b/c you never know what’s going on behind someone’s eyes. the person you have some random, fleeting contact with some random day could be having the very worst day of his or her life. something kind that you do for that person, even just something really small, something you don’t even notice you did, could brighten that person’s day like you wouldn’t believe.
not to harp on the oh-woe-is-us, our-neighbor-died-weeks-ago-and-now-our-house-stinks-and-we’re-traumatized [b/c, to be fair, as i mentioned, the smell is lifting (altho today was kind of a doozie, since it warmed up outside, hence warming up his air-tight house, which, in turn, passed more foul-smelling death air into our house…but i digress)] but last week, as you know, was bad. in fact, i never felt so terrible in my life. never. i felt horrified. i felt sad. i felt sick and violated somehow. and overwhelmed. and out of control. (and honestly, without sharing w/you on this blog, i think i would have felt even worse.)
there were three times during last week’s really dark days when my mood was lifted. and all three times had to do with some random person being kind to me/us. i think they all happened wednesday and thursday. wednesday night was our first night sleeping back at our house. after a horrible sleep spent breathing nasty air and having bad dreams, we woke with a start. or i did, at least.
“oh my GOSH, honey,” i said. “it’s trash day. i think i hear the truck!”
we threw on clothes and sneakers (well, sneakers for me, slippers for holly) and ran downstairs. i made it to the back door, trashbags in hand, just as the green garbage truck was beeping its way out of the alley. since baltimore–low on funds, like everyone else, i suppose–switched to once-a-week trash, trashday, thursday, is big in our household. it’s probably big in every household around here. if we miss it, we’re absolutely screwed. we don’t have a garage. and storing trash bags outside isn’t an option b/c of all the rats.
“maybe you can catch them!” holly shouted as i ran out the door in the pouring rain. “hurry, babe! catch them! call out to them!”
so there i was, carrying three trashbags, stomping thru the sopping wet yard trying to avoid potential feral cat crap landmines–oh and rat turds, gotta love those–my hair an absolute early-morning disaster. lord knows what i was even wearing. i think a jean jacket over my pajamas. and white sneaks. i ran thru the yard (it’s not all that big, but i still had to run) and swung open the gate.
“wait!” i shouted, sounding–and looking–pretty desperate, i’d say. “wait! i have…i have…”
the truck continued backing up and beeping the way big trucks do, into the street. i stood in the alley and put down my arms, defeated.
“trash,” i said, dejected. i walked back into the yard, my head down.
suddenly i heard something. it was the trashman! he had walked back from the truck into the alley and then into our yard (!!!) to get my trash. i was in disbelief. he was like…an angel. in the form of a garbage man. a garbage man angel in a yellow raincoat.
“you came back!” i said.
he smiled. “do you want me to get that stuff, too?” he said, pointing to our bags (and bags and bags) of recycling.
“no, that’s ok. it’s all recycling. we’ll put it out tuesday.”
“you sure?” he asked, loudly over the sound of the nearby truck. “b/c i can take it now if you want.”
i was flabbergasted. he was so friendly and it was so nice of him to come back. plus i looked crazy and wet, and it was brave of him to even talk to me.
“no that’s ok. but thank you!! oh my gosh, thank you for coming back. that was so nice of you. and we really needed it today. thank you.”
no problem, he said.
the day before. on wednesday, veteran’s day, we went to our local safeway to buy odor-controlling supplies. like baking soda (didn’t work), air fresheners (didn’t work), etc. i was feeling pretty much my lowest. it was shortly after we realized our house was smelling even worse than it did last sunday, the day they found our neighbor’s body. i think my face was still swollen from crying like a crazyperson on our stoop.
as we were walking in, there was a safeway employee selling hot dogs outside. they usually do that for charity, i think, and usually in the summer. it was cold for a change (as in: november weather. not this weird stuff we have going on right now) and if i were her, standing in the cold and just barely out of the rain, i don’t think i would have been so chirpy.
“happy veteran’s day, ladies!” she said, loud and clear. “would you like a hot dog?!”
her sudden, and random, friendliness caught us off guard. it was wonderful.
“happy veteran’s day!” we said back, smiling while we politely passed on the hot dogs.
“let me ask you a question,” she said, leaning towards us over the hot dog stand. “do you know what the veteran’s day color is?”
we paused, looked at each other, and said we didn’t know.
“maybe red, white and blue?” i said.
holly guessed yellow.
“hmmm…good guesses. maybe it is yellow. or red, white and blue!”
“isn’t it kind of cold for you to be working out here today?” holly said.
“no, it’s fine,” she said. “i chose to be out here anyway.”
before we went inside the automatic doors, she wished us a happy holiday again and i swear i could have jumped over the stand and hugged her. i think holly and i both felt like crying. it just cheered us up so much. i don’t know what it was but i swear it helped.
since our house was still kind of foul and we just couldn’t get ourselves to cook, we decided to go to our favorite local diner for lunch. it’s greek-owned, just like in jersey, and has fabulous scrambled eggs and home fries and pancakes and pretty much anything else you order, regardless of the meal (despite the fact that i named off only breakfast foods! you can see where my mind’s at…) it may have been wednesday, it may have been thursday. but we were both so tired and deflated and dirty-feeling w/probably smelly death clothes.
i barely had an appetite but knew i needed to eat. holly felt similarly.
this great waitress came over to take our order. she’s one of those professional waitresses, that’s what i call them. a woman who’s been a waitress for so long it’s second nature to her, and she’s pretty much unflappable and calls everyone “hon” or “sweetie.”
i don’t know what she said to us, but she was just so nice. so so nice. we were really disoriented and holly was having a hard time figuring out what to order. she was struggling between two hot sandwiches w/gravy, mashed potatoes on the side, that sort of thing. it was either a sirloin/roast beef open-faced sandwich or turkey. she settled on the beef, with the waitress assuring her it was an excellent choice. i loved her demeanor. she was so nice. and funny. she was like…a breath of fresh air. which we needed. obviously.
our food came quickly, as it normally does there.
“enjoy, ladies,” she said.
when she was out of earshot, holly said quietly that she brought her a turkey sandwich by mistake. i could see the disappointment in her eyes. it’s kinda like, when you want a certain something, you want it. and turkey is surely not a replacement for a sirloin sandwich.
“why don’t you just tell her, honey? it’s not a big deal. i don’t think she’ll mind.”
“no, it’s okay,” holly said, starting to cut into her food.
“are you sure?”
“yeah. it’s fine.”
i looked at her face as she started to get ready to eat a sandwich that she really didn’t want. i knew she would never tell the waitress b/c she knew she would feel so bad she brought the wrong thing, esp. b/c she and holly spent such a long time debating the merits of each, with holly finally settling on the beef.
“you’re a good egg,” i said to her. of course i felt like i was going to cry again. she got emotional, too. she knew exactly what i was talking about.
“this is exactly why i married you.”
b/c even when she’s having one of her very worst days–and her partner is pretty much falling apart in front of her eyes and her house smells literally like death warmed over (and over) and we don’t have a single decent-smelling thing to wear and our world has been flipped upside down–she still cares about other ppl’s feelings.
i’ve told you all about my theory about breaking the cycle of meanness. well here’s the other side of that: just being nice to everyone, as much as you possibly can. even when you’re having perhaps the worst day of your life, try to be nice to ppl. b/c you could be the “old man next door” who has absolutely no one, practically, in this entire world. you might be the one person he comes into contact with all day. or you could be the two girls next door who are having the worst day ever. hold the door for someone. smile. make some idle conversation in line at the post office. anything. you could be the bright spot in someone’s day w/out even knowing it.