My Redeemer

A continuation from the previous post. I believe such a thing is called Part II.

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My stomach hurt all that day. It had absorbed the fallout of a couple people’s interpersonal cowardice, and I felt sad, sad, sad.

It’s not for nothing that Byron and I joke about my alternate name being Counselor Deanna Troi, what with the psionic abilities that sometimes make me crawl around the house on all fours, so burdened by emotional pain am I. (True confession: I’m also crawling around because I’m trying to find a missing jigsaw puzzle piece. How effing frustrating is it to get 999 pieces in place, only to have the last one go missing? That distress alone could lay me low for a week.)

While I could rock that hair, the costume not so much. My physique is a Spanx defeater.

Generally, if I’m feeling down, the endorphins from exercise can roll me out of that trench. So I headed to the gym and broke a sweat. It helped. A bit.

But still, my internal organs felt dipped in black.

Scuffing my feet, I walked to the parking garage, hopped into my well-dented ’97 Camry, and drove down to pay the parking attendant.

I have a checkered history with parking attendants, particularly at this lot. It’s as though the position description (“Needed: individual to stand in cement box all day and interact with strangers’ germs. Ability to make change preferred”) doesn’t attract upbeat, accomplished go-getters. First, there was the guy who looked like Santa but who always managed to slur “those Mexicans” while taking my money. Then, for a long time, the box was staffed by an angry 65-year-old woman with a penchant for appliqued sweatshirts. On several occasions, when I’d entered the parking garage and found the “arm” up and no tickets to be had from the machine, I’d had the audacity to just drive in and park. When I would attempt to exit later, this woman, having come on duty, would yell at me, make me back up the ramp (see: my well-dented ’97 Camry), park again, and walk back over to the gym to have them put their stamp on a post-it note that I then could walk back to my re-parked car (on the sixth floor, approximately nine thousand eleventy stairs up), drive down the ramp, and hand the post-it to her while she harped on my lack of foresight and responsibility.

I give her credit for this: at least she had the conversation.

More recently, the garage has been staffed by two men, both every bit as odd as one might reasonably hope for. There’s the 70+ sinewy guy who reminds me of a gristly plucked chicken. Unfailingly, he wears a Vikings football jersey accessorized with a puka shell necklace. A few weeks ago, when the “arm” was up, and the ticket machine wasn’t dispensing anything, I sat there for a minute, pushing the button on the machine, hoping desperately that it would cough out a ticket so that I wouldn’t later be taken to task. As I hit the button, the gristly Viking, already on duty, opened his window and hollered at me, “Just go in, for Christ’s sake.”

At that moment, I opted not to have the conversation that would have had me yawping back at him, “YOU DON’T KNOW MY HISTORY AT THIS GARAGE AND THAT I HAVE A LITTLE BIT OF POST-TRAUMATIC STRESS FROM THE MEAN LADY WHO SAT IN THAT BOOTH BEFORE YOU. I’M SITTING HERE, PRAYING FOR A TICKET TO BE DISPENSED, JUST SO I DON’T GET HOLLERED AT TODAY, BUT, THANKS TO YOU, WE CAN ALREADY CALL THAT ONE A LOSS, CAN’T WE?”

Relative to his compatriots, the other man who currently draws a paycheck from staffing the booth is a regular Jesus. In fact, his vibe screams squeaky fundamentalist. My brain has written a backstory for him in which he was home-schooled, perhaps as part of his life on a Mormon polygamist compound. I like to think he broke away from that life when he moved to Duluth–in pursuit of a young woman named Arnolene Odanna Smith who’d left the sect. When he got here, though, she rebuffed his advances, leaving him no choice but to grow out his hair a few inches, add some random highlights, drop out of college after a semester, and get a job at a parking garage.

Despite my fervently wishing he was an Orlon or an Elvoid, his name tag tells me he’s David.

I like David. He usually wears latex gloves while he works, and while my busy brain wants to pretend he does that because he’s hoping to sweat his hands down into wee paws (all the better to pet you with, my dear), of course he’s simply protecting himself, wisely, from the Stranger Germs that inhabit every dollar bill he touches.

I’ll say this for David: he never comes down sick. The box shall not go unstaffed, not on David’s watch!

On the day in question, when I still dragging my emotions through the slush as I exited the parking ramp, David was working.

I pulled up and saw that he was hopping around a bit on one foot, holding something in his hand. Noting that I’d ┬ápulled up, David hopped forward and slid open the plexiglass.

I had to know.

“So, uh, what’s going on in there? Are you learning a new dance? It looks fun, and I imagine the hours in there can get long. Nothing like breaking up a long stretch of time with The Hustle.”

Because he’s David and not Puka Viking, he had the sense to look sheepish before answering, “Oh, I was just changing my shoes.”

“Ah, I see,” I said, not seeing at all why a shoe change is necessary in a booth with a desk and a chair.

