08 December 2006

random exchange

While shopping a local Walgreen's yesterday, I had an exchange with the photo department clerk that left me thinking about the nature of accidents.

I've been turning these ideas over, trying to wrap my head around how completely against the laws of nature it is that we collectively have billions of daily multiple random interactions with one another, and thinking about how the consequences of those exchanges can be equally random - except when they aren't and something profound occurs within us as a result.

The twenty-something photo department clerk was running her scanner's magical red light wand across the UPC codes on the items I was purchasing while, meanwhile, making polite 'did you find everything you were looking for?' chit chat. I remarked absentmindedly that yes I had but oh goodness, last night I hadn't and that was why I was back again today. She ceased her red light wanding. She looked into my eyes with some concern and asked what had happened last night.

I, having had no expectation that she'd be the least bit interested and in fact, fully expecting her to respond the way many do in such store/elevator/crossing walk exchanges with a 'yeah whatever lady, now move it along' coated chill, prepared the Cliff Notes version of the story and noticed my shoulders lowering slightly. I felt my own energy change in the space of milliseconds. I perceived (even before I recognized the perception!) someone genuinely asking me about what I otherwise would have crossed off as a vaguely disappointing experience that no one cares enough about to inquire about.

I recounted my failed attempt the previous night at 9:45 p.m. to get a photo printed from their insta-pic machine. That night's employees had apparently closed down the photo department early and were not prepared to fulfill a last minute print request. I certainly couldn't fault them for my own last minute emergency, but I was bummed that they weren't following their own set hours and I was disappointed at feeling as though the posted hours (posted policies, posted anythings) were not worth counting on if the employees were in the habit of randomly closing up shop that way. It wasn't a big deal, I'd live to see another day, my sense of self and safety weren't in danger ... it was just one of those pains.

The clerk seemed surprised to hear that her department (her department) had closed early. She apologized for the confusion and explained how, had they been following their regular schedule, she normally would have been there the previous evening but that she had missed severals days' work to take care of a personal matter. I said 'no problem' and expressed my hope that her personal matter turned out okay.

Suddenly the floodgates opened.

Her grandfather had been sick. Yes, he was elderly and they knew he wasn't expected to live much longer but when the doctors had recently diagnosed his cancer and they said he had a month to live and then he'd lived exactly one month, one week it somehow froze the family into a shock. The knowing was one thing, the realizing was another. Grandpa died. The entire family had traveling to be together and present for his funeral. A big family gathering combined with a funeral was one of those chaotic big things.

Then, during the funeral her grandfather's son - her father - had collapsed. He was taken to a hospital emergency room to be treated for an apparent heart attack. The grieving family had to regroup and redirect their energies to help oversee care for her father; they couldn't properly grieve for the loss of their elder patriarch because of the ensuing heart emergency. Another member of her family had become very ill within a couple of days too.

"So yanno", she said, "I'm relieved to be back here and I could certainly think of a lot more stuff I'd have rather been doing during my time off, but that's how it goes sometimes isn't it?"

That's exactly how it goes sometimes, I agreed. Yes, yes, yes.

There was nobody holding her hand to a fire or forcing her to ask me about my shopping experience; she just did it as a matter of course. I didn't have to wish her well; I just did it as a matter of course. For me, something larger and lovelier was exchanged in those few random minutes and I have been left wondering if maybe there exists a rule within the laws of nature that purposefully makes space for the inclusion of random profundity.

the babies grow up too quickly

I'm on the breathing end of a computer problem of Monumental Proportions(tm). I can't say enough about the good people in my life who tried hard to help from far away, and for the I/S smartiepants friend (hi Patti) who came to my home last night with all kinds of saving graces.

I don't have any of my MS Office products back yet so I feel as though I'm wandering directionless without the Outlook calendar that helps me keep my life in order, but Photoshop is nearly back up (I've made only three calls to their toll-free support # so far, and that's just not nearly enough yet), as are some of the other miscellaneous programs that I have grown to become dependent on.

J. informs me that he and Sunny are an exclusive item now. He tried to explain between guffaws and laugh-like noises how he broke his butt today trying to learn a few new break dancing moves and trying to show off maybe just a little. Yes, I'm here to tell you that is true: we did not bury the break dance carcass deep enough back in the eighties and it's come back to haunt the next generation.

He asked if we could take his picture (He. ASKED. ::gasp::) so he could give a copy to Sunny. So we did. The above image is one of the three senior picture possibilities thus far.

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