I was giving fairly generous portions simply because it seemed the most logical thing to do. Jack gently told me that there was no second tray of roast beef. More gravy, less beef. As the trays flew past, I could only afford to put two potatoes on the plates. At one point, Jack rushed in to find a ladle as I heard a man shouting, "Gravy! Gravy!" I had worked up quite a sweat; this is fast and frantic work. As we got to the last trays, the meat was almost gone and we were rationing It carefully. We switched caterers the followlng week. They were a little more generous in the meat department.
Five plates were left after we served everybody. Larry and Elyssa sat down and went at theirs. Jack motioned for me to do the same. I refused out of courtesy, but he insisted and I accepted for the same reason. It was actually very satisfying. The talk at lunch turned to me and where I go to school. I said that I don't attend school; I work. "Where do I work?"... You get the idea. Elyssa wrote down my name and when to see me on television.
After the meal, I served seconds. No unauthorized people were allowed in the kitchen, so I took the chocolate pudding, stringbeans and potato halves into the cafeteria. The chocolate pudding was the most popular item, and for good reason. It was exceptionally good. I served thirds and fourths and even put the pudding in cups for takeout orders. I noticed something sort of interesting: Everyone ate every single thing on their plate.
Donut business picked up after lunch, as I figured it would. One man paid his dime and picked the three largest donuts he could find. A man who looked to be 40 came into the cafeteria, and he was obviously homeless because Jack told me not to charge him. Another homeless man asked for a meal and we gave him one of the extra trays.
After the donut business dwindled and people started to leave, I took an old wet rag and began to wipe up tables. One man I was cleaning around asked if I was Streisand's daughter. Very funny, sir. Another remarked, "You're fast! And gooood-lookin' too!" I came across a man no younger than 70 c!utching a cigarette. "Still smoking?" I asked. "Yeah. I'm waiting for the Mrs." She strutted over with bright red hair and plenty o' blue eyeshadow.
Elyssa and I cleaned the serving utensils and the kitchen. Larry was emptying ice and lifting heavy things. For me, the cleaning was a lot of fun. There's just something about seeing dirty stuff get clean. I'm easy to please.
I asked Jack what else I could do and he said I was done. I told him I'd, like to help out every Saturday. He shook my hand and said goodbye. Elyssa hugged me as a small child who latches onto a teacher would. This goodbye made me sad. I knew a lot about thls woman. She's sad without her mate and takes ballroom dancing at the center.
I threw away my gloves and my apron and I stared at my hands: tired, shriveled and old-looking from the water that managed to find my skin beneath those gloves. The building was fairly desolate. As I approached the exit doors, I spotted about seven seniors sitting on two benches on either side of the corridor. The homeless man was there. The man in the red pants. They all either had cups of coffee or the infamous plastic bags so many older people carry. T he plastic bags filled with something they need.
I loathe getting philosophical, but I'm going to go ahead anyway. What strikes me most and perhaps what I learned most from this excursion is that the seniors are actual human beings.
They all had parents. They all were naked, bald children a very long time ago. They all know the joys of chocolate milk, a rocking horse, not getting caught while playing tag, reading a good book, a great steak, falling desperately in love, and they all know about pain and tragedy and death.
Some of these people have children. They know about first words, first smiles, first steps. They have lives and friends and thoughts and a mailbox and a bathroom. They are people. People who have seen a lot more than I have. People who need people! (just kidding.) These are not just hungry old people. They are truly our most precious natural resource
I don't feel as if I've made a giant leap toward world peace or eliminating nuclear arms, but I do feel that or three hours a week or so, I can learn a lot more than I would at any movie or coffeehouse.
PS: By the time you read this, I'll have gone back to the center approximately 15 more times. When I was taking pictures, Jack really didn't understand what they were for and said, "If you need any pictures of young people, my grandson is 7. He's beautiful and loves to swim." Maybe next time.
**blair gossip:** mayim is currently auditioning for the role of barbara gordon, aka BATGIRL for the new batflick...her competition consists of soleil "ex-punky" moon-frye and ultradork christina "dishes are DONE" applegate. go BLOSSOM! kick ass! we also got wind that neighbors to bialik's hollywood hills home confirm hearing a haunting rendition of "papa can you hear me?" (the song from Yentl) emanating from her home at odd hours. could she also have plans on doing the barbra story in the future as well? cause well...if anyone is a dead ringer for the big B, it's mayim "little b" bialik.