I had just told someone that I have never been asked to leave anywhere for serving tea in the 3 and a half years that I have been serving tea (okay, just once by the police on Hollywood Blvd.). I guess I didn’t knock on wood, and I got the police called on me. I never want to offend anyone, and I always succeed at trying to keep a good rep anywhere I go, except last Saturday.
A month ago I had pulled up to Arts Alive, a downtown art walk in Eureka, CA, and a regular tea serving location. I parked on my usual block, but in front of a store that I had never parked in front of before. I kindly spoke to the woman who owned the store and told her what I was doing and asked if she minded. She did, and I didn’t want to cause any trouble, so I moved to another location across the street.
This month I was coming into Eureka VERY late to get a good parking spot at Arts Alive, so when a spot opened up close to the front of the aforementioned business, I took it. Just as I starting to do a quick clean and put some water on to boil , I noticed a man who I thought I recognized as another shopkeeper giving me a mean look as he crossed the street to the shop which I was parked in front of. He went to talk to the business owner and I saw them staring at me.
The shop owner came out and told me to leave in a harsh voice. I told her I was very sorry, but what seems to be the problem? She told me that she didn’t appreciate what I do and that I need to leave. I told her that I would, but I asked why she was so upset. She said the I can’t sell my tea there, that I needed a permit, that I was illegal because I didn’t have California plates for being in CA for so long. All of these accusations coming at me, I kept my calm and tried to refute them as calmly and respectfully as possible, but as much as I was saying I’m terribly sorry, but I’m not selling anything, or I’m registered as a motorhome, which means that I can invite people into my home and have a tea party, or actually, I just came from Washington, she wouldn’t let me finish a sentence. She continued to treat me like an animal. She kept saying so you’re not going to leave, and I would say, no, I’m going to leave as soon as our conversations is over, but can you just please have a human conversation with me? Her response was I’ve heard your spiel before, but you you have to leave and you can’t sell your tea here.
She obvious wasn’t going to listen, or even treat me like a human being. I began to feel alone and in the wrong. How could someone treat me like such dirt and not even listen to me as a fellow human? I began to wonder how this could be if what I was doing was good in any way?
Things began to look up when I started up my bus to leave and a police officer came to talk with me. I stopped the bus and we talked for a few minutes. As I was talking to the officer several regulars on the tea bus looked on with worry, and I even pointed out regular tea-sipper Kelly to him, who brought homemade cookies. I gave him my Free Tea Party sticker and told him that I wasn’t selling anything as the Free part of the sticker implies. He told me that I was completely within my legal rights, but that my desire to be kind to the shop owner and leave was probably be the best thing for everyone.
I drove away. I noticed a guy who had came before when I was being asked to leave. He told me that he was very impressed as I had taken a whole slew of verbal abuse and responded with nothing but kindness, and that he owned several businesses in the area and if I ever wanted work to contact him.
I found a new spot, set out a rug and chairs, and put a full pot of water on to boil. All sorts of regulars and newbies wandered through. We had a song played for us, and the musicians drank some tea. Kelly brought her cookies. Lots of regulars showed, but I was a couple blocks down from the main area, so many did not show. But what made up for it were the many people who were there to support me after such a crazy interaction. The best of tea parties came out that, with people offering to write letters to the Times- Standard, singing songs, sharing, etc.
I had to stop people from being hostile to the shopkeeper, and reminded them to treat her (and everyone) with respect, and in fact that she needs love and respect more than anyone. It is funny too, because if she had embraced the tea bus, all the people and community that come with it (and especially at Arts Alive), would get people into her store and stoked to be around her business. But now there are a lot of people who are upset and probably wont ever give her any business. I feel for her, and I hope her the best with learning how to have a proper conversation with someone who she has a problem with, as well as with finding more love and compassion in her life.