14 April 2008


Today I met Dianne, security personnel, employed by the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Her generously sized bottom was hanging off the base of this giant marble sculpture, in the Early American Art wing, under a portico and next to a water fountain. I sure did learn a lot about her in those eight minutes we shared.

Her husband had a black father and a white mother. She had leftover meatloaf from the previous nights dinner for lunch that afternoon, and she gets a 30 minute lunch break each day (and uses every minute of it). She smokes a pack of cigarettes a day, and for a while she was pretty generous with her cigarettes, but then people started taking advantage of her and her cigarettes. So, she started saying no, to the people she didn't like (and she told them off too), and to the people she liked, she charged them a quarter.

She is bipolar. The previous Saturday she had to leave work (her 12 hour shift) early, because she started having an anxiety attack- thinking about her son that had just gotten locked up. She was in the emergency room two hours (and has the papers to prove it).

Her husband makes her dinner every night. Last night he made her fried chicken, and tonight he was making pork chops and rice, and she thought that was just alright. She said I was skinny and said she used to be skinny too. She weighed 110lbs- then she got the job at the art museum, just standing around all day (not sittin'- that's how she introduced herself, "...psst...don't tell my boss I'm sittin'") and ballooned to 210lbs. She said she's tried all kinds of diets. One diet she ate all healthy, went on walks after dinner, and after several long months, lost only two pounds. 2lbs! So she went back on the fried chicken, meatloaf and pork chops. Next, she told me, she wanted to try the cookie diet. "Have you heard of the cookie diet?" she asked me. I told her yes, but didn't know what it consisted of. She went on to tell me you eat only cookies- but not just any cookie, they were expensive, healthy type cookies.

She had light skin- looked half black, half Hispanic. She had beautiful, toffee almond colored freckles, all over her pale, fair skinned face. Her hair looked a bit frizzy (the type of frizzy you get when you brush out your curls and it's humid out) and was dyed a lighter shade of her natural brown color. The textured lines created by her brushed out curls had become thicker with the days rain and heat and seemed to want out from the elastic that kept them bound in ponytail.

On top she wore a light blue cotton uniformed shirt, which was tucked into her navy blue polyester trousers, letting just the tips of her black boots show. She was short in stature and round in form. Her left front tooth was a gold one and because it sparkled so much, I caught myself noticing it quite often as we spoke. The tooth wasn't solid gold- just the outline of the tooth, the rectangular perimeter, but you sure couldn't miss it. Like I said, she had a pale, fair skinned face, so that shiny tooth sure drew attention. She had a slight lisp and even a slight accent- not so much a regional accent but more a lazy one, slurring her words and letters. But it was nice and refreshing, even down to earth.

She said her feet were on fire (this is before I knew her name, that she was bipolar, that she had fried chicken last night or that she had her husband's meatloaf for lunch earlier). I was filling up my water bottle, just to the right of where she was doing the unimaginable for an art museum security guard- sitting, and that's where we first met. I guess I looked like the type of person who would tell on her, a tattletale type, because this is how she introduced herself; "Don't tell no one you saw me sittin'." Then that's when she told me her feet were on fire.

I liked meeting Dianne. I liked that she was so sociable, so honest. I could see myself having a good time with her at a barbecue. Sitting back at a picnic table, sippin' some sweet tea, listening to her talk about her son that was locked up. And I'd listen, just like I did for those eight minutes we shared under that portico and next to the well, just listen.


Jessica said...

I love the way you capture day to day stuff, Laura. Makes it seem so real. (I feel like I know Dianne now, too.)

Beccalynn said...

Me too! I LOVE that you included that here! And I LOVE that you can blog at your job! We need to talk again soon....