Clinton, South Carolina, Thursday, August 15, 2019, 11:55 a.m.
I’m a volatile combination: meticulous and, yet, absentminded.
I’ll go through a news release and change every “8:00 PM” to “8 p.m.,” but I’ll write “it’s” when I know damn well it’s supposed to be “its.” I have to edit myself as much as the releases.
Occasionally, I think I might be starting to slip into the cool water of dementia, but then I rejoice in the knowledge that I have been absentminded all my life. To my credit, I’ve mainly made catastrophic mistakes only once.
Only once did I leave a piece of medical equipment on a bench when I boarded an airport van to take me back to my car. (When I caught another van and returned, miraculously, it was still sitting there.)
Only once did I empty some brush, stumble on a slick spot, brace myself against a tailgate that wasn’t securely closed, and crash down the walls of a ravine. All it cost me was 12 stitches.
Only once did I grab a large black suitcase at the luggage claim, roll it about a quarter of a mile to the National lot, open the trunk, hoist the bag … and realize it wasn’t mine, and, further, only once did I drag it back to the luggage claim, there to see my bag going around and around, and a man standing there waiting for the one I had. I told him if he punched me in the mouth, I wouldn’t say a word, but he was a nice fellow, it was in Elmira, New York, and he probably had some sympathy when he realized my dialect was Southern. Never, in all the years since, have I purchased black luggage, and I gave what I had to the Salvation Army, whose patrons are undoubtedly traveling constantly.
Only once did I lock myself out of a car, and that was way back when coat hangers still worked.
When something unexpected suddenly happens, I typically get addled, and when I’m addled, I’m prone to stupidity. I am a creature of habit. If I put my left sock on before my right, anything might happen.
The incidents recalled above occurred when I was 50, 17, 45 and 20. I am now 61. I was due.
On Tuesday, I got caught up early – the county arrests were light for the daily report – and decided to return a favor. When someone does me a favor, I try to return it. Sometimes I forget, but I try. On an assignment, about six weeks earlier, I had eaten supper – a meal that still exists in my generation – with workers because they had bread, cold cuts, cheese, fruit, crackers, etc., and they assured me there was more than enough to go around.
I dropped by a bakery and bought blueberry pound cake. It cost something and 91 cents, so I started to use my debit card, but then I realized I had a pocket full of change, so I handed the lady some bills, sat my wallet on the counter and counted out the 91 cents.
Then I drove toward Laurens and, still having time to kill, decided to get a haircut. Afterwards, in order to pay, I reached for the wallet that had last been seen on the counter of the bakery, and there, presumably, it remained. The bakery is run by religious people – Amish, maybe, or Mennonite? Surely not Rastafarian or Zoroastrian – and they occasionally do business, apparently, with others who are absentminded. I’m glad it wasn’t the Family Dollar or the DMV.
Meanwhile, I raced back to the bakery, which closed at 4, and it was 4:30, so I had to get a pal at the nearby office supply to spot me a 20 so I could go back to the barber shop – okay, it was a Great Clips – and pay for my haircut.
I was so addled at County Council that I briefly mistook a city council member for the police chief.
The nice young woman from the bakery had left me a message when I got home – Imagine! She apparently looked in a phone book! – and, even though I had pound cake (I’m so glad I bought two) and coffee for supper, on Wednesday morning, I went back to the bakery, paid back the 20, and became economically viable again.
After a Meaty Breakfast at Steamers, I was back on track.
Another way I cobble out a living is with my books, a wide variety of which is available for sale here.
My eighth novel is called Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.
Lightning in a Bottle is now available in an audio version, narrated by Jay Harper.