Monday, May 24, 2010

Blame it on the Potatoes

If anything out of the ordinary is going to happen, it will happen to me. While I was driving home after stopping to buy some potatoes in anticipation of preparing a nice dinner for my family plus two house guests, I noticed the truck moving ahead of me. It was creeping along ever so slowly, about three cars in front. Initially, I couldn't tell what type of truck it was, but then as it crawled up the hill, I saw it - the sign on the back of the truck that read, "wet paint."

At that point, I noticed that the double yellow lines to my left were indeed looking much brighter and more yellow than usual. Almost a pretty yellow hue, you could say. But being the cautious and conservative driver that I am, I then continued along that winding road and purposefully positioned my car as far away from the center yellow lines as I could, so that my right-sided tires were as far onto the right shoulder as possible. "Surely, the yellow paint is the kind that dries immediately," I thought, "but just to be sure, I'll stay to the far right, along the white line." I had about two more miles to go, so my tires simply "hugged" the right side of the road for the duration of the trip.

I pulled into my driveway, and parked the car. Then I got out and surveyed my tires. That's when my stomach nearly fell to my shoes. You guessed it: The paint on the road had NOT dried previously as I had hoped. My left tires were the same pretty yellow color as that double line, and paint could even be seen inside the wheel well and fenders.

Trembling as I walked into the house, I collected my thoughts and took a few long deep breaths. This sort of thing has never happened to me before. The house guests were planning to arrive in less than 30 minutes, and because the truck had slowed me down considerably, I was way behind schedule on finishing making my twice-baked potatoes.

My heart raced as I pondered what to do. Would washing the car do any good? How about taking it to the car wash? Power-washing? Just then my 20-year-old son bounded into the house. "Hey, what happened to the car? The whole right side is covered with white paint!" He seemed to be grinning.

My heart stopped.

Right side? ... White paint?

I was quite sure that my son is not dyslexic. And I was even more certain that he knows his colors.

Like a madwoman, I dropped the spoon that I'd been holding to scoop out the filling for the twice-baked potatoes and flew past my son to the garage. Sure enough, the right side of the car was freshly painted, in glorious white. Then anger set in, as I pondered what had happened and remembered that there were no orange cones or signs along the road to warn unsuspecting drivers like me that they would be receiving a free paint job, and that it would consist of two colors.

Then I really felt sick. So, I did what any other normal, middle-aged woman would do at this point: I turned up the volume of my almost-on-the-verge-of-crying voice, and I phone my husband.

The volume and tone worked like a charm, because his first question to me when he heard me begin to speak (more like whimper) was, "Were you in an accident?"

Between you and me, I have to tell you that I smiled. I smiled because it was clear from his concerned tone of voice that a little unexpected paint was minor compared to what could have happened. I explained to him that there were no cones or signs to warn me of the wet paint, and after a few choice words were spoken from his end of the phone, we discussed what to do. My car is now at the shop, and at this point we're not sure if the yellow and white paint can be removed without damaging the normal blue color that is supposed to be there. We have a deductible of $1000.00 on our insurance policy.

By the end of the phone call, my husband sighed, "It could have been worse." I smiled again. THAT comment is so unlike the man who inspects the car often, looking for any dings or scratches that might have occurred along the way. "Wait 'till you see the car," I thought.

But then I went inside again and finished making the potatoes, his favorite.

"I've never seen a car with both sides painted before," the nice man from the body shop replied on the phone.

And to think that if only I hadn't stopped to buy those potatoes... I would have been driving ahead of that truck ... and I would have missed the paint on the road ... and this would not have happened ... and...

It could have been worse ... Right?

Anyone else ever had this happen?

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

The Lady Bagging Groceries

Grocery shopping during a rainy, damp Monday morning began in its typical fashion yesterday, but the event turned out to be an eye-opener. I watched as the customer in front of me carefully placed her items on the moving conveyor belt. The store was quite busy and noisy: the beeping of the scanners, the din of the items being placed on the conveyor belts, and the rustling noises produced when the plastic grocery bags were being pulled apart by the hands of the "baggers" were sounds that were all too familiar to me.

I overheard the customer speaking to the woman who was bagging the groceries in my line. (I'll name her the "bagger" for lack of a better word.) The bagger appeared to be about 35 years old - a soft-spoken, African-American woman with a speech impediment, dark eyes, and slightly unkempt hair. Her jeans were quite worn, but not really tattered. Her smile was the kind that made you want to do the same.

As the customer unloaded her groceries onto the belt, I noticed the way she chatted with the bagger. The bagger had replied that she'd been at work since 6:00 in the morning, and she was tired. She looked very haggard to me.

"My son wants to celebrate today," the bagger said proudly to the customer.

"Is today a special day?" asked the customer, warmly.

The bagger replied softly, "It's my birthday! And my seven-year-old son wants to celebrate!"

I overheard the customer reply, "Well, Happy Birthday!" as the two women exchanged smiles.

The bagging of the groceries continued, and the customer and the cashier exchanged money. The sounds of the beeping scanners continued to fill the air all around as well.

Finally, I noticed the customer pushing her filled cart through the line and toward the exit door. Then, she changed direction slightly, and wheeled her cart away from the exit. I lost sight of her at that point, and I finished my task of loading my groceries onto the conveyor belt.

After paying for my groceries, I then noticed the customer re-approaching the same woman who'd been bagging our groceries.

In her outstretched hands, the customer held a beautiful, chocolate, six-inch round cake, which she handed to the woman.

The tired woman who'd been plugging along and bagging groceries for 7 and 1/2 hours smiled, and she eagerly took the cake from the customer's hands. I couldn't help but smile. And I smiled even more as I drove home and pictured the woman sharing her birthday cake with her little boy at home. I'd hoped their home was a quiet place where the two of them could sing, laugh, and enjoy the moment, a moment when the woman could forget about the beeping of scanners or bagging others' groceries.

It was indeed a day to celebrate, not only by the tired woman, but by me as well. Kindness knows no boundaries, and it can even be found on a damp, rainy Monday morning, in a grocery store where scanners never seem to stop their beeping, but someone cared enough to celebrate.