Creative Writing

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Take a Seat

Park benches are taken for granted. There they are, waiting to relieve pedestrians from a tiresome walk. No one thinks to take care of them. No one understands the strain placed on park benches as they sit in all types of weather, patiently wondering if they will support anybody’s weight that day. On Balboa Island, these benches exist and are constantly overlooked.
Everyday the hustle and bustle of multi-millionaires takes its toll on Marine Avenue, the only area of commerce on the quaint island. Complete with a small, over-priced market, a family restaurant, and a handful of women’s boutiques, Balboa Island is a world of its own. A prominent USC town, the island holds yachts, pure-bred dogs, and Chanel sunglasses close to their hearts. It comes as a surprise to find the diversity of the residents on the island. Although mainly white, the population also consists of young people. Balboa Island also provides onlookers with a chance to see the different economic classes within the residents, which may come as another surprise considering the island is a very wealthy place to live in. From the 67-year-old retired bank president with all three houses paid off to the 21-year-old full-time deli worker paying rent and trying to make it with his band, Balboa Island is a somewhat diverse place.
Although the differences among the throng of the island’s residents make them unique, there is one constant that infuses the island together: park benches. Lined along Marine Avenue, in front of almost every store is a pair of wooden park benches. With “Balboa Island” inscribed on each bench, these places of rest bring a sense of pride to all who appreciate the peaceful island.
Working at Hershey’s Market, the overpriced store mentioned earlier, I have noticed many a park bench dweller. My register is only ten paces away from the park benches, which has provided me with a wonderful getaway from work, without being too far away. I have seen people, dogs, children, birds, and other amazing earth-wanderers take advantage of the combination of wood and bolts to find solstice during a long day.
Joe smokes at least a pack a day in one sitting while on these benches. With legs crossed, coffee in one hand and his Marlboro red in another, Joe sits for hours, watching passersby. Joe doesn’t speak, he only watches, occasionally standing up and pacing around for mere seconds before sitting back down.
Mr. Taylor ties Maggie, his English Bulldog, to these benches while he shops. On warm days, Maggie sprawls herself on the warm cement, basking in the Southern California sun, panting and slowly closing her eyes. On cold days, Maggie hides underneath the bench, impatiently waiting for her master to return so she can snuggle in the safety of her Balboa Island home. Maggie has become an Island favorite.
Chase, the five-year-old son of Mr. and Mrs. Grier, sits patiently on the bench, eating his frozen balboa and waiting for Mom to buy her gallon of non-fat milk. Chase’s intense blue eyes, chubby cheeks, and curly blonde hair are shadowed by his infectious giggle. Remnants of chocolate coating streak his hands and face as I routinely reach for napkins to hand to Mrs. Grier with a smile. She graciously takes the napkin, maternally wiping Chase’s hands and face.
On October 3-8, these dependable benches were taken away from its citizens. A refurbishing of the benches was taking place. Never was there a demand for these seats than when they were not there anymore. Joe had to sit on the curb, looking dismal and uncomfortable as he left twenty minutes later. Maggie had to stay at home while Mr. Taylor went grocery shopping, probably day-dreaming about a walk. Chase had to get his frozen banana after the shopping trip while Mom dragged him around the store.
For six days, the morale of Balboa Island slightly shifted, from radiant and friendly to slightly frustrated. Residents and visitors were discouraged to find nowhere to sit.
Then came October 8, when all was right in the world once again. The newly refurbished benches were replaced and ready to be sat on. Joe was overjoyed, although, because he doesn’t speak the only way to tell was his smile. Maggie sprawled herself happily, and even refused to move when Mr. Taylor wanted to go home. Chase sat and contently ate his frozen banana, laughing at the puppies that walked by.
These benches create a casual and relaxed feel to the already mellow island. Without them, Marine Avenue would not be as busy, would not be as happy, and would not be the same. Although absent for only a few days, it has proven to everyone that these benches are important and useful to all who are in need of a little rest.


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