went limp.
Obviously he smelled pretty bad, and he was so sweaty, oh my god, the dampness of his untucked shirt….
So much moisture on that shirt.
I began to hear the sounds of wavering sheet metal in my ears, which usually means I’m about to pass out, die, or be lifted up into space by a beam of light.
Did you know that I hate hugs? I don’t even like hugging my friends. In high school, Lisa used to chase me around and threaten me with hugs all the time. I have a picture somewhere depicting one such occasion but alas, I am not in a position to search for said picture at this precise moment in time.
But anyway – back to the wet embrace. I was still all up in those stinky pits, pinned against his soggy shirt, feeling his hot breath against the side of my head as he gushed in the voice of 1940s radio personality, “Aren’t you just a pretty little lady, bring some home for daddy.”
BRING SOME HOME FOR DADDY.
That gave me the strength to wrench myself out of his vice-like hold and take off down the sidewalk, past all these people staring at me like I was the crazy one for going around hugging vagabonds, and I was acutely aware of him crossing the street while singing some song about FEELING JOLLY.
Oh my fucking god, why.
Why why why.
On my race back to work, I started thinking of all the ways this situation could have gone awry. He could have turned hostile and stabbed me or worse – he could have stolen my G-Dragon pin!
I got back to work and my hands were shaking like milk (shout out to you if you know it). My first mistake was telling Glenn what happened. He thought this was the greatest story ever told. He loved it. Every last second of it. Meanwhile, I still hadn’t regained the color to my face and was still stumbling around with the pallor of a girl who just had her soul hugged out of her.
“That guy’s going to be have good dreams tonight,” Glenn chuckled and I felt sick all over again.
My second mistake was not immediately going home and taking a shower. Instead, I spent the rest of my workday, sitting inside the sweater that had just been molested by the sweat-stippled chest wig of a sidewalk stranger.
My third mistake was also my first mistake which was TELLING GLENN, who derived great joy in asking, “Did you tell them about your new friend?” every time someone came over to my desk. The really unfortunate part was that one of those people was Wendy and if there is anyone who loves basking in a swimming pool of Erin-related schadenfreude, it’s freaking WENDY.
“Oh my god, I would have pissed myself if I had been there!” she wheezed, and then I reached into my drawer to get out more of my international candy to use as Wendy-deterrent, while Glenn happily said, “Bring some home for daddy!”
When I showed Henry the picture of my hugger, he said, “It looks like it could the brother of the bagger from Kuhn’s, but it’s not the same guy. Good job, Erin.”
All that I endured to get that fucking picture, and it wasn’t even the same guy.
(Except for that lady who got hit by the car.)