I f’in love city street signage.
My husband would never admit it but he is often a lot like me. We sometimes talk to one another for shock value, just to make sure the other is listening. It’s an effective way to measure our attention level.
My husband of 27 years entered the kitchen and stood next to where I was writing at the table. I looked up to see why he was standing still. His eyes met mine as he said, “I never thought it would come to this but I bought some marital aids.”
I put down my pen, turned toward him and said, “I’m listening.”
He took a step back, reached into his pocket and gave me a big smile.
What he produced was not what I’d imagined. I quickly turned my back. I also continued to write as he put in a new set of orange ear plugs.
His shocking behavior had my attention. I have to admit, the joke was effective. Richie walked back outside to blow the leaves and I laughed my ass off, comforted by our sense of humor.
Late Sunday morning my husband returned from taking his mother out to breakfast. With the day promising 80’s sunshine in mid-September, Richie said he’d be outside. He saw my heart was elsewhere, “I’ll be out in a bit. I’m writing.” He knows me too well, recognized that was an indeterminate amount of time, and took advantage of the situation. When I finally went out on the deck, I felt betrayed by him, her…and a fellow writer:
My life changed after using the last Q-tip Monday night. Sincerely. I planned to pick up a new box on Tuesday once I finished at the library. The pharmacy was right next door but I managed to forget. On Wednesday, I didn’t think about the Q-tips until I climbed out of the shower that night. Frustrated I muttered, “Oh God! …Let me remember cotton swabs next time I’m out?!” I put on my pajamas and wrote ‘Qtips’ on our refrigerator shopping list.
Thursday was my birthday, so my focus was certainly not on Q-tips or any other kind of cotton swab. I readied for work, caught the train to Boston and bought munchkins for our office. Nobody knew it was my birthday and the morning went by slowly. At noon, I decided to stretch my legs, get some fresh air and take a walk.
The tourists were on the Freedom Trail and the office workers were sitting down to cafe lunches or walking back to buildings with their to-go sacks. I walked with a fast stride, smelled the aromas and listened to the sounds of the city. I watched all the people but saw the homeless. How hard is it for them to watch the feeding frenzy?
The rest of the story that follows is not an event I would typically discuss; moments that happen in my Christian life are between myself and God. However, I feel obligated to spread these special words because I think God works in mysterious and beautiful ways.
I passed many storefronts at a quick pace.
Until I didn’t.
My stride slowed and uncontrollably stopped. I was suddenly standing in front of a very crippled man in his wheelchair. The sensation didn’t scare me and I was not afraid to be with this helpless person. I wanted to assist but didn’t know how. I do know not to give money in the streets. There is a shrine, a soup kitchen and a shelter nearby.
I found myself saying words i hadn’t even formed in my mind yet:
“What can I help you with today?”, as I bent over his chair.
His response was slow, labored and garbled. I didn’t understand anything that he was straining so hard to express.
My soul bled for him as I looked to his hands for some aided expression.
They were twisted and fist-like with long, dirty nails.
They grabbed my heart.
“I am sorry, tell me again.”, now I had to know.
He tried once more, working hard to form lips and sound.
I turned my ear toward him and thought I heard words.
Trying to match a food with what I thought I heard, I questioned, “Chips?! You want potato chips?” I turned back to face him, hoping to see acknowledgement in his eyes.
They were covered with black sunglasses; it was a beautiful sunny day.
Don’t let me give up, I thought. This is my fellow human being. He turned his head, left and right and then directly at me.
A definite but pleading “No.” registered in his mouth and my ears.
I had his lunch request all wrong, didn’t know what else to do, and then, at that very defeated moment, I heard his continued mumble as clear as a foggy day.
He spoke more slowly. “No, Q-tips.” and low but distinct, “I need Q-tips.”
I froze. In elation. For so many reasons.
“Of course. You know what?”, I was so happy and continued, “I need Q-tips too. I’ll buy some for both of us.”
It was as easy as the nearby CVS and the cosmetics aisle. I was overjoyed that I’d waited to understand. Coming together may have been God’s plan all along? My spiritual life changed because remembering new Q-tips helped me not to hear, but to see, in a whole new way.
Happy Birthday to me.
Among the Corporate hot topics of transparency and open concept design, is also my inability to keep a secret. I stepped onto the building elevator and saw a colleague from another glass floor having difficulty with her access badge. I just smiled, waited, helped and then told her it happens to all of us.
“You’re so patient and happy. Are you always like this when you go to work?”, she asked as the doors opened to my floor.
I laughed as I stepped off the elevator. I am usually one of the first to arrive, so despite not wanting anyone in my office to know, I looked back at her as the elevator started to close and yelled, “Actually, it’s my birthday today!”
Her surprised smile as the doors shut made my day. It also felt good to say out loud. I reached for my second access badge, opened the door and stepped into the work area. On this side of the tower is a bank management training program. To my chagrin, everyone was already there.
