I live in a small town. The closest thing we have to a mall is the local Wal-Mart store. When it was first built I thought - like everyone else - our town had finally arrived into the modern age. I was ecstatic. I would be able do all my shopping under one roof, and pay less money for the things I needed. I was swooning with anticipation. However, like most romantic notions, the bloom soon withered and I realized that all that glitters isn't gold; but, that is another story.
I usually make a weekly excursion to Wal-Mart to stock up all those pesky needed supplies that keeps a family up and running, clean, and entertained. But before I tackle the list that is in my purse, I stroll down the isle dedicate to something near and dear to my heart - Books.
This week I was intently browsing Wal-Mart's meager selection hoping to discover something riveting to read. I desperately needed one of those "Calgon take me away," interludes; and reading a good book works so much better than a soak in the tub.
"This isn't a journal." I heard a feminine voice say.
That was an invitation. Any well brought up southern woman would agree, so I turned my attention to the owner of the voice. I am sure that my eyebrows raised a smidge as my brain silently confirmed that she was actually speaking to me. Not that it mattered, anyone in that isle could have responded...but I had the distinct impression that she had singled me out.
"I thought this was a journal," the owner of the voice shrugged, angling the book so I could get a better view, then placed it back on the shelf.
She was young, dressed in jeans and a white cropped knit shirt with small squares painted in different colors across the front. The top portion of her long dark hair was covered with a navy blue bandanna, and the black polished nails pressed against a small box clutched in her left hand, suggested that she might be a goth/biker person...If there is such a person.
Being a true-blood Louisianian, I have grown up with this natural inclination southerners have to talk to complete strangers. I have always considered this propensity toward familiarity customary, and almost expected. The same can be said for the customary wave and nod gesture when driving, and meeting someone on the road. Typically this friendly acknowledgment is restricted to the two lane black topped highways and country roads.
That being said, having a conversation with someone I don't know is not unusual, nor disturbing.
" I keep a diary," she said as she moved closer to me, stopping by my left side. "Would you believe that I am 22 years old, and I still keep a diary?"
" I think that is wonderful," I told her, and added, "I keep a journal myself."
I believe she was encouraged by my admission, because she smiled and moved across my path stopping close to my right side
"I have a terrible memory. If I don't write everything down I'll forget it," she confided.
"Well," I said, and smiled. "I'm afraid that is a problem that tends to get worse as we get older."
"Oh no," she responded, momentarily placing her right palm against her cheek in a gesture of horror; then suddenly directed her attention to some books along the shelf.
She did not make another remark for a minute or two, and I assumed this was the end of io our little chat. I resumed my own hunt for the right book, stepping a few paces down the isle. Within seconds she had moved back to my side.
"I looove the HIGHLANDER series," she announced with a new book in her hand. "Adrian Paul is really good looking," she said and rolled her eyes toward the ceiling.
She had my attention once again.
"He has long hair...about to here," she told me, indicating a point slightly below her collar bone.
"Hmmm...really gorgeous. Have you ever seen the Highlander...the movie I mean?" All of which was said in a single breath.
"Yes, I have." I responded, and added: "I tought it was pretty good."
I did not expect my words to incite a litany on the HIGHLANDER episodes.
She elaborated on some of her favorite scenes, quoted several lines of dialog, oohing and awing over Adrian Paul's sword fighting abilities - all with a great deal of enthusiasm and animation.
I smiled and nodded...even made a comment now and then. I was thoroughly entertained...as well as informed.
She seemed like a very nice girl, and I was truly enthralled; but I was beginning to suspect that perhaps she might be struggling with an appropriate exit from this spontaneous, and somewhat odd conversation. And truthfully I was getting a little antsy...anxious to get on with my own shopping, and a little bored with the HIGHLANDER series.
I looked at my watch, and casually began to divert my attention from her to the books in front of me. I selected one from the shelf and glanced over it's jacket, as I waited for a break in the chain of running sentences. Suddenly she said, as though the thought had suddenly fell on her head, "I have to go. I need batteries."
I nodded with a smile, and gave her a little wave as she took off down the isle, around the corner and out of sight.
Within minutes she was breezing down the book isle again in my direction.
"No batteries...they didn't have any batteries over there." She said, as she walked past.
"They have moved them to the front of the store," she was saying as she disappeared once more round the corner of the isle...still clutching the small box in her left hand.
"Imagine that." I whispered with a little laugh.
When I returned home that day, and had my purchases properly put away, I sat down and recorded this event into my journal. That was 12 years ago.
Now, some may wonder why I found this worthy of recording in my journal, or why I would even remember it long enough to write it down. But for some reason, this little Wal-Mart encounter made an impression, and seemed oddly important.
Life is still a mystery. It is never dull - brimming with unexpected little quirks that keep us scratching our heads with wonder and sometimes frustration. Memories that should be totally forgettable, we find clinging to the front of our filing cabinet like sticky notes that will not lay flat to the surface, instead of filed away somewhere in the dark recesses of the the drawer labeled: TO BE DELETED.
I propose that we need these little irregularities to remind us that everyday comes with opportunities to make a difference, to encourage, to comfort, to aid, to listen, to care, or maybe to just acknowledge someone who needs to be noticed. And perhaps to learn something ourselves.
What ever the reason, this has been a persistent memory, and one that I have retold many times to those who would listen. But I don't think anyone has ever been impressed by it, or thought it was anything but mundane. I totally understand, Still, after all this time, I can't help but wonder if I did what I needed to do, said what I needed to say - or did I just make hash out of a prime roast?
I will let you decide.
HOW TO TALK TO A STRANGER
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