My car has been down since February. I hope to purchase a new one by the end of the year. I am grateful that I moved to an area where necessities are in comfortable walking distance. I am even more grateful to have wonderful neighbors and friends that check on me regularly to ensure I have everything I need.
This morning I woke up with ambition. I needed to walk to the grocery store twice and then mow the lawn. By daylight, it was already sticky hot at 80 degrees. I require mind over matter on days like this in order to accomplish everything.
On my first trip, I saw Mr. Larry approaching me. I do not walk as much because of the heat, so it was great to see his smiling face. He usually walks 5-10 miles daily on his round trip to the post office once or twice a day.
“Good morning, young lady,” he said to me with a smile. “Good morning,” I responded cheerfully. He always stops walking when we see each other, which I take as his cue that he wants to talk. I was already sweating from the humidity rather than the exertion. “Still at it, I see,” he said.
“Yes!” I told him I needed to walk to the grocery store twice, then cut the grass. I usually do stop and catch up with him, but with rain in the forecast, I did not want to delay my mission. I cut it short and asked him to tell his wife I said, “Hi,” and he bid me a good day as we parted ways and I continued onward.
The distance is 0.45 miles to the shopping complex. I saw a woman getting out of a white car, gathering her baggage for the laundromat. We made eye contact and I smiled and told her good morning. “Good morning,” she said. “It smells like rain, doesn’t it?”
“It does,” I responded. “I need to hurry back home to cut the grass.”
“That’s no fun!” she said. I giggled and granted her a good day. I looked at the clouds gathering, colored by the rising sun in hues of orange and pink against the faint blue back drop of sky. I scratched my plans for two trips this morning, deciding to shop, return home, hydrate, and cut the grass.
I smelled the odor of chlorine. A person, gender initially undetermined, walked in my direction, wearing a black, Crocodile Dundee-style hat. “Good morning,” I said. “Good morning,” she said back in a thick accent. A man approached her, talking. They were working, perhaps cleaning the parking lot. As I walked towards the entrance, she walked almost parallel to me, a few feet away, making comical comments to the man, following the hose that spanned the length of this section of the building.
Inside the store, I quickly grabbed my items and went to check out. The woman at the register said, “It won’t be long now.”
“Yes!” Being a regular, she knows I need everything double-bagged for the walk home. I mentioned to her earlier in the year I am hoping to have a new vehicle around September or October. So close!
“Have a nice day,” we exchanged after I completed my transaction. I got outside and the clouds were fluffier than before. I still had plenty of shade since it was not yet 7:30 AM. I sorted my bags for even weight distribution and proceeded home. When I turned the corner to pass by the laundromat again, the white car was gone. Across the parking lot, there was a man in orange shoes, kicking the grass and concrete, speaking intensely to himself.
Another man walked out of the laundromat with a bag in one hand and a drink in the other and he took a sip. He was walking slowly in the same direction as me. I have a concern about walking behind people when they do not know I am there. I rattled my bags a little, hoping I would not startle him as I approached. He turned towards me.
“Good morning!” I offered easily.
I pick up on mood from tone. I extend a friendly greeting to people as much as I can, for no reason in particular other than this is who I am. With some people, I receive silence. With some, their returned greeting seems obligated. Many people are kind enough for a jovial response.
His was quick and considerate:
“Good morning, ma’am,” he replied.
So far so good, I thought to myself. I averaged 100% today.
Because the other man was so deep in a serious conversation with himself, I contemplated whether or not to extend a greeting. The decision was made for me, which is not uncommon.
As I walked beyond the other man outside of the laundromat, the man across the parking lot began walking in our direction. Whatever he was arguing with himself about escalated. When he saw me, he said loud and clear:
“This white boy is blacker than any n*er in here!”
My blood pumps differently in scenarios like these, where I should probably get upset. Instead of my usual internal reaction, I felt menace wanting to rise up inside of me.
Yet there was no need.
The man that had just given me the considerate greeting returned an immediate exchange to the man with the bright orange shoes that had made the unfortunate comment.
I did not miss a step on my return home. I just sighed, shaking my head and fantasizing about having a can of Twisted Tea handy. My second thought was of dreading the day when I do not have a considerate stranger standing up for me.
Since I am always looking for the upside, I realized since I did not greet orange-shoes, technically today I still averaged 100% in polite greetings. So there’s that.