What ever could make a better story than the woman who sat in a booth, ordered, ate, and once full, fat, and happy, couldn't slide out again? The manager had to find a wrench and unbolt the table base from the floor to give her more wiggle room.
...or my poor customers who came in with two young sons, one of whom was sleeping and woke suddenly, suffering from a violent stomach upset. That one really doesn't bear repeating. A bland Waitress Face and a quick grab-and-scoop of all four corners of the tablecloth into a bundle full of dishes, silverware, food . . . and all . . . that I carried off into the waitstation saved us all further embarrassment.
The mass of humanity contains endless subsets: people who eat in restaurants; people who have their hair styled (I always thought that being a hairdresser would be far worse than waiting tables because if there's one thing people are more sensitive about than their food, it's their appearance); people who drive; people who ride mass transportation, and so on. When you are a civil servant, you get 'em all. All of them. The good, the bad, the ugly. The cheerful, the ne-er-be-happy, the chatty, the silent. The clean and the dirty, the ill and the hardy.
Poopy Pants Man
The word circulated through the office that a man had arrived at 9:00am, three hours early for his court appearance. He was sitting on an upholstered chair in the otherwise unoccupied courtroom. The court clerk recognized him: he had been in her courtroom two days before, and had left traces of . . . scat . . . on the chairseat. That chair had been removed and cleaned and was drying elsewhere in the building. And now Poopy Pants Man was in there on another chair.
One of Small Pond's Finest was called in to suggest, gently, that he wait in the lobby on the wooden bench. Poor soul. Who would choose to leave fecal stains on furniture? No one. But there's only so much in Small Pond's budget for cleaning supplies and replacement chairs. Wooden benches clean much more easily than upholstery.
Lady in the stairwell
I walked from my Afternoon Job desk to go upstairs to the photocopier. As I reached for the stair door handle, Phyllis came from the other side, wide-eyed and white-faced. She said, "You don't want to go up these stairs."
"No. You don't."
"Why don't I want to?"
"You just don't."
"Okay." I turned and headed for the elevator.
At the second floor I exited the elevator to see a gray-haired lady leaving the bathroom, breathlessly twittering to her waiting middle-aged daughter. They went off down the hall, I made my photocopies, and scurried in to Phyllis.
"What was that all about?"
The lady, it seems, had had a not-uncommon Older Lady Accident as she walked through the lobby. As Phyllis was descending the stairs she had passed the woman in mid-clothing-change on the landing.
Afternoon Boss and I were leaving work on court day. Court day delivers a whole new cast of characters, about whom Phyllis says, "If they could read and follow directions, they wouldn't be going to court." Bill and I lingered, chatting, just outside the building's doors. A young woman drove in and parked, took some books from her car and walked up the hill toward the back entrance to the court. Watching her trudge up the steep hill, I said, "She must be a frequent flyer: she knows the way to the back door."
When she settled at the picnic table under the tree, Bill observed, "She must just be waiting for somebody."
A young man burst through the door behind us and headed for the parking lot, frenetically swinging from car to car. We paid not much attention to him, knowing how Court People often act differently from Non-Court People. A sudden yell from the woman at the picnic table: "Hey! What're you doing to my car!"
The young man wheeled away from her vehicle, windmilling his arms. "Sorry! Sorry! I was just looking for my wallet. I thought it was my mom's car. I'm really sorry. I'm just really nervous right now. Sorry!" He moved off, veering loopily among the other vehicles.
Next day we got, as Paul Harvey used to say, the rest of the story. The kid had gone to court to keep a miscreant friend company. While the friend waited for his case to come before the judge, the kid left to kill some time in the parking lot. That's when Bill and I, and the picnic table woman, saw him. Court finished and the judge went home. At 8:30 the police called the judge back to the office to arraign the young man on the charges that apply for stealing a purse from a car. The picnic table woman signed a witness statement about her observations.
The Mean Man from MacMillan Road
Early every quarter a man comes to pay his water bill. His small rumply body slouches through the door, his face completely without expression.
"Good morning! How are you?"
His pouchy dull eyes stare into mine. His jowly jaw moves not at all. He makes no response. He slides the bill and cash across the counter. Change is made and returned to him. His eyes follow the transaction.
"There y'go. Have a good day."
Silent, he pockets the receipt and change, turns and leaves.
The Shot Heard 'Round the Building
Last week the HVAC maintenance man visited for his semi-annual tune-up of the system. It was afternoon and I was at my desk, the office door open to the lobby, which is floored in marble and walled in cement-over-metal. The room echoes like the biggest shower stall in the world. The man was working on the lobby's heating/air-conditioning unit, fifty feet from my chair. I could hear every turn (wrank! wrank!) of his screwdriver as he removed the unit's metal cover. I could hear the magnified sound of each screw (Tink! Tink! Tink!) as he dropped them on the floor.
And then he dropped something heavy, made of metal.
The police chief was through the PD door in a flash, eyes alert, head swiveling.
Phyllis was down the stairs and through the stair door ten seconds later.
I sat at my desk, my hand on my chest, gasping.
"Sorry," the repairman said. "I dropped something."
The Wedding Day
One day a small, fit, happy gentleman came to the office and asked, in accented English, for a marriage license. He was tidily dressed and groomed: comb trails ran along the sides of his gray/blond head. Two days later he made an appointment for the mayor to perform a marriage ceremony.
Ten minutes before 11:00am on The Day, the groom arrived. A shyly smiling lady followed him through the door. The delicate blonde bride wore Kelly green with white cotton lace at the V-neck of her suit jacket. The couple sat and spoke soft Hungarian to each other while they waited.
The smiling mayor arrived and introduced himself. He shook hands with the bridegroom.
"Here's my pretty lady! See my pretty lady!"
The mayor smiled and nodded at the bride. He completed the preliminary paperwork and led the way to the courtroom. He stood in front of the judge's bench, behind the rail, and pronounced the words that made them man and wife. At the end, the mayor forgot the final instruction.
"Are you going to say it?" the groom asked. "Are you going to say it? Because I'm going to do it anyway." And he kissed his bride.
They are both seventy-something, had each immigrated from Hungary years ago. They met ten years ago, in this country, far from their birthplace. And now they're married.
They left to go tell their friends, and then to lunch.
"They won't believe it!" the beaming new husband told us.
They left behind a bunch of teary-eyed sighing females, all saying to each other, "They're so sweet..."
"Aren't they just . . . sweet?"