Jason Lawrence Bell
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06-13-20 Tina Becomes Karen

06-13-20          PUSH ARROW TO BEGIN AUDIO

After weeks of being trapped in her apartment, Tina took her walking stick and headed out to fresh air and a well-deserved stroll in her local park. She had just experienced 6-weeks of self-isolation due to the pandemic. Tina was a single 60ish woman who lived with two cats in a triplex that she owned. She had two tenants that were married couples that she seldom saw.

Tina had always been good with business. 30-years of success in retail had now led to a comfortable retirement. With the current pandemic, self-distancing would not been easy for Tina. Tina didn’t have many friends and relatives avoided her. Even though, she would be considered a social person. She loved to talk. Typically, she would capture a stranger at a market and mindlessly blabber the poor person relentlessly. Boundaries meant little to Tina. She would tell her deepest secrets to anyone who would listen. Her hemorrhoids, or constipation, or revealing tattoos were open for discussion. And she never noticed the repulsive reactions from her innocence captives.

The most common description of Tina was ‘sharp edges’. She was easily disturbed and quick to hit back. If a listener said anything that Tina interpreted as against her, she instantly shifted into defense and her toxic mouth took over. That’s the normal Tina. But 6 weeks with limited human contact and Tina was clearly not herself.

A walk in the park to Tina sounded ideal and represented a slow re-entry back to society. As she reached the park she was surprised by the quantity of people. She assumed she would mostly be alone, but the park was nearly full. She wasn’t the only one who needed a shot of nature. All the benches and tables were full. No place was available to sit and sun herself.

At first Tina welcomed seeing people again, but now there were too many of them. Where was a place for her? Tina kept walking and scanning for a place. There was a spot near the trees where she could sit on the grass, but no chairs. She tried sitting on the grass, but her bad hip made that uncomfortable. She was just about to leave when she saw a large Latino family enjoying a table full of food and using five of the park chairs.

Tina wanted one of those park chairs. She stood there staring at the family. She reached for her cell phone and made a call. Then she walked over to the family and announced, ‘I have Immigration Services on the phone. They want you to prove to me that you are US Citizens. Show me your papers or the Immigration Services will be here in two minutes to arrest you’. Tina thought the family would be scared off and leave immediately, then she would get her chair. But that’s not what happened.

The Latino mothers immediately approached Tina with camera phones recording. Tina yelled, ‘you don’t scare me. Where’s were papers? Immigration Services demands your papers.’ Others in the park started gathering also filming and they demanded, ‘Where are your papers?’ Tina answered, ‘I am white. Obviously, I’m a citizen. You Mexicans are here illegally and are ruining this great country.’ The crowd began surrounding Tina and she was well out numbered.

Tina began screaming, ‘I’m being attacked. I’m an old woman and you are trying to kill me.’ She called 911. But the police were already arriving. Someone in the park had already called. When Tina saw the police, she ran over and demanded protection. ‘These are all criminals accosting a helpless elderly woman. You must arrest them at once.’ Tina began crying. The police responded, ‘let us investigate what’s happening here.’ Then they took Tina away from the crowd near the police car.

After they took Tina’s statement and reviewed the camera phones and heard the crowd’s story, they arrested Tina. Tina easily posted bail. That evening at her apartment Tina saw the news media and internet explode with her image in the park. Judgement was quick. She was labeled a racist, an ugly person and a ‘Karen’. It seemed the world turned against her and she deflated.

Back in her apartment alone and isolated and humiliated. Tina saw herself screaming at an innocent family, and it saddened her to the bone. With the edgy Tina slapped down, what was left for her to regroup? She was lost. Then there was a soft knock on her door.

Tina slowly moved to the door and opened it. There stood an elderly Latino woman with a kind face and friendly eyes. Tina replied, ‘if you’re here to pick at my carcass then your too late. There’s nothing left. I’m finished.’ And started to close the door. The Latino woman said, ‘you don’t look finished to me. You look like someone we desperately need. I’m here to invite you to help us.’

Tina swung the door back open. ‘Join you, what are talking about?’ The woman handed Tina a brochure. ‘We need volunteers for our foster children programs. We help foster kids of all ages to find permanent families or navigate the jobs market when they aging out. Our budget is small so we depend on volunteer’s support. I know you were a good business woman and you could bring amazing insight to our Jobs Programs. Please read the brochure and consider joining us. Thank you. I wish you well.’

Tina’s first thought, ‘no one has wished me well for years.’ Tina thanked her and closed the door. The next morning as the Latino woman was beginning to open the jobs center and greeting the volunteers. There was Tina dressed in her business clothes and smiling. ‘If you are willing to take a chance with me, I need to do my best for you.’ And Tina truly did her best.

She fine-tuned the Jobs Program until it was the envy of the City Council and a template for others. She worked tirelessly for foster programs. Then came the news article of Tina’s story. From screaming in the park to nurturing foster children, Tina’s journey was detailed. Tina would only give one quote to add to the story. ‘I finally found a place to give my love.’ Peace***