A reader writes … By Dolores Sigmon

June 25, 2001

When you have lived in El Centro for 55 years and have run a 24/7 family business for 35 years, any break in the routine is welcome. Hearing "ya wanna go to Costco" or "ya wanna go to Vons" is like sunshine on a cloudy day. And to get to go to Algodones with a trip into Yuma for liver and onions at Brownies Cafe brings rapturous joy to the old 75-year-old heart.

One day about 10 years ago when I was allowed out of town for a day, I had, out of the clear blue sky, a panic attack on the escalator at Nordstrom's in San Diego. I had to hold on tight with both hands until I slipped off onto the top floor.

My husband still has tears in his eyes when I tell this story because it was the end of my career as a serious shopper with credit cards in all the good stores. I had to resort to actually cutting the price tags off clothes that had hung in my closets for years and actually wearing them in public. Once I counted 37 pairs of shoes in my closet and after the panic attacks started, I even wore out some of the shoes.


When I couldn't wear my beloved high heels anymore, I had a tearful funeral and gave them to The Salvation Army. I couldn't even watch the truck drive away. As Cathy in the comics said, "I remember each pair, how much they cost, who I was with when I wore them, what I had for dinner — whether it was a good or bad hair day — and how much I weighed."

To a Wyoming-born kid who had a pair of church shoes and a pair of school shoes, having a closet full was wonderful. For a woman to get rid of her shoes is like throwing out her history. I distinctly remember the first pair of black suede high-heeled ankle straps I bought at the White House in San Francisco. My mother took one look at me in them and knew for sure my Sunday school days were over and that I had jumped the fence. (She was right) But I digress …

We thought going into Algodones on a Monday morning would be to avoid the snowbirds that had filled the parking lot the last time we had gone on a Sunday. Boy, were we wrong. Traffic to get into the parking lot was backed up way past the Sleepy Hollow trailer park — almost to the bridge across the All-American Canal. The two-lane road was packed on both sides and no way out. I began to feel the panic rising and knew I could never get out of the car and face the crowd.

My husband, who in his wildest imagination can't understand such thinking, reluctantly left me in the parking lot alone while he went ahead and ran his errand. Sitting there in the hot sun, I noticed the pants I had on looked funny. I had been sound asleep when awakened to go on this joyous trip — grabbed a pair of pants and top and dressed in a hurry. The pants looked funny because they were on wrong side out. I had taken them up (believe it or not they do make them that big) and the seams were sticking out everywhere. The crotch had been taken up to accommodate my short fat legs, so there was quite a conglomeration of seams and thread there.

Well, since we were going out to lunch there was nothing else to do but take them off and turn them inside out and put them back on — not an easy task when your bottom is considerably bigger than your top — which isn't exactly skinny. Even with the seat moved back and down as far as it would go, it wasn't easy for a 75-year-old fat lady. (I know — gluttony is a sin.)

The parking space on one side was vacant so I had to keep an eye out for someone looking for a place to park. Sure enough, when I finally got the pants off here came an old snowbird in a big pickup, giving him a bird's eye view. He took one look at those most unbecoming thighs, gave her the gun and drove right straight through to another space. I'm sure when he gets back to Minnesota he will enjoy telling the story of the sex pervert he saw taking off her clothes in the parking lot in "Old Mexico."

Like I said, living in El Centro tests your low tolerance for boredom and even an innocent trip to "Old Mexico" can turn into an accidental adventure.

DOLORES SIGMON is an El Centro resident

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