I was spending the afternoon at the Starbucks on Beverly and La Brea, which happens to be around the corner from 200 S. LaBrea, a popular commercial casting facility. My audition for Purina was scheduled for 2:45, so at 12:15, I decided to kill a couple of hours surfing the web at the overpriced T-Mobile hotspot in the popular coffee chain. Iíve become something of an expert on the comfort level at the Hollywood area Starbucks and although the location of the one I chose today was convenient, there arenít very many good, comfortable seats in the store. I ordered some iced coffee and a couple of chocolate brownie bites and went over to the cream and sugar station. After some fumbling, I managed to pour cream and sugar into my cold coffee.
After scanning the store, I settled upon a seat at the by the front window of the store. Itís not comfortable per se, but once I got online I was fine. The internet is a drug, it seems, and I need my fix. Like a junkie on the needle, time and space collapsed once my internet world opened through the portal of T-Mobile.
Two hours later, it was five minutes until my first audition. I gathered my things, opened the zippered pocket of my backpack to pull out my keys and started walking for the door. No keys. I checked my pockets. Nothing. I asked the clerk if they found any keys. No. I scanned the tables and cream and sugar stand. Nope. You know that futile thing you do when youíve lost something and even though youíve definitely checked every possible place three or four times, you keep digging and searching? I did that. I reached desperately into my pockets hoping to find an uncharted corner into which my keys might have fallen. Nothing. My keys were not in my possession. Quickly, I raced out to my car. With an alarm remote on the keychain, it would have been simple for anyone finding the keys to locate my car and then easily drive away. I breathed a half sigh of relief when I spotted it right where I left it, and then hurriedly, I retraced my steps to see if perhaps I had dropped my keys, or worse, left them in the ignition. No and no. Dejected, I walked back to Starbucks.
After quickly scanning every place I had checked a hundred times already, I came to the only logical conclusion I could come to:
The keys were in the trash.
Reluctantly, I peeked into the garbage bin beneath the small steel hole in the cream and sugar station. Gross. Wadded up napkins, a coffee stained newspaper, a diaper (why?), and assorted other disgusting guck was there waiting for me to make the plunge. I opened the door and pulled out the nearly full trash bucket. As I stared in, like a contestant on Fear Factor getting up the guts to eat a bushel of blood worms, two older women approached. One of them looked like Jessica Tandy and I could tell she was trying to figure out what exactly I was doing. Since I felt like a homeless person digging through the trash, I sheepishly apologized for blocking her access to the cream and sugar station, ìSorry. I umÖlost my keys.î
She perked right up. ìYou lost your keys? Well letís get in there and find them!î I know you wonít believe me, but this 80 something-year-old young woman rolled up her sleeves and without as much as a second of pause, she buried her hands into the slop and started fishing around.
ìNo thatís okÖî I began, “you really don’t have to…” Miraculously, my keys appeared within the mix of gross, horrible crap.
ìThere they are,î I told her, shocked by both that fact and by the fact that a perfect stranger just dug through trash for me.
ìSee, you just needed a womanís hands to get in there for you,î she told me with a wink.
Her friend chimed in, ìShe used to be a spy for the CIA. Sheís great at this stuff.î
The Jessica Tandy-looking woman smiled and said, ìNot that youíd ever know it now.î
As they walked away, I thanked them both and wondered (knowing the answer) if Iíd ever go that far to help a stranger.
Chivalry, it seems, is not a male thing. Or a young thing.