(I know, I promised not to start any major projects before Christmas, but there were two walls I needed to patch and paint. Not trying to write a book or sell a book has given me a burst of domestic energy!)
As I fiddled with my phone, checking my to-do list, a woman ran into the store. She was frantic, searching the aisles, peering behind the desk. I thought she might yell, “I need help. Now.” She didn’t. Instead she looked at me.
“Are you on the line to pay or are you waiting to have paint mixed?”
“I’m waiting to have paint mixed.” I showed her my swatch.
“Oh,” she said, “Because it seems like no one works here.”
I watched the employees shuffle from the mixing machine to the register. A painter in a stained white jumpsuit lumbered down the stairs.
“I think it just takes a while,” I said
“But it doesn’t seem like anyone is rushing,” she said. Her hair was frazzled. She looked like she might pull it out of her head.
“I don’t think they have any reason to rush,” I said. It won’t make their day end sooner, I thought, why bother?
“Well,” she said. (And I swear, I knew what was coming) “You would never see this in New York.”
“That’s why I don’t live there anymore” I said, remembering how I jogged down the streets, shoved myself into subway cars, ran across the avenues against the light.
“That’s why I’m moving back next week.”
We weren’t arguing. Sure, she insulted Los Angeles without knowing where I was from, assuming that I would want even the paint store employees of Hollywood to be more like their counterparts in New York. Ass-uming. I was worried for her. She was on the brink, so I tried not to take too long when it was my turn, but I had a question about satin vs. pearl. The New Yorker leaned closer to hear.
“How is that different than semi-gloss?” she asked.
“I think it’s more shiny than egg shell. I like the sound of it. “I’ll go with satin, please,” I said to the man.
When he returned with my paint, the employee entered my name in the computer.
“Are you a designer?” he asked. “I can give you a 10% discount.”
“Well, no, but I’m the designer of this project,” I said with a wink. “I’m not much of a liar,” I said to the New Yorker.
“I’m gonna give you the painter’s discount, too,” he said.
“Wow, thank you.” Take that super-fast New York paint-guy!
“You’ve been shopping here for a long time,” he looked at his computer, “I’m not gonna say how long,” he said, smiling, like even implying that I had been alive for the 13 years I’ve been here would break the ultimate rule of Los Angeles chivalry: never reveal a woman’s age.
The New Yorker smiled. “I’d like the satin, too,” she said, as if in those few short moments, she’d warmed up to the Golden State.
When Ronan was a baby, Joe shot a tv show in NY and for 2 out of the 6 months, Ronan and I left LA and stayed with him in the top floor apartment of my childhood house. One evening I found myself on line at the local fruit market; the woman in front of me fumbled her change.
“I’m so sorry,” she said to me, as she retrieved her wayward coins and bills.
“Don’t be,” I said. “I’m not in a rush.” (My mother must have been watching the baby!)
The woman froze, mouth open, hand still shoved in her purse. “You’re not in a rush?” she said.
I love that Jay Z song, “Empire State of Mind.” It makes me proud to be from New York City. But I hate to rush. I prefer the satin and the discount and the smile. I like the hummingbirds, the palm trees, the flowers. I admit, I’m still irritated by people who ride the escalator on the left side. When I am late, I speed. I swerve in traffic. I curse. I can’t claim to be Laid Back like Snoop Dog. But it is starting to feel like living in Los Angeles has softened my edge.