She didn’t have much English.
What we see here? she asked when she approached the counter.
The guy with her didn’t seem to have any English. After I explained they’d see giant sequoias on the trail, she turned to the guy and translated. The language they spoke wasn’t one I recognized. The other store clerk insisted it must have been Portuguese (because she could recognize French, Italian, and Spanish), but I wasn’t convinced. I’ve been told Portuguese sounds like a mix of Spanish and Italian, but the language these customers spoke sounded like nothing I’d ever heard.
The woman’s entry into the mercantile’s guest book did nothing to solve the mystery. I’m sure the other clerk thought all would become clear when the woman accepted the offer to sing in, but I’m sure she wasn’t expecting the visitor to write “Torrance, CA” on the line.
The woman asked for directions to the closest national park. I explained in detail what roads to take and even pulled out a California road map so I could tell and show. The woman bought the map and asked if they should walk our trail before they left. I told them I’d get on the road immediately, as they still had a drive of several hours ahead of them.
The woman asked about restrooms, and I pointed to the building housing pit toilets on the other side of the driveway. She spoke to her fellow, and they both moved to the store’s door.
The woman had put her purse on the front counter during the examination of the map, and it was still sitting there. I thought she’d pick it up before she left the building, but she seemed to plan to go to the restroom without it.
Ma’am, your purse, I said as she got farther from the purse and closer to the door.
She waved her hand at me, as if to indicate, Oh, that old thing? I don’t need to take it with me. With her limited English, she communicated that they were only going to the restroom and would be right back.
You really should take it, I said sternly.
She took the steps back towards me and swept the purse off the counter.
I’m glad she thought I was honest. I am honest, but she had no way of knowing I wouldn’t riffle through her bag and pull out some choice items.
Also, how was I to know she wasn’t going to try to pull some scam on me? She could have come back from the restroom and insisted I’d taken a nonexistent wad of cash/iPhone/credit card.
What if other people had come into the store and someone had snatched her bag while I wasn’t looking? Would she have held me responsible for not keeping a closer watch on her belongings?
I was not willing to take responsibility for her things. I don’t know how it’s done in Torrance, CA, but where I come from, we don’t ask store clerks we don’t know to take care of our purses.
Photo courtesy of https://www.pexels.com/photo/brown-leather-crossbody-bag-with-white-framed-sunglasses-167703/.