Benjamin Franklin is credited with saying, "In life nothing is certain but death and taxes." If I had coined the phrase I would have added an addendum: In life nothing is certain except death, taxes, and that the drooling man is going to come talk to me.
I would like to share an experience I had last week. I was bopping around Michael's craft store, looking for some pretty picture frames (which I found and which look very nice on my wall) and I hear very loud, and very close to my ear, "Now what in the hell do you suppose these are for?"
I knew I was about to make a new friend. I look up and standing a few inches into my personal space is a woman, late 50s-ish, fake blond, very made up (think Tammy Faye), wearing a white, very furry full-length coat, white, very furry knee-high boots, and carrying a white, very furry handbag. The item in question was an over- sized bouncy ball.
Here is the conversation that followed:
Me: I think it's a bouncy ball. [Pointing at bin clearly labeled over-sized bouncy balls]
Tammy Faye: [grabbing my arm] But whaaat doo you dooo with them?
Me: I think you bounce them.
Tammy Faye: Oh. [Turns and lobs the ball down the isle; it bounces off of the various art supplies; she seems disappointed]
Tammy Faye: Here, tell me what you think of this. [Thrusts her wrist under my nose]
Me: Smells nice
Tammy Faye: I'm trying to remember what it is; you don't know, do you?
Me: No, sorry. Maybe if you go to Sephora they could tell you
Tammy Faye: What's Sephora?
This continued while I checked out and into the parking lot while I loaded up my car, got into my car and finally started it up, closed the door and drove away.
This happens on an almost daily basis. It's something I accepted years ago, something I now expect and something I sometimes allow time for when planning to enter certain weirdo 'hot spots' — lets see, run into Wal-Mart for razors and trail mix, talk to one-armed man wearing a fanny pack and fedora, should take about 25 minutes. I never leave Wal-Mart without a new friend. It's something I kinda look forward to; weirdos make life so much more interesting. On the occasions nobody accosts me I generally feel a little sad. I may even flash an inviting smile at the 40-year-old man wearing a sweatshirt with a silkscreened bunny rabbit. Well maybe not. But maybe.
What puzzles me is this: why have I been chosen to be some kind of weirdo whisperer? I've pondered this many times. Do I emit a kind of pheromone that is like catnip for crazies?
For years I tried telling myself that it was because I look nice, nonthreatening, approachable… you know, like someone who cares about your dog who miscarried in 1968, or doesn't mind if you want to touch her hair. But recently another possibility has been nagging at the back of my mind, and it's getting harder to ignore. Maybe they think I am one of them, a kindred spirit, a brother-in-arms or someone who may also have dedicated their life to finding a copper penny from 1943.
And who knows, maybe I am. Maybe that nice couple behind me in line at the A&P got up to the cashier and rolled their eyes and said "everywhere we go…" Maybe the man at the gas station put his finger on the buzzer when I was reciting lines from 30 Rock at 6:25 in the morning. Maybe in 20 years I'll be the one in the ridiculous fur coat.