The story really began around 11am, as I was walking my Mom out to her car, which was parked in a guest parking space behind the building. My Mom and I were discussing our weekend plans and decided to walk to the front of the building to take a look at one of our fruit trees which is starting to bloom. (Yay, Spring!) We were taking pictures of the flowering tree while chatting.
As we were standing in front of the building, we saw an old Asian woman pushing a shopping cart full of plastic bottles down the sidewalk. She was clearly looking for stuff to recycle. Fridays are garbage days in the neighborhood, so our trash and recycle bins were lined up on the street in the front of the building, just like everyone else’s. But she didn’t look in anyone’s garbage bins on our block and instead pushed her cart directly to our property and up our driveway.
My Mom saw this and looked at me with the “Who is this?” expression and I shrugged. Mom started following the old woman up our driveway calling out “Where are you going?” in Mandarin. (Note: Chinese will be in italics)
The woman either didn’t hear, didn’t understand, or chose to ignore my Mom because she kept pushing her cart up the driveway toward the area where we usually keep the trash bins.
My Mom chased after and got a little closer and a little louder. I followed her but kept my mouth shut. This time the woman definitely heard Mom and turned around, waving her arms, babbling unintelligibly and pointing toward some (empty) trash bins in back. I didn’t understand what she was saying– it sounded like Chinese but I figured her accent was hard for me to decipher. But from the body language and the context of the whole scenario, we both knew what was she was trying to tell us– she wanted to go through the trash.
My Mom said, “The trash is all outside in front; those bins are empty. There is nothing there.”
The woman seemed to understand for a moment, but then decided to keep going.
Mom repeated very nicely, “There is nothing there. You can go somewhere else now.” But then the woman started waving her arms at us like “Go away” or “Leave me alone” while babbling at us unintelligibly. Then my Mom said, “I don’t understand you!” and turned to me to say that the woman was from China and she wasn’t speaking any of the dialects my Mom knew.
The woman took this opportunity to begin emptying her cart of plastic bottles, bags and other miscellaneous items on to the driveway, so my Mom started to get upset. Even if the woman was going to try to take trash out of our bins, there was no reason for her to throw her stuff all over the place and make a mess in the middle of our driveway.
That’s when things began to escalate. Mom starts repeating herself “Move your stuff, I am trying to leave and I need to drive here,” while gesturing to her car and pointing down the driveway.
I understood enough of what was coming out of her mouth that she was saying “don’t bother me” or “don’t tell me what to do.” The old woman was still babbling loudly but now clearly, “I am not in the way! Drive around!” and stopped making a mess long enough to shake her head and gesture “Go around.”
My Mom kept saying “I can’t drive around. There is only one driveway, please pick up your things and move your cart.” My Mom was starting to raise her voice, but she was still being overly polite and trying to reason with a crazy woman.
But the woman started getting louder and meaner at my Mom, acting like she could tell us what to do on our own property. She was trying to shoo US away! She kept pointing at my Mom’s car and and gesturing like Mom should somehow be able to shrink the car to fit down the driveway even though a crazy woman, her shopping cart, and a bunch of garbage was all in the way.
My Mom was going to be late to her appointment to meet her sister, so I told her to get in the car and I tried my luck with the old woman. As my Mom was getting in the car, I just nicely (but firmly) repeated everything Mom had already said. If the woman wasn’t going to pay attention to my Mom, she certainly wasn’t going to listen to me.
She ignored what I was saying and headed toward our neighbor’s garbage area and picked up some glass beer bottles that were sitting in a small box. She set down the glass bottles in the driveway to get in my face and scream at me in Chinese. She seemed really mad that I was in her business. She had her recycling now, but I couldn’t figure out why she had to make a mess everywhere.
I was getting really pissed because my Mom had backed out of the parking spot and waiting for the driveway to clear and I was getting screamed at by a mean old Chinese woman who was trespassing on my property and making a fucking mess with her garbage all over my driveway.
The whole time this was going on the woman was yelling and screaming and not listening even though she could understand us, so I just started screaming back at her in Chinese. “GO AWAY! MOVE YOUR STUFF! LEAVE NOW! DON’T COME BACK!” I pointed down the driveway.
Well the woman understood enough to start screaming back at me very clearly, “YOU LEAVE! I AM NOT LEAVING!” and she started pointing at me and pointing down the driveway.
I screamed at her, “I LIVE HERE! YOU DO NOT! GO AWAY! I WILL CALL THE POLICE IF YOU DON’T LEAVE RIGHT NOW!”
She kept screaming “YOU LEAVE! YOU LEAVE! YOU LEAVE!” and she kept pointing at me to go down the driveway.
My Mom was in the car and started honking her horn. She rolled down the window and screamed, “GET OUT OF THE WAY!”
I stood my ground and put my hands on my hips. “I AM TELLING YOU ONCE MORE! LEAVE!” The woman took a step toward me and put her hands on HER hips, mocking me and giving me a defiant look. “I AM NOT LEAVING! YOU LEAVE!” she screamed at me. My Mom kept honking her horn and screaming from the car, “GET YOUR STUFF OUT OF THE WAY! GET OUT OF HERE!”
Behind her, I saw a (non-Asian) neighbor walking on his driveway two doors down. He was watching us as he was walking to his front door, shaking his head, but staring intently at the commotion.
My Mom kept honking her horn. And I screamed again, “LEAVE RIGHT NOW OR I WILL CALL THE POLICE!”
She looked at me and scoffed as if to say that she didn’t believe I would and she started heading back toward her shopping cart. She reached in and pulled out the broomstick she uses to poke around in the trash and she held it high above her head and screamed, “I WILL HIT YOU!”
I screamed back at her “GO AHEAD AND HIT ME!”
My Mom saw the woman wielding the broomstick and started honking some more. If don’t know how it’s possible, but I think she got that car horn to honk even louder.
“I WILL HIT YOU! AND I WILL NOT LEAVE!” screamed the woman as she started to swing the broomstick at me. I stood my ground.
Mom’s hands were down on the horn.
“GO AHEAD!” I yelled. “HIT ME SO THE COPS WILL THROW YOU IN JAIL FOR THAT WHEN THEY GET HERE. YOU BETTER LEAVE NOW BECAUSE I AM CALLING!”
I picked up my cell phone and started dialing. She realized that I was serious because she stopped swinging the broomstick and put it back into her cart.
I called GOOG-411 because I wanted her to hear exactly who I was getting connected to. I got through to the police department and asked the dispatcher to send a car to my property because a trespasser was on site, threatening to hit me with a broomstick, and refusing to leave.
The woman was screaming insults at me in Chinese but realized I wasn’t bluffing and was really calling the cops. Mom had stopped honking when the broomstick came down and she saw me dialing my phone. I stopped giving my report to the police long enough to scream at her, “I AM ON THE PHONE WITH THE POLICE. YOU WANT TO BE HERE WHEN THEY GET HERE? TAKE YOUR THINGS AND LEAVE!” The woman started grabbing her garbage and throwing it back in her cart, all the while screaming at me in Chinese. She kept screaming at me and waved a glass bottle in my direction. I gave her a look and she dropped it while trying to throw it and it shattered all over my driveway. Her aim with the glass bottles was worse than that with her broomstick.
“PICK IT UP! DON’T LEAVE YOUR TRASH HERE!” I yelled between the English answers I was giving to the dispatcher on the phone.
I hung up with the dispatcher after a quick report and saw that she was trying to pick up the pieces of broken glass from the driveway and had cut her right thumb deeply on the glass. She was bleeding everywhere and waving her thumb at me as if I was supposed to feel sympathy for her.
“I DON’T CARE! GET YOUR STUFF OUT OF THE WAY! GO NOW! THE COPS ARE COMING! LEAVE NOW! DON’T COME BACK!”
Most of the stuff was in the cart now and the last big pieces of glass had been picked up. My Mom inched down the driveway in her car, herding us out toward the street.
The woman was trying to hold her bleeding thumb and push the cart out at the same time. She continued screaming at me and only stopped when she put her thumb in her mouth to suck away the blood.
“GO AWAY AND DO NOT COME BACK HERE!” I screamed at her. She kept pushing her cart down the driveway with Mom following in the car behind us. I kept screaming, “DO NOT COME BACK HERE! I WILL CALL THE COPS IF I EVER SEE YOU ON MY PROPERTY AGAIN! DO NOT TOUCH MY TRASH AGAIN! DO NOT COME HERE!”
We got to the end of the driveway and she stopped the cart to show me her thumb, which was now bright purple from the blood oozing out from the cut.
What did she expect? For me to offer her a Band-Aid?! “YOU ARE STILL IN THE WAY!” No sympathy from me. “GET OUT OF HERE! DO NOT COME HERE AGAIN!”
