2 LOL AND A CRITIC IN THE EXPRESS LINE
by Clarence Brown
American Reporter Correspondent
SEATTLE, Wash. -- The journal that I've kept for many years occasionally provides me with a surprise or two-and the word "occasionally" is an understatement by which I try to hide from myself that I am nearly always astonished at what I read. Who, I often wonder, wrote this and why is he trying to palm it off as MY life?
Here are a few utterly forgotten moments, which fit under the rubric of LOL (little old ladies). As an LOM I know whereof I speak. "This morning I was reading J. a bit of the MS when there came a knock at the front door, which was open. It was the fast-walking little old lady who passes along our street on her way, her frequent way, to St. Paul's RC church at the corner of Nassau.
"She said, 'Is the missus here?' She seemed upset about something. I asked what was the matter. 'Oh, my confessor is waiting for me, and I'm going to be late! A friend was supposed to pick me up in his car...' Here she began to cry. I said, 'Wait a sec-I'll just get the keys to my car and drive you there.'
"But by this time J had arrived to see what the commotion was all about. She had her keys and left at once with the poor old soul, who was now frankly weeping. She is the one who always has a little food in her pocket for our cat when she passes by at first light in the morning.
"I expected J back immediately, thinking that she had only to go to St. Paul's. But she was away a long time. The old lady did not like to go to St. P's. They always rushed her so. She preferred Our Lady of Princeton out on the Great Road. But she told J she was in no condition to go to confession at all, she was so angry with the friend who'd let her down. I was sure she was Irish, she has such a terrific brogue, but J learned that she'd been born in Princeton and lived here all of her life." (1 July 1989)
"I ran over to Davidson's on my bike rather late in the day on Friday in order to pick up some bananas. I was rather in a hurry and went to the express checkout lane. There an old woman who had clearly bought much more than the 8-item limit for the express lane - two bags of groceries were packed and waiting for her - was slowly fumbling with her coin purse and speaking to the clerk in some foreign accent. I was dithering with my three bananas. The old woman took out an item from one of her bags, and, apparently disputing the price or something, continued to occupy the woman at the cash register. A clerk at the adjacent counter was now free and motioned me to come through her lane. We shrugged at each other: these d...d old bags who go through the wrong lane and then want to question details...! Still fuming, I took my bananas to my bike, just outside the door, and began to unlock it, noticing through the glass that the old woman had finally agreed to pick up her things and free the express line for others. As she came out the door next to me, I glanced angrily at her face, seeing it for the first time. She was incredibly beautiful. It was a tragic face, full of great spiritual suffering. I felt... I don't know what I felt. Different." 10 July 1989
Clarence Brown is a cartoonist, writer, and Professor Emeritus of Comparative Literature at Princeton University.