One of the young co-ed women looked at me with a clever smile and said, “Wow! It’s your birthday. Enjoy!”
This was followed by the two people in her group also chiming in to say, “Happy Birthday!”
I stopped in my tracks realizing I had unintentionally thrown my own party.
The rest of the group, about 30 in all, turned or swiveled in my direction and wished me a loud “Happy Birthday!” in unison. One guy even gave me a high five as I started to walk past the group. Others joined in as I thanked them all with an embarrassed laugh and continued to the other end of the floor.
I felt like I’d just won the biggest Corporate account or hit the winning basket for the company team. That moment was an embarrassingly fun way to jump start the day.
My own team wasn’t there yet, had no idea it was my birthday and didn’t see this happen. I signed onto my computer with a new secretly knowing grin on my face. With the open concept design, I was not only transparent, I had hit my own glass ceiling.
I am finally at a point in my life where I go to the gym every day. I don’t just show up either. I battle it out for the best result. On the days I arrive later than usual, and the gym is already full, I at least visit for a moment and share my fruit with other gym members. I am the ideal team player.
My loyalty is to my team, regardless of the benefit to me. How can I not support ‘Redbeard’? My husband has a beard and loves redheads, so it makes sense that he’s a teammate. I also had a cousin, Sonny we used to call him, that died young. This is why I consider gym mate ‘Zombie Sonny’ to be family. Then there are gym members I feel obligated to take under my wing like ‘Apathetic Bill’. He will be charged up with motivation when I finish with him.
Stop by the gym. I may be red in the face but I am there with my buddy every day. If you too are red, Team Valor, help me to show great courage in the face of danger. If you are the Rapidash of another color, maybe we can still become friends. I may just give you a gift. Every day, I am loyal to a fault.
Catching your husband in the act is a gigantic smack in the face. Seeing him not want to let go of her embrace, is a sucker punch. I entered, almost willing to endure a threesome, and my husband just walked out of the room.
He left the two of us behind to battle it out. Richie, champion that he is, non-chalently went into the living room and turned on the TV. I wasted no time getting the bitch off my kitchen table.
“Alexa, off!”, I demanded.
Defending their behavior, I heard a distant, “Leave her alone.”
Still not understanding the madness, I walked to our threshold and reasonably stated, “You’re watching TV now, you don’t need her to play you love songs.”
Having an answer for his torrid behavior, Richie defended, “She was playing background music.”
I had killed the mood. This round was a knockout. I went back to my corner and my affair with Mr. Clean.
<Refer to the acceptance of our Alexa relationship here.>
Our daughter will be moving to a new apartment, so we went to furniture stores with her to check out locations, quality and price. One of the stops was a glass mattress store front. The locale seemed hokey versus some of the more upscale local shops she visited. Regardless, we went in, figuring our daughter would at least determine what type of mattress she liked.
Nobody was on the display floor when we entered the mattress graveyard. The oversized room was eerily quiet but also Tarah’s preference. She didn’t want anyone watching her reenact sleep habits.
We walked up and down the Madeline-esque rows and nobody greeted us – which was actually great. I hate being pounced on and our daughter was the customer, not us. Our shy Tarah finally got comfortable enough with the environment, sat on a mattress and out came Mr. Salesman. The mattresses either had doorbells under them or this guy was watching us through a peephole. I would have believed either based on his sudden interest in our family. I was subtle:
“Can you go back to wherever you came from?”
He tilted his head like our family dog, either wanting attention or to hear me better.
I explained that the process was a little awkward to us and asked for some time to figure out preferences.
The salesman said he completely understood, explained the store color coding for soft, medium, firm and returned to the back room.
My Goldilocks daughter roamed about, tried several mattresses and declared her just-right preference was “soft”.
Right on cue, Mr. Man appeared again.
“Did you not find something else to do?” I continued, “she is just starting to figure out the differences. Could you spend some time with Google instead and give us a few more minutes?”
He seemed to somewhat understand, showed us where to find the pricing charts and went back to his ease-dropping peephole.
We talked with our daughter about brands, budgeting and moving day as she bounced between her three favorite mattresses. When she declared which one she liked best, the Wizard of Odd came back out from behind the curtain.
“Can you make yourself scarce? We are discussing her game plan for moving and how this is all going to work.”
He was understanding enough but only after he explained delivery options, showed us his springs exhibit and told us about the 1-day ONLY free bedframe sale!
“Thanks but we are not going to buy something our first day out. Can you go to the desk for one moment and bring us your business card instead?”
He no longer understood. My fake purchase alternative was too formal and he explained, “I am always the only one here. Just call and ask for me (who else was answering?) and I’ll help you with financing.”
We all stood to leave. Tarah thanked him for letting us look and moved toward the door to continue her comparison shopping. I followed her out of the hokey location and wondered why I didn’t just ask the guy to get lost?!