I used to see this guy Bob in the rooms. Big guy, balding young. When he moved, he shambled, hunched over by the weight of the chip on his shoulder. He was a wrinkly, puffy mess, pouty about everything, always Poor Me coming out of his mouth. He hated his job, he hated his job, then he got fired and he was mad about that. When he shared, he'd pick one person to talk to, look down while he spoke and then up to check with his audience of one for . . . whatever he was checking for. Acknowledgment: let's call it that.
Like so many of us in those rooms, he was a little kid in a grown-up's body.
I haven't seen Bob in a long time.
I haven't been going to meetings.
A few days ago the mailman left a notice for me that I had a piece of mail that I needed to sign for. It would be held at a post office not my own. "Odd," I thought. The floods, though, have caused the mail, as well as many other things, to be off kilter. The next day I asked the mail carrier who delivers to the office why my mail might be at a different post office. She said that if there had been a substitute delivering mail on my route, he might have used the wrong call slip . . . on of his "home" call slips instead of filling out a blank one for my village.
"Call first," she said, "before you make an extra trip."
Of course I did not call first, but started my Saturday morning rounds with my home post office. The lobby, where the mailboxes are, was open, but the clerk's area was locked up tight. Through the glass door I saw that the walls are half gone . . . the studs are drying out before the sheetrock can be replaced.
Ah. No mistake then. I really did have to go to the other post office to retrieve my mystery mail item. Only a pleasant ten minute drive, past barns and pastures of cows, and over the creek that has come to resemble the mighty Mississippi in its new breadth and milk chocolate color.
I parked, went inside, signed the orange slip and handed it over to the clerk. While she flipped through a carton of packages, I picked up a small brass bell on the counter and looked inside it. The original clapper was gone, replaced by a paper clip. I waggled the bell and it tinkled faintly.
"How cute," I said. "Is it effective?"
"Oh yes," said the clerk. "I can hear it every time."
"Ears like a dog," I said. We smiled, I took my envelope and I turned to leave.
I pushed on the door; it gave way suddenly. A tall man was pulling the door open to come inside. We met in the doorway. "Oh! I'm sorry," he said, stepping back to let me pass while he held the door.
"Perfectly all right," I said. We smiled. "Thank you."
"Have a good day," he said.
"You too!" I told him. I headed for my car.
The car next to me began to back up. Then, a crackle-whump sound, like a cardboard box being run over.
"Oooo, that doesn't sound good," I said to myself. The car pulled forward again. I looked over my right shoulder to see what was going on. The driver and passenger, all covered with consternation, hurried out of their vehicle and went to look at the rear of a small green car parked behind them. The man who had held the door for me appeared. All three of them looked long and intently at the bumper of the car, which seemed undamaged, unmarked. Each of them ran their hands over it. Nodding and shaking of heads all round, readiness to accept responsibility, to forgive injury.
I backed up slowly and minimally. As I moved the gear shift from "reverse" to "drive," I heard the man say, in a comforting tone, "Noooooooo....." and then, "You have a nice day now." As I prepared to turn out onto the road, all three were getting into their cars. I looked closely at the man getting into the green car.
It was Bob.
A Bob all grown up, wearing neat clothing, wearing a smile.
Wearing his sobriety.
INTERESTING STUFF – 29 April 2017
1 hour ago