She finally started pushing her cart away from our driveway. She was still screaming at me, but her voice was drifting further and further away as she walked away with her cart, broomstick, plastic bottles, and shattered glass bottles. Mom pulled up and blocked her from getting back in the driveway just in case she was dumb or crazy enough to turn around.
My Mom rolled down the passenger side window. “Are you okay? She scared me when I thought she was going to hit you.” I told her I was fine and I could see a patrolcar coming down the street.
A young lady had been walking down the block and was watching the tail-end of the scene in horror. She kept walking after the crazy woman left.
The cop pulled up and rolled down his window and wanted to know where the woman was. I saw the unattended shopping cart 3 buildings down. I couldn’t see her. I guess she tried to get a bandage for her thumb. The policeman asked if I was ok and I said I was fine but that the woman wouldn’t leave until I called the cops– I was sorry to bother them about a call like this. He said that he was going to ticket her based on what I told him.
From the other direction, a second patrolcar swung by. The old woman was now back at her cart, looking in my direction. She saw the two policecars in the street and me leaning into the window of one of them. She stood there and stared at us in disbelief and panic.
My guess is that this woman goes around and takes trash out people’s bins all the time and no one ever bothers her about it. Frankly, if she had been digging through the bins in the front of the building, I would have been annoyed, but I wouldn’t have stopped her from doing it. Even though I’m sure it never happens, people can still get ticketed for going through the trash. But it’s certainly not the sort of thing I would have called the cops about. Then again, digging through the trash bins on the street is not the same as trespassing or threatening to hit someone with a broomstick. Once she was on my property, making a mess and getting belligerent with my Mom, what was I supposed to do?
Both cops pulled over with flashing lights and tried to talk to the old woman. For as little Mandarin the woman knew, I’m guessing she knew even less English. She kept waving her arms around and screaming at them. I really felt bad for the cops at that moment. Cops have to deal with the craziest things and people. My Mom left when she saw that the police were there and that everything was calming down. The neighbor who saw everything happen was now pulling out of his driveway and saw the cops on the street next door to his place. He looked over at me and waved. I ran over to his car and apologized for the ruckus and all the screaming and he said, “My mother was watching from inside and she couldn’t believe that woman tried to hit you with that big stick!” I told him I was sorry to make a commotion back there and he said, “No, it’s ok. I saw what was going on and you had no choice.” He left and I walked back in front of my building and called Yoshi. No answer.
The young woman who had walked by earlier was now coming back. I think she lives on the other end of the block. She saw the police and flashing lights and ran up to me and asked, “WHAT HAPPEN?” I started explaining in Chinese and she said, “I Vietnamese. Not Chinese. Only a little bit English.”
So tried to slow down and said the woman was throwing trash and said she was going to hit me. Her eyes widened. “Did she hit???” I said, “No, but she tried.” The woman shook her head in disbelief. I apologized to her for scaring her.
After 20 minutes, one of the cops walked up to me and asked “What do you want us to do? We can take her to jail. Is that what you want?”
For a split second, I was very tempted to say “yes.” I was still angry and the adrenaline was still flowing. But I said, “No, I just don’t want her on my property.”
He asked, “Did you tell her that?”
I said, “Yes, and then I screamed it at her when she wouldn’t leave.”
He asked me why she was bleeding and I said, “She cut her hand on broken glass after she tried to throw a beer bottle at me.”
And he said, “Ok. Well, if she comes again, we will take her to jail.”
I thanked him for his help and said that I hoped it wouldn’t come to that. I went back inside after that.
The best part of the story actually happened near the end when the old woman was already starting to leave and my Mom was inching down the driveway behind us when Mom started screaming from her car “TAKE HER PICTURE! POST IT ONLINE!” I had forgotten that my camera had been hanging from my wrist the whole time. Now that Mom understands the power of a good photo + internet (thank you, Racist Camera– the picture that keeps on giving), she wanted to publicly shame the woman, too! My Mom rules.
As great of an idea as that was, I didn’t feel like getting the woman angrier at me by trying to stick a camera in her face. I imagine she probably would have tried whack my camera with that damn broomstick if she’d seen me taking her photo. Later on, I did end up taking a few pictures (from far away) when the cops were talking to the old woman, but rather than posting those photos, I think I’ll harness the power of the intarwebs for good– instead of for public shaming.
This time, anyway.