Leaning forward so as to impart a confidence, David revealed, “I have a bunion, and I just can’t find the right shoe to keep my foot out of pain, so I change shoes throughout the day. The thing is, I was supposed to have surgery on the bunion last week, but then something came up, so I didn’t have it done, and now I’m regretting it. I already have hardware in my other foot, and so there’s already an issue there, and now that the bunion’s getting worse, I really can’t find the right shoe for either foot. That’s why I’m changing right now: if I switch things up, I can get through the day.”

Tamping down my tendency to help people shoe shop as a means of bettering their lives, I simply noted, “Wow. That’s tough. Maybe you need to reschedule that surgery, eh? In the meantime, there’s a line of cars behind me, so can I do you a favor? How’s about I loiter here for a minute while you finish your shoe change? I don’t need to pull forward until you’re all set and ready to deal with the next person. That way, you won’t have to explain to the next guy why you’re hopping around with a shoe in your hand. Sound good?”

As I was talking, David bent down and slid his foot into the new shoe. He straightened, righted himself, and stood firmly on both feet. Looking me in the eye, he leaned out of the booth like a hand puppet pushing through the fourth wall of its theater and, with all the purity of heart that a home-schooled polygamy-based Mormon can convey, he gushed brightly, “That won’t be necessary, but thank you so much for that offer. That was just so kind.”

Then, very directly, very cleanly, without any of the smudged undertones of my interactions earlier that day, David burst forth with a fully felt “God bless you.”

And what do you know.

This non-religious woman felt a tingle right down to her toes, a sensation of happy ease, and it blew away all the shadows that had been lurking in my corners. Oh, it wasn’t God pouring into me. I’m too crowded already with rollicking universal energies, none of whom require a specific name.

What I felt was unadulterated and genuine goodness hitting me viscerally,

and as it flowed through,

so rare,

so clear,

so light,

my mood soared.

My day was redeemed.

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Let’s call the next post Part III. ‘Cause I gots more David to tell.

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Published by Jocelyn

There's this game put out by the American Girl company called "300 Wishes"--I really like playing it because then I get to marvel, "Wow, it's like I'm a real live American girl who has 300 wishes, and that doesn't suck, especially compared to being a dead one with none."

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17 Comments

  1. When I have a good interaction like that, I feel like sunshine bursts over my whole day. Seriously, it’s that good. I try to keep that in mind and smile at people when I open doors for them and so on.

    And I think that part of the impetus for me exercising regularly is to slough off the burden of the horror stories I hear every day.

  2. We are kindred spirits, you and I, and I have had two similar experiences.

    Which, having recalled, I will now write and share.

    Thank you, Deanna!

    Pearl

  3. Now and then we get the privilage to encounter a person that is truly good at heart. While it’s wonderful anytime, how nice that it happened when you were still “sore” from the previous situation.

  4. I felt your swell and thought that’s happened to me once or twice. But I have only vague memories, not sharp pictures. That’s just fine of course; vague memories still make us smile when we’re old. You make me resolve to record the next moment of purity that comes my way.

  5. well i am glad for the bunioned parking attendants out there who can blow away the ick of whatever hideousness occurs when people choose not to have the conversation. good for you for being able to receive whatever blessing felt redeeming.

  6. I think my Ernesto could take on your David. He is the security guard at my building. He knows ALL of our names and a little something about us. He knows that I am always carrying a book, so he asks me about every new book I have. He has recommended several books to me that I have hated, all crime novels, ones with well seasoned detectives that no one takes seriously. I always lie and say that yes, I will have to read that one! But, there are about 600 people in my building and I kid you not, he knows ALL of our names. When he was out with a bad back a few months ago, we were all in morning because we had a new security guy named Andy who sat around eating goldfish crackers all day long and never even tried to guess our names.

  7. And now, I have to write back and correct my spelling. It should be mourning not morning. I know better and it made me cringe thinking that people would read my comment and think that if I read so many books, I should be smarter….

  8. Oh, Mighty Jocelyn, you’ve outdone yourself–this is wonderful. It’s wonderful when kind, genuine words can erase of day of negativity–instead of the other way around.

  9. Your David is a gem! I was going to suggest that the Duluth Parking Gods recruit some of the Somalis from the Twin Cities — they seem to have taken over the parking ramps completely, more power to them.

  10. I think I could use some redeeming….wait….no, redemption just doesn’t sound as good. I feel as though lately I have no redeeming parts in me. Thanks for passing along yours.

  11. We have the sweetest old ladies working our ramps, but this David sounds like a good egg, too.
    I always figured that for a rough gig.

  12. I’m keeping up, even if I don’t say much these days! Truth is, your stories are so good, and so full of humour and stuff that hits me in the gut, that I can’t come up with much to say that is equal to what I’ve read. But oh man, I feel for you about the blackened innards. And yours is about the best ever description of what it feels like to be at the receiving end of rejection that I have ever heard.
    Do you read Kate Atkinson? You’re got very different voices, but in a way you remind me of each other in that you talk DI-rectly to your readers. There’s no distance, no wall – I’m right there with you. And David is a prince. I’m glad he made you feel so good.

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