Friday, June 15, 2007

I've Grown Accustomed To Your Face

I think there must be something about my face.
I keep checking to see if ‘Tell Me All About It’ is stamped on my forehead.

During a recent trip to K-Mart I was deep in thought in the sock department, contemplating the advantages of crew style as opposed to the tube. A woman approached and pulled her cart up next to mine. She randomly pawed through the sport socks with the little pom-poms on the heel. Then all I did, and I’m not lying, is look up and acknowledge her presence. With me, that’s all it takes.

She began.

“Had my cat neutered and declawed this morning.”

No “hello, nice day, these prices are really good”, nothing in a preliminary manner. She just started right in as though we were continuing a conversation we might have begun over coffee a few minutes earlier.

She went on.

“You know, I waited 14 years for my first cat to die so I could buy new furniture, they scratch things up so bad, you know. And now Harvey he brings home this new one, wouldn’t you know it. I’m not waiting another 14 years, oh no, not this time.”

How does one reply to a harangue such as that? Being a common occurrence for me, I decided to go with the moment, I said, “Well, you deserve new furniture after all those years.”

That’s what she was hoping to hear. However, my response is the wrong one if I happen to be in a hurry or don’t feel like having company on my sock expedition. For now she has followed me around to the other side of the sock department, almost into the shoe
department, and I didn’t even want to look at shoes. But I pretended that I did.

“We had the fish fry at the diner last Thursday,” she said. “You know, before bingo, Harvey and me. Do you think that’s strange, having fish on Thursday instead of Friday?”

She wanted an answer. “Do you like fish,” I asked?
“Sure, me and Harvey do,” she replied.
“Then I guess any night’s ok for fish fry,” I said confidently.

That was the answer she was looking for. Instantly I became her new best friend. And as such, my opinion was required, the barn boots for Harvey or the insulated Timberlines?

And on it went until a teenage boy sidled over from the men’s shoe department, another total stranger. He waited for the woman to stop for breath, then asked my advice on the best type of laces for his dress shoes.

“I have to go to my Uncle’s funeral and my mother won’t let me wear my Nikes, couldn’t find the laces for my shoes, think I used them to fix my basketball net, she said go buy some new ones and get the right color, do you think these are oxford, what color is oxford anyway?”

I turned to answer him, which obviously ticked-off the fish fry woman who took this as a snub. She mumbled something to the effect of “buttinsky kid” and said she needed to find the cat food department. She whirled her cart around and didn’t look back. Shoeless Joe and I are left to ponder the myriad color choices of shoestrings.

In the next four and a half minutes he told me that his Uncle died of cirrhosis of the liver and his grandmother is coming in from Pocatello, Idaho for the funeral and that no one knows where his Uncle’s wife is so they can tell her he’s died and that he thinks he’ll get out of school for the services and that’s ok except that he’ll miss his girlfriend and what do I think, should he ask her to the funeral, would that count as a date?

I think I have a new best friend.
Must be something about my face.



At Saturday, June 16, 2007 9:16:00 AM, Blogger Jack said...

Realy enjoyable, as is your blog. Do you have any objections if I put your wee blog in my places to visit. I'm looking for places I thing other people might enjoy.


At Tuesday, June 19, 2007 7:30:00 AM, Blogger ZaPaper said...

That is hilarious. Do people really do this to you!? Quite charming about the shoelaces. I opine that a funeral counts as a sort of date, and unusual and interesting one. The only funeral I've ever attended was a "date", though it was a little hard to know how to behave when everyone was sad, and you barely even knew the person...

At Wednesday, June 20, 2007 2:15:00 PM, Blogger gloria said...

Hey Jack,
I've sent you an answer on your blog.

Thanks for stopping by.


At Wednesday, June 20, 2007 2:24:00 PM, Blogger gloria said...

All the time, Z. Grocery stores are the most common place where total strangers will strike up conversations with me. Kids and older people, mostly. I think the people in-between are always in too much of a hurry. I'm rarely in a hurry myself, so I guess it's bound to happen. And then the way I tend to make eye contact with people sets me apart as a prime target for this sort of thing.

I don't mind really. I'm pretty sure I will be the older person who tells a total stranger about shoelaces before too long. I see it coming.


At Wednesday, June 20, 2007 2:27:00 PM, Blogger gloria said...

Whoa! Z, I almost forgot to ask you--you really went on a date to a funeral, too? Oy, there's a story in that, I would bet. Is it something you can tell? Please include it on your blog. And let me know so I don't miss it.


At Friday, June 29, 2007 12:27:00 AM, Blogger Juliet said...

That used to happen to me all the time when I lived in Rochester. I remember one time, walking through a five-and-dime, that I kept on seeing this batman t-shirt through to the next aisle - the guy was following me everywhere...but that was typical. Did I have a neon light flashing, "follow me!" that I wasn't aware of? Nowadays, my music students stare at my face, hoping to find answers. I fear that my forehead is looking more and more like a musical staff...

At Thursday, July 05, 2007 3:27:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Humor. What's "funny" vs. what's "ridicule." That is the question.

You've got some great potential content here. But the way you are presenting (e.g. "harrangue...," "sidled over...," borders on ridicule of the people who are providing you, gratis, with what's funny in this piece. I'd have liked it better if you had given it a "things I would never have learned if I weren't lucky enough to have 'TELL ME' tattooed on my forehead.. etc...

IMO, the humor here doesn't lie in making your subjects look insane. Or ridiculing them for confiding details of a family funeral... Etc. Just for what it's worth.

Leslie (in the spirit of sometimes another ear helps..."

At Thursday, July 05, 2007 4:29:00 PM, Blogger gloria said...

I like your ear. And your heart.

I have been struggling for years with exactly what you have presented here. My writer friends tell me I hold back too much, don't push the envelope enough with my humor. And the one time I do, someone calls me on it. Guess this confirms my suspicions that I ought to stick with self-deprecating humor.

I have revised this (Face) piece no less than twenty times. I actually had one version that used almost your exact wording, ie. being lucky enough to have a face that total strangers can trust.

I've had it published twice, once in the St. Petersberg Times. But that doesn't mean squat or make it right. We all know that mean-spirited humor sells better than that with a softer edge. (Perhaps that's why my husband has to support me.)

My writer friends will disagree, but I'm going to side with you on this one. And send it back to the drawing board one more time.

Interesting and ironic, that it took a stranger to help me make this decision.

My writer's group could use someone like you.

Thanks for your honesty.


At Thursday, July 05, 2007 5:21:00 PM, Blogger Grub said...

Well, Gloria, I'm a new reader and I almost didn't send it. Thank you for getting that I was encouraging you to polish what is already golden.

I like to write humor, too, and this is the hardest of the hard part. IMO.

And tinkering with a humor piece, as you well and truly know, can be disastrous. Like touching a butterfly's wing. Stuff rubs off on your hand and spoils the wing in the process. A well-written humor piece may sound swashbuckling but it is, in truth, a fragile, tender thing.

As an exercise, can I mess with it a bit editorially and email you privately? Leslie

At Thursday, July 05, 2007 7:09:00 PM, Blogger gloria said...

Absolutely, get your literary Swiffer Mitt out and polish away. I would love to see what you have in mind.

As I said, I like your ear.

Give it a shot.


At Wednesday, November 28, 2007 10:29:00 AM, Blogger sppowell said...

Dear Blue Light Special Aisle 8;
this is sppowell;love your blog and as always your life is no JA will confirm.. say hello to BOB..

At Wednesday, November 28, 2007 12:01:00 PM, Blogger gloria said...

Dear Steph,
No mystery, huh? I find that hard to believe. What about those super Mom powers, hmm? We all have them. Like that finger snap thing we do when a kid has said,
"Mo-om, mo-om, mo-om!", about forthy-seven times while we are trying to explain to the nice bank teller why we couldn't possibly be overdrawn by $134, and miraculously, the kid stops mid-Mom.
Now you can't say that's not mysterious.

Bob, say hey.



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