Living in a small town can have its benefits. Everyone, pretty much, knows everyone else. Sometimes by name, sometimes just by face. As my daughter’s peers have aged I realize that I know a lot of faces, but am fuzzy on some of the names. I spent years volunteering in the school system and in town in one capacity or another. As a result, I know quite a few people here in Mayberry.
Admittedly, this can be annoying under certain circumstances, like when you are chasing the DPW truck and hauling your garbage can up the street whilst in your pajamas, and out of the clear blue you hear, “Hi, Mrs. D! How’s Fangette doing?” It is in these moments that you find yourself thinking, “Good Lord, do I look like I am any condition to hold a conversation?” But I still do. As I hand some young man my garbage can and thank him for holding the truck for my sorry ass, I say, “She’s doing just fine. Thanks for asking!” And then I skulk away before he has time to notice the condition of my hair (sticking straight up!) or my teeth (unbrushed!).
There are other situations, though, in which the whole, “Hey, I know her!” can come in handy; when it can get you out of a jam. Take today, for example.
Late this morning I was very nearly involved in fisticuffs with a well-dressed, but ill-tempered man. Seriously, he appeared to be on the verge of, like the kids say, “throwing down” . This guy really needed to chill out, to put things in perspective. Luckily, while I can be a hothead myself, I chose to take the higher road with this insaniac — plus, as you shall see, he rather quickly and unexpectedly became outnumbered. (Don’t mess with a former PTO President in small town America, folks!)
The events that I am about to recount transpired as I was returning home from a job interview. I am happy to report that I am, once again, in possession of two jobs. Yay, me! Hopefully this one will be far less stressful than the one I just left. It’s a bartending gig and, as such, is far more in my comfort zone. As the entire interview was conducted in an elevator while standing up, I have a good vibe about the far more relaxed nature of this outfit. While this establishment is much fancier than the last place I worked — there are actual tablecloths in this joint — they seem to take themselves far less seriously.
Prior to stumbling upon my new employer in the elevator I was in the midst of several text conversations with people from my main job, mostly regarding shift switches and one concerning the proper etiquette for tipping furniture delivery people. I was eagerly waiting on one of my co-workers to get back to me regarding a shift for this evening, as there had been some confusion regarding this shift — confusion that had, up to that point, not been resolved to my satisfaction. I was still unsure — and had been for most of the week — whether or not I was supposed to work tonight.I don’t mind going to work, I do mind going to work for no reason.
As I got off of the bus my phone started binging — alerting me to the fact that I had received some new text messages. I took out my phone, planning to check the status of my messages as soon as I had cleared the upcoming driveway that was five feet away from me. Yes, my phone was in my hand. No, I was not looking at it or texting on it.
As I approached said driveway I noticed a car slowing down. I was uncertain whether or not the car was slowing down because the driver planned to pull into the driveway or if he or she was out for a Sunday drive. The driver had decided, for whatever reason, not to use a turn signal. Okay.
I decided that even if this person was planning to turn into the driveway, I still had enough time to clear it safely. The driver had other ideas. Instead of recognizing — based on the briskness of my pace — that I was doing my level best to get out of his way, he chose to speed up and try to beat me into the parking lot. When he realized that he needed to give me two more seconds to get out of his path he began to gesture wildly and make the “on the phone” gesture at me.
Let me reiterate that I was not on the phone. I was not even looking at the phone. I was holding my phone, but I was holding it at my side. It was practically resting on my thigh. So, his wild gestures, which included some angry pointing of his finger, kind of irked me.
I rolled my eyes at him and moved along. I just wanted to get home. Perhaps the fact that I had dared to roll my eyes at this maniac — a person who had just seconds before nearly mowed me down with his luxury car — is what got him hot under the collar. I will never know. Me? I was willing to let bygones be bygones. Honestly, I had already forgotten about it.
And then I noticed that he had jumped out of his car. And he was screaming. Frankly, I thought that he was on the phone. I may have rolled my eyes again as I thought, “What is this idiot going on about now? Who is he screaming at now?” And then it dawned on me: he was still screaming at little old me.
His arms were going a mile a minute, as was his mouth, and his face was beet red. Just as I was about to open my own mouth, a minivan pulled up next to me — a minivan that contained, oddly enough, a gaggle of young men. One of them rolled down the window and said, “Ma’am, is everything alright?”
I just had a second to register the appearance of the minivan when I realized that loony luxury car guy was about ten feet in front of me. I put up my hands in a “stop” motion and told him, “Sir, I don’t know what your problem is, but I am going to tell you right now that you had better ‘step off’ because if you think for one minute that you are going to intimidate me with your blustering and your hollering, you are out of your mind. Let me remind you that I am the pedestrian and that, as such, you must stop for me. End of story.”
He then began pointing at my purse or, more exactly, to a brown paper bag that was hanging out of my purse, while making a drinking motion with his hand to his mouth. I was completely and utterly confused by this.
I then heard a voice behind me. It was one of the young men from the minivan. It occurred to me that I knew him. He was a couple of years older than my daughter and while I could not tell you his name, I recognized him. It became obvious that he knew me, too.
This kid turned to the moron that was now quiet, but standing with his hands on his hips — as if he was waiting for me to say something to him, if I had to guess, I would say that he was waiting on an apology. (He may as well have been waiting for hell to freeze over.) That is when I realized that one of the young men was standing aside of me. He said, “Sir, I know this woman. I would suggest, if you would like to escape with your dignity and your nose intact, that you get the hell out of here because she will bury you.”
I burst out laughing. We all did. Well, the boys in the van and I did. Mr. Luxury Car turned on his heel and left, but not before he made a comment about women who wander the streets drunk before noon. Again, I was confused.
The young man, the one who clearly knew me, pointed to the brown bag hanging out of my purse. It was then when I realized that our excellent driver thought that I was carrying a bottle of booze in my purse. I reached into the bag and produced, for the boys and for the guy who had concluded that I was wandering around taking hits from a bottle of hootch, the ham and cheese sandwich that I was planning to eat for lunch. I held it aloft, you know, kind of like how John Cusack held the boom box over his head in “Say Anything”.
The kid just laughed some more and said, “Mrs. D., you have a great day. Would you like a ride home?” I said, “No, but thank you for coming to my rescue!” He told me it was his pleasure and, with that, the van sped off. And, yes, I noted that the driver signaled to the rest of the world his intention to pull on to the street. For the life of me I cannot put a name to the face of my rescuer or to any of the other inhabitants of the minivan.
It was a great small town moment that was made better by the fact that I was not in my pajamas chasing a garbage truck!