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.

No comments: