A continuation from the previous post. I believe such a thing is called Part II.
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 pulled 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,
my mood soared.
My day was redeemed.
Let’s call the next post Part III. ‘Cause I gots more David to tell.