Inspiration can be found
in the stories of strangers
Now and then, my teenage daughters would yell out as I was driving: "There he is. There he is!"
"The pizza guy!"
What? The pizza guy?
"Look at him. He's so Hot!"
Not holding back, my comments would go something like: "Is that how I raised you? Killing myself to put you through private school, for you to like a guy who delivers pizzas for a living? What is wrong with you two? What have I taught you? Remember how we've talked about setting our goals high? He delivers pizzas, for God's sake!"
I never really got a good look at him, but I knew the car. As usual, I'd shake my head and slip off to dreamland seeing my daughter standing at an altar in her wedding dress with her college degree in one hand, flowers in the other, and "The Pizza Guy" next to her. Where have I gone wrong, I'd wonder, shaking my head in dismay.
Not long after the last sighting of him, I picked up a property-loss case at my office. The information I received on the insurance claim was that of a homeless guy who parked in a church parking lot and had his laptop stolen at night while he slept in his car. Right off, I saw red flags surrounding this scenario. First, most homeless people wouldn't have the type of car he drove, and second, what the heck is he doing with a laptop? My first task was to have him come in to give his statement. The number I called was assigned to a cell phone and I thought, "Man, this guy has a cell phone, too?"
Moments before he arrived, I already had an image of what to expect. When Mike (his name is changed to protect his privacy) walked in, I was taken aback to see a handsome, clean-cut, well-dressed young man who was also articulate and intelligent. As always, picture identification is taken at our door and copied for verification. This was Mike, all right.
THE STORY TO follow taught me a significant life lesson. As his story unfolded and was subsequently verified, it turned out this guy was a computer genius who at one time was at the top of his game in Silicon Valley. At 28, he suffered from corporate burn-out and decided to take a year off.
He packed up a few of his most important things, (his laptop, MP3 player and other cool stuff) and shipped his car to Hawaii. He decided to live out of his vehicle for a year, seeing the islands and recuperating from his past.
Before the interview, I hadn't paid much attention to the uncommon car he drove. When I asked him where he worked, he said he delivered pizzas part time, just for something to do.
Pizza? Did I hear him right? I glanced down at my paperwork to look at the model and color of his vehicle to discover it was him -- The Pizza Guy!
It was difficult trying to keep a straight face for the remainder of the interview, and of course I didn't tell him that my daughters thought he was "hot."
Just so I don't leave you wondering about his case, he was watching a DVD movie on his laptop and fell asleep. His windows were partially down and someone reached into his vehicle and took the laptop. A legitimate claim. Case closed.
AROUND THIS TIME, I also got to the point where I could no longer manage both a company and household without extra help, so I ran a newspaper ad in search of a house cleaner. Several women responded to my ad, but when Donna showed up, I was immediately captivated by her accent and asked her where she was from. "Czechoslovakia," she replied, to which I exclaimed, "I am part Czechoslovakian!"
Although I never gave much thought to my heritage, I was thrilled to meet someone of my mother's ancestry. I hired Donna and she has been with me now for more than a year. She will be leaving soon to visit Czechoslovakia , before returning to Hawaii with newer plans. Donna, too, has imparted to me a valuable life lesson.
About six months ago, she brought me a manuscript to read, knowing I love books. To my surprise, she had written an autobiography of her journey from Czechoslovakia to the East Coast to find the parents who had abandoned her when she was a young child. Her story was remarkable and I wept when it ended. Not only had she survived -- her strength intact from her grueling and disappointing journey -- but she was able to convey her experience in a most expressive and moving way. Her accent seeped through the pages of the story, adding even more beauty to it.
It has been a privilege to know her. She arrives once a week in the morning, we chat before I leave for work and she takes over where I'd left off around the house. The day I submitted an ad for a "house cleaner," little was I to know that into my life would enter a writer, a teacher, a doctor, a mentor and an encourager ... in addition to an immaculate housekeeper.
She has such an incredible knowledge of life, of love and a little of everything else. When I or someone in my family is sick, she has an alternative "old country" remedy to share. On the days my lifestyle leaves me scattered and overwhelmed, she embraces and encourages me. Most of all, she has made me want to know more about my heritage, bringing me little pictures and trinkets from Czechoslovakia. Her never-give-up attitude has been an inspiration, especially coming from someone who has overcome such adversity in her own.
My eyes well with tears as I type these words, as I am really going to miss her. But I will not be discouraged. (Donna wouldn't have it!)
Yes, as the old saying goes, "You can't judge a book by its cover." Take a look around you. Investigate a little more. You may be surprised to find out that someone you thought you knew wasn't who you thought they were, but so much more.
Carol Lee Ramie runs Island Investigative Services with her husband.
The Goddess Speaks is a feature column by and
about women. If you have something to say, write
"The Goddess Speaks," 7 Waterfront Plaza, Suite 210, Honolulu 96813;
or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.