I was going through a trying time with an infected Lymph Node and hadn’t slept in three nights. This morning at about 6:00 a.m., I went to the emergency room of a local hospital to try to get some pain medication but was told Aspirin should do since the Amoxicillin they prescribed yesterday would bring down the swelling, and the pain would subside and eventually disappear.
Since it was still morning, and I hadn’t had breakfast, I popped into the Waffle House to eat afterward. The place was packed. The guy who came in just before me urged me to come and sit with him after sitting at a small, empty table. Jokingly I said as I walked toward the small table, “Are you’re buying?”
“Sure!” he said in a serious tone.
I approached and took a seat catty-corner from him to the inside. I said, “I was just kidding,” as I laughed.
“Well, I wasn’t,” the big, friendly guy replied.
As I sat, I added, “You must be really desperate for manly conversation.”
“Yep, I sure am.” He replied.
“My name’s Jim.”
We ordered, and when the food came, I asked if I could say grace, telling him I always did so. “By all means,” he replied.
(Not being a politically correct person, I don’t care what other people think, and I will thank God anywhere at any time.) I said what came to mind and tried not to sound holier than thou or preach a sermon – like some of us are apt to do.
“Heavenly Father, thank you for this beautiful day, and thank you for the food and for a possible new friendship. In Jesus’ name, Amen.”
A beautiful woman in the next booth facing me had been observing and smiled her approval.
Afterward, we began making small talk as we ate, and I could tell by the fishhook glued to the bill of his cap that he liked to fish. So, we talked about fishing and women (a man’s favorite subject). “Been married five times – but I still love em’,” he said.
Then we started to talk about the breakdown in society and finally about work. When I told him how I had once lived in L.A., he asked where in L.A. I mentioned Wilshire Boulevard. “I lived in that same neighborhood,” he exclaimed. “One of my two sons still lives there, and he’s working on a movie – a remake of West World.”
Naturally, I had to tell him that I was hoping to make a movie and that I was writing these days after having spent years as a S.A.G. actor. Then he got his son on the phone on the set, and I told Him I would email him so as not to interfere with his work.
That’s when I began wondering if this was a divine appointment.
Long story short, we left the restaurant together, and I showed him my new fishing rod as we made preparations to go surf fishing the following day. I don’t know what will become of this outrageous encounter, but I thank God for it.
Chance encounters like this one aren’t anything new to me, and if I failed to have one on any given day, I would be surprised. I live for just such encounters, but I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the bad ones as well, like this next one.
I went to the pool store for some muriatic acid for the pool. And the people who own the store are new in the community, having come from San Francisco. They are second-generation Chinese, and as is my nature, I was the first to welcome them here. They have one handsome son in his late teens who happened to be helping out in the store on that day. His mother was at the cash register, and his father wasn’t in that day. Nevertheless, an older black man was clerking as well. I was checking out when another man stepped in behind me. From the sound of his voice, he was of another ethnicity.
Sure enough, after exchanging words, he admitted to being Lebanese – but not really; he was ‘Palestinian’ who replied, “Them damned Jews…. blah blah blah.” The black man beamed his approval, and the mother, who speaks little English, looked bewildered as the conversation continued. Her teenaged son, who stood close by, had little to say; when I asked him a question, he didn’t reply. Then I asked if the cat had his tongue, and he replied, “I don’t like people.” That answer made me wonder why he said such a thing since we were always very friendly toward each other, and early on, I had asked if they had found a home church yet and had invited the family to mine.
After leaving in a state of bewilderment, I went over all that was said and why as I drove home. The Muslim man was obviously anti-Semitic, but he must have known that the Muslim ‘Palestinians’ wrested the Lebanese Christian nation from them. Lebanon was once known as one of the most beautiful countries in the world.
As for what the young man said – it could be that he had been encountering flak from classmates about the Chinese involvement in the Covid situation and resented it.
The black man only gloated and added nothing to the conversation. The tension was palpable.
My hope is to encounter each of them individually and to explain myself, giving them the reason for the hope that resides within me.