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An unexpected encounter at The Table

An unexpected encounter at The Table

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On Aug. 24, The Register printed a letter by Judy Ann Ahmann ("Glad The Table has moved on") stating she had been "turned off" by the huddled masses at First Presbyterian who were waiting for a meal. Stephanie Meyer responded on Sept. 7 ("The people Jesus was talking about") saying that the homeless and hungry were the natural constituency of Jesus.

I live downtown and have occasionally donated food to the The Table. I had an interesting interaction there a couple of years ago, pre-pandemic.

I had been to the gym that morning. Staggering to my car, sweaty and strangely energized, I thought: "What a great time to houseclean. I'm already filthy." I spent a few hours slogging away, which meant I had a pile of clothes to donate to Community Projects, some books to give to the library, and more to trade at Bookmine. I then decided to run some boring errands, several of which had been put off for quite a while.

A frenzied series of hit-and-runs ensued -- cleaners, pharmacy, market, coffee shop, framing store, shoe repair, and more. To repeat, I was still in my gym clothes, and looked decidedly unglamorous, but I didn't think anyone would recognize me, since "exercise" and "Cindy" is not a natural word association. (Well, Craig knew who I was, but he didn't care, just so long as I was picking up my framed pictures.) My incognito industry was giving me that sense of dizzying euphoria only experienced (or so I am told) by drunk drivers and skydivers.

Pleased with my burst of productivity, I remembered a stack of clean dishcloths, nicely folded, in the passenger seat of my car. My last stop was to give them to The Table. A friend on the board had told me that The Table always needed dishcloths. I walked in, just as the 3 p.m. lunch was being served, and offered them to a sweet-looking lady who appeared to be in charge.

"One of my friends told me you needed dishcloths, so I brought these," I said.

"Thank you, dear," she replied.

"I could bake some desserts for you, if you like," I added.

"That is very kind of you, dear, but it isn't necessary. " She looked at me searchingly. "Dear, would you like a meal?"

I stared at her, taken aback, and then saw myself through her eyes. I was disheveled and sans jewelry, not even a wedding band. My split-tooth grin, which stakes my claim to the Clan Claymore and gave me that country-western singer look when I was young, today means I never had braces when I was a kid. My toes poked out of my shoes (so comfortable! but I had been meaning to buy new ones), and there I was in rump-sprung gym leggings, in which I had sworn I would never be seen in public.

The pièce de résistance was my t-shirt. It was from a Berkeley bookstore that had gone out of business 13 years earlier, and was completely shredded at the armpits.

"Would you like a meal, dear?" she repeated.

I snapped out of my surprise, said "Sure. Thanks," and took a plate. The Table had quite a spread that day -- rigatoni with meat sauce, a vegetarian main dish, all sorts of side dishes, garlic bread, Caesar salad, and some excellent brownies for dessert. I sat at a table with other diners, all men. While I was digging in, the gentleman seated opposite stared at me. I smiled and asked how he was doing. He replied: "Didn't you used to be Cindy Watter?"

I nodded, and made the "Let's keep it on the down-low" gesture, and he laughed and went back to eating. So did I -- it was good food, and I hadn't eaten all day. I was really hungry.

Now that The Table is gone, the only place left where an impecunious adult can expect to be treated like a real human being is the downtown public library. What a commentary on our society.

Cindy Claymore Watter

Napa

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