If you saw Arthur Bailey walking toward you on the sidewalk, you would probably cross the street. If you were walking with your wife and you saw Arthur Bailey approaching, you’d grab her harm just a little bit tighter. If you saw Arthur Bailey you would swear that you saw him once on C.O.P.S. In one week Arthur Bailey may be trimming my blackberry bush.
I made Arthur Bailey’s acquantence just this evening. I was sitting at my computer about to check the status of my bank account when I noticed a lanky man with wild blonde locks beginning to ascend the stairs visible through my office window that lead up to my front door. I knew this unknown guest would not be well received by Jen, who was upstairs, so I decided to get his attetion before he reached the front door and terrified her. He must have heard me when I came out of the office, and came back down the stairs to where I was saying, “Sorry, I was just looking for the front door.”
“Can I help you?”, I asked. “I noticed you have a lot of weeds and I could take care of those for you. I have a weed whacker, a really good one, and I could come by and take care of all those weeds down by your driveway and help you with this blackberry bush….” I watched this guy as he spoke and tried to assess what was going on here. As I said, he was tall and lanky, had a whole lot of blonde hair, and only a handfull of teeth. He wasn’t exactly yelling, but he spoke loudly and quickly with a the kind of lisp you would expect someone who had no teeth to have. He was very animated, moved his hand and arms a lot, and wasn’t shy about walking around my yard to show me all the plants I needed to get rid of. His clothes looked like those you would find in a thrift shop, though they weren’t tattered, and he actually looked relatively clean. On each sleeve of his shirt he had stickers promoting carpooling or bicylce riding and he was wearing a couple of those rubber “cause” bracelets on each wrist. It was clear that this was a guy who had had some hard times. He told me his does this kind of weed whacking to earn money for food.
As he continued to tell me his tactics for eradicating blackberry bushes, which he told me was his passion, I continued to assess the situation and began to devise a plan of evasive action should that become necassary. He didn’t seem harmful, and I didn’t smell alcohol, but you can never be too carefull about crazy looking people who wander up to your house and offer to take care of your weed problem. I tried to maintain what I like to call a “reactionary cushion”; enough distance between us to provide me with adequate time for response should he get aggressive. I also made sure to keep myself between him and any door leading inside the house.
So, on and on he went about the evils of blackberry bushes and how they are invasive, and what I should plant in this spot once they are gone, and, oh, yeah, I can get rid of this ivy also, blah, blah, blah, blah, so on and so forth. He spoke rapidly and it wasn’t easy getting a word in, but when I had an opening I would say thanks, but no thanks and then he would go on about how I really should take care of this and he could be back here in ten minutes with his stuff and it’d be done. At this point I was beginning to think, “You know, it would be nice to have someone else take care of all these thorny bushes for me.” So I told him that I couldn’t have him do it now, but if he came back in a week I’d let him do it. He said great. At this point I asked his name and gave mine. “Hey! Bauer! Just like on 24!” He told me that he really wanted to watch Season 5 but he was staying at a friends house right now and they didn’t have cable. We talked 24 for a while and he asked me if I had any the season’s on DVD. “No, I don’t, but I’ve been thinking about getting them sometime.” To which he replied, “What DVD’s do you have?”
I could see where this was heading. I must admit that I wasn’t completely honest with him at this point. You know how when a little kid wants something, but doesn’t just come out and say it, but kind of hints around it like they want you to be the one bring it up? That’s how I felt about this. Is it so wrong that I don’t really want to be lending DVD’s to a wild-haired stranger I just met, who may or not be homeless? I said that I have a few DVD’s, which is true compared to some people I’m sure. “Which ones?” [sigh] I came up with a couple and then hoped to distract him with “…and my wife has a couple of those chick flick types.” Undeterred, Arthur asked, “What videos do you have?” [sigh again] Uh, the Odd Couple, Truman Show… “Oooh, I really wanted to see that one! Can I borrow it!” Keep in mind, I’m feeling pretty confident that this guy is not a serial killer who thwacks people to death with his weed whacker, but you never know. Sure, I’ll let you borrow it. Stay here, and I’ll go grab it. “Oh, and the Odd Couple too.” Sure.
So I bring Arthur the movies, and a couple of bucks to get something to eat. We start winding up the conversation, talking about how he’s the blackberry bush Terminator (“When I’m done, it’ll be hasta lavista, baby!”) and I say something like, “Right, just like Arnold.” Huge mistake. “Hey, how do you think he’s doing as governor? I think he’s doing pretty good.” Great, we’re on to politics now. So we spent another 10 minutes or so talking about the state of the California school system and the upcoming gubernatorial races. We were in agreement that Angelides should not win. Most of our conversations consisted of him talking and me saying things like “yeah”, “uh-huh”, and “sure, sure.” Finally after a bit, Jen came out was introduced to Arthur and saved me with, “I hate to interrupt, but I have to leave pretty soon and I need your help.” This was in fact true, by the way. Arthur got the hint, we agreed that I would pay him $15 an hour when he comes to kill my blackberries next week. “I like to start at about eight o’clock, so you’ll just hear me out here working. I’ll just start right away. I’m a really good worker, I bust my butt.” I think he was going to use another word for butt, but his marketing acumen kicked in and he softened it up.
So in a weeks time, I may wake up on Saturday morning to find Arthur Bailey whacking away at my bushes. I feel bad for the guy, since he clearly is in need of some help, but, and this is going to sound weird, I really believe him when he says he loves doing this kind of work. Everything he told me about the plants and weeds rings true with what I already know. So, half of me is looking forward to someone else doing the job, and half of me hopes he forgets and doesn’t come back. The only thing that I’m really disappointed about is that I never took the time to share the Gospel with him. It would have been a great opportunity. But I have a feeling I will indeed see him again.
As a side note, I guess it’s pretty bad when you have so many weeds that even a homeless guy walking the streets offers to lend you a helping hand.