Friday, March 2, 2012

365 Chances #11: In which no one's a stranger.

Last night I went to dinner with Meg at Island Creek Oyster House. It blew my mind, specifically the buttermilk biscuit (there was honey on it!), raw oysters (the namesake oysters are delicious), and another dish whose name I do not remember. We also drank two bottles of wine and were able to catch up, just the two of us. Oh, and there were big snowflakes falling onto Kenmore Square right outside the window. So, you know, it was the perfect date.

That's all to say that this morning I was feeling a bit like I'd drunk equal to or less than the amount of one bottle of wine, so I was a little slow on the uptake. (Translation: I missed the bus to the gym and didn't have time for a proper breakfast.) So on my way to work this morning, I stopped into Trader Joe's for some bananas, an orange, and peanuts. All proper morning/snack foods. Upon checkout, I asked the guy the same old, "How are you today?" And it was his response that woke me up this morning.

"Ah, not doing so well today. I had to put my cat down yesterday."

My jaw did a little bit of dropping, and I couldn't quite figure out how to respond.

"I'm so sorry," I said. Call me Mother Teresa.

"You know, she had acute kidney failure and was in a lot of pain."

"Well, it's probably better that she's not in any pain," I thought to myself. I couldn't speak. I didn't know how to respond, how to offer anything genuine or specific to this man I had just met a minute before. All of the ways I know how to console are intimate and too private for a customer-cashier relationship at Trader Joe's, right?

I left a little bit stunned. I had the feeling I hadn't dealt with the situation properly. I felt a little like he was out of line, spilling his heart out like that in what's supposed to be a predictable transaction. But maybe that's what I don't like so much about the world. I served tables and bartended for the better part of my high school and college careers and even after a rotten morning or shift, when someone--even regulars--asked me how I was, I responded with the boilerplate: "I'm doing well, how are you?"

Sure, there's a time and a place for venting, and often your place of employment isn't it. But I admire that man's ability to say to hell with social norms and knee jerk, generic responses. Maybe if I spent more time actually revealing bits of myself to the world, I wouldn't be so shocked when I saw it in unexpected places.

[Addendum: Not sure what 365 Chances are? Start here. ALSO Meg check out what time I posted this!)

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