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Monday, April 14, 2008

'Wasting' Time

Here's to Zhou B. Cafe, where I spent much of the day getting work done. I can't work in the house in the afternoons because it would be much more fun to hang out with the kids on the sidewalk.

I got home around 5 today, and the first ice cream truck of the year was belting 'Turkey in the Straw' into the sunshine and still-chilly air. My next door neighbor to the south and one of her younger daughters were walking toward me when I got off the bus.

"It's too early for ice cream, isn't it?" I tried to say in Spanish, but I think I said the wrong word. I meant helado but I said hielo.

It didn't matter. She got the idea. "Yes, it's cold," she said. I had run into her late Friday night on the Ashland bus when she was getting off work and I was coming back from the North Side. She is still looking for college scholarships for her older daughter, who graduated with honors from Juarez but is a freshman at Harold Washington. (She applied for a UIC scholarship but didn't get it.)Anyway, when I saw her on the street I was reminded I had promised her contact info for Latinos Progresando, which has a group for students interested in college. I told her I would put it in one of the mailboxes on the gate in front of her house.

As I hurried home to take care of this errand on top of many others on my after-work list, I heard a voice behind me say, "Hey, can I use your air pump?" It was the kid from the block north of mine, the one who got in trouble when he came with us to the Museum of Science and Industry. We'll call him Tone-Loc, since he can get a little crazy.

"Ok," I said, inwardly sighing, "but I have to go to my house and go right back out again to the store, so it needs to be quick." Tone-Loc was pushing two bikes, one little green one and the other bigger with a giant stuffed teddy bear sitting on the seat. Somehow I ended up pushing the bigger one and the teddy fell off. A guy on the corner got us to look back. Tone-Loc got it.

I went in the house and got the pump. Tone-Loc's sister-we'll call her Alicia for no particular reason except it's not her real name--came over on her bike and started teasing her brother about the stuffed bear. Apparently he got it for some girl he likes but who won't go out with him.

"You can't just buy girls stuff," Alicia advised. "You have to spend time with them. He spends all his time with his boy friends."

"I do," Tone-Loc said. "Being cool." The two of them got into an argument and he told his sister to leave. Alicia went back to bike riding.

"Well, if you want this girl to like you, it probably is a good idea to spend some time with her," I said. "But you probably don't want your sister telling you how to do anything, right?"

"Right," he said, with a big grin.

I watched him carefully as he worked the air pump. He'd just done it the other day but I needed a review. I'm an idiot with mechanical objects and hadn't even tried to use the pump since a friend got it for me for my birthday. I held the wheel while he got the cap off one of the tires. Later I kept track of the caps while he pumped the tires full of air. We talked a little, but mostly I just watched and ran in and out of the house, getting the Latinos Progresando info from my computer and putting a card in my neighbor's mail box.

Maybe around three-quarters through the job, I was sitting on the step watching Tone-Loc when he said out of the blue, "Am I wasting your time?"

Ouch. Busted, I thought. How to save this one? "No, honey, you are not wasting my time," I said. "I'm watching you and learning how to use the air pump. Thank you for teaching me."

Hope I remember how that pump works. It will be time to take my bike out of the basement soon.

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