Saturday, August 1, 2009
Harry & Me
I would never consider myself particularly cranky, but I am easily annoyed and I do not suffer fools gladly....you know, the people who feel it's all right to talk on their cell phones in public as if we all need to hear their scary important conversation, or the ones who butt in front of you in line anywhere (hey no frontsies!) or the parents who speak to their infants in baby talk, babbling on about strained peas and sweet potatoes, or the ones in their cars: on the phone , texting, doing their nails, reading, working on a laptop. applying make up, changing their shirts, eating sandwiches bigger than their heads, masturbating, and driving erratically as a result of the aforementioned actions, all of which I have seen with my own eyes, even the last, which is a story for another time.
I work in retail, and used to own my own business, a small retail/ wholesale bakery/catering operation where I met up with all sorts of annoying people asking the most absurd questions like 'do you make that round pumpernickel bread with the hole in it , you know the holey bread that you put the spinach dip in?' or 'does that pie have apples in it?' (it's labeled 'apple crumb'- have you ever heard of apple crumbs? what would they be? little tiny bits of apple? a ground up apple-like product?).....and the brilliant person on the phone who identified herself as ' the one who buys the donuts'. I sold at least 200 donuts every day, more on Sundays, ( apparently sitting in church causes an intense craving for sweet baked goods) I needed a few more clues as to her identity..... and best of all, those who came in 5 minutes before closing and asked 'is this all you've got?' There were some days where it was all I could do to not jump over the counter and put them in a headlock.
But I refrained from smart-ass comebacks , sarcasm, or any kind of violent outburst , because these dopes paid my bills, a very important thing to remember at all times when dealing with the public in the world of retail. I would, however, stomp into the back of the store after the customer left and vent my frustration to whichever hapless helper was unfortunate enough to be working that day. One of the phrases I became known for is ' Oh my God, I hate everybody!........except you, of course'.
I would say the same thing to any one in my car after encountering the above mentioned drivers or anytime I have to deal with people in general, actually. But I am really very friendly. I chat in line at the supermarket with the person behind me ( who has just bumped me with her cart, that bitch!) and am courteous on the phone with the person from the other side of the world who's accent I cannot decipher when calling with a problem relating to my computer or other appliance, you know , the one who repeats everything you say right after you said it? I say please, thank you, pardon me, and I'm sorry when appropriate, and have never raised my voice to a customer service representative even when not doing so has caused a part of my brain to melt down...good thing I'm so perfect eh? I'm not, of course, but I do try to be nice to everybody, even when I hate their guts and livers.
This brings me to a recent encounter with a total stranger I had while lounging next to a peaceful, picturesque pond with my friend's 16 year old son, Harry, a boy with whom I have spent 2 weeks on Cape Cod for many years. We were killing time, waiting for our rental cottage to be available so we could move in and await his mother's arrival the next day. We do the same thing every year, and most times there is no one at this pond so we swim and relax after our six hour drive.
This year, however , was different. A van pulled down to the landing and a little family got out , Grandma, Grampa, and a 7 year old (or so) boy. We watched as they pulled fishing tackle from their packed van, and Grandma and the boy commenced fishing. Or rather casting their bait into the surrounding trees, getting snagged in the thick lily pads at the edge of the water, and at one point seeing Grandma step back into a hole and fall right on her dignity. It took a few minutes of yelling for her to get Grampa to come and set her back on her feet.
She was quite literally, a colorful character with her iridescent orange- red hair tied in a purple scrunchy at the top of her head, Pebbles style, her leathery, wrinkled skin tanned to a deep mahogany, her hot pink flip flops and sleeveless Harley Davidson tee shirt. And her voice, deep and freakishly nasal with an Edith Bunker-ish accent that made the hairs stand up on the back of my neck and my ears hurt. They kept up their attempt at fishing as we decided it was time to roll. We were at the point where one false move would send us into an abyss of laughter from which there would be no return. As I opened my car door, Grandma asked me if I had room to turn around; I assured her I was fine, I'd get out no problem. Before I could climb into the safety of my car, she started talking to me explaining how they came to be there. Since I was speechless through her whole soliloquy I will relate it verbatim, and let you imagine the voice. (I still hear it in my head) She never paused or took a breath so far as I could see.
She said: People always look at us and wonder, heheh (this was an uncomfortable honking/snorting sound that I guess passed for laughter) how we have a boy so young my husband of TWENTY FIVE YEARS left me seven years ago and moved in with his (air quotes here) FRIEND, and then this summer married his (air quotes again) FRIEND back then I couldn't get pregnant and we spent ALL our money on IN VITRO FERTILIZATION, 8 times we did this and then he left I ended up pregnant heheh, and was told that I had to hold the baby until Thanksgiving for it to be able to be born, on Thanksgiving they put me in the hospital and heheh they hung me upside down and SEWED MY CERVIX SHUT heheheheh ( this said with a sidelong glance at Harry who was standing there dumbfounded) heheheh I LITERALLY had to do everything while hanging upside down I even had to (hand up to the side of her mouth, as if to exclude Harry from this tidbit of information, but still at the top of her voice, same sidelong glance at him) CRAP UPSIDE DOWN heheheheh I thought the top of my head would blow up, all the blood vessels in my eyes broke heheheh but I had the baby and he only weighed a pound and a half and look at him now ( at this point Grampa was tangled in a bush holding a limb down so the boy, knee deep in the water, could retrieve his hook)heheh and HIS wife (with a nod at Grampa) dumped him too and got the house on the Cape so now we come and camp out heheheh. She finally stopped talking and looked at me expectantly.
Oh. My. God. I gave her a weak smile, mumbled something, looked at Harry and jumped into the car. We drove out of there trying not to burn wheels, but we really had to get away. We got to the top of the hill and I looked at Harry and asked "what the hell was that?". We both exploded into uncontrollable laughter. We laughed until we cried and looked at each other and started all over again, until I had to pull over to look for tissues to mop up our tears and running noses. Then Harry said the thing that put me over the edge. He said 'Oh my God, Peggy, you hate everybody, but everybody LOVES you!"
I have lived a pretty long time, and have spent a fair amount of my life laughing, but this was a gut-busting laugh such as I have never had before. Nor do I imagine I will ever have again. But people are pretty funny, and I do tend to attract the crazies of the world. I'd best keep my box of tissues handy.
We drove on down the road and every so often Harry would say 'my soyvix' and we would fall in all over again. It took us an inordinate amount of time to drive from Eastham to South Wellfleet. Wow. Unbelievable, but true and unforgettable. I will always love that woman, she gave me the laugh of my life. Until the next one, of course.