In a small town, it’s impossible to avoid people you don’t want to see. There may be many more annoying people in cities, but this decreases the intensity of annoyance in each individual.
Here in the sticks, there are people you really don’t want to see. You hear the voice echoing down the supermarket aisle. Chills go down your spine. Resistance is futile.
Another aspect of small-town life is you pretend to get along.
Stopping by the