Tuesday, November 28, 2006

The Greeter

(also on video)

Sitting on the steps of the factory outlet store, this old man smokes a cigarette and studies the parking lot in front of him. It just goes on and on. He wonders how in the hell he got here. He knows he is old because his knees hurt a lot. The sun is out, the day is cold and the glare in his eyes makes him feel like going back in, but it's only the job in there. The work. He's a greeter. He stands by the door and says hello to anyone who comes in, "welcome to our store". His name tag would introduce him, but no one notices it. Even if they did, they'd have a hard time pronouncing it. Looks like there's way too many letters in that name. Where he comes from, they don't know. He says hello as they walk by ignoring him. He wonders how in the hell he got there. Of course he remembers the airplane, and the airports, and the trains and the bus from the hills past the desert and back to the lake a billion and seventy one miles from here. It was cold and sunny that day too. His grandson brought him over, and just plopped him here, right in the middle of could-be-anywhere. From there to here, the differences are too great to even talk about. The language is the least of it. The cars don't even smell the same. He won't say that he is homesick. He won't say that he is lonely. He just might as well be anywhere. Anywhere at all.

One of these days, he's going to make a friend. Someone will notice him and he will smile and say an even nicer hello than usual. That person, who will remind him of his cousin, perhaps, that person will return his smile, extend their hand, shake his hand, and offer him a greeting in a language he will understand, and on that day, and at that time, he will be happy for awhile.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

The Babbler

He comes at you at the speed of light, when you're already trapped in a corner or otherwise stuck. He starts in right off, jabbering at you like a blue jay at dawn. You cannot believe how fast this guy talks. Do you know the origin of the Baby Ruth candy bar? It's got nothing to do with the Babe. Did you know? It was named for a president's baby. Her name was Ruth. Did you know it came without wrappers at first? Thta's how they did it, I know, this guy told me, it's true.

And so it begins. a deluge of inane insipid chatter. He covers a lot of ground in a very short time. He tells you about the outrage of street-cleaning no-parking zones and the tickets they give, do you know how much it adds up to? Fifty dollars every other week that would be like a lot over time. He discusses the horror of the mess created by the fall of autumn leaves. If that was my tree, I'd cut it down so fast it would make your head swim. If I only had a chainsaw. You want me to cut that down? I could do it. You know how they sell those things? By weight. What do I want with a heavy one. Give me the lightest model I say. I hate those leaves. What a mess. And why Lincoln's on the left of the penny. And the ink never dries on the dollar. And nostalgia, you can never forget about Elvis.

And movies in general, you remember that guy? The one who was in that movie one time, you know the one. The guy with the face and the hair. He had that thing that he did, remember? 1941 I think, or maybe it was '52.

This bent over little old man with the eyes bugging out of his head and the stream of pure crap pouring out of his mouth, do you know what he said? Do you want to know what he told me? It's true.

Everything he knows he learned from standing in lines and pestering the other people there.

You feel you can't breathe. Is this how you wanted to spend your day off? You're not even waiting in line. It was supposed to be some kind of party. Then you think, wait a minute, I could just walk away, and this guy would not even notice. You do, and he doesn't. You look back and you see he just turned and attacked the next body around. It goes on.

For seventy years it goes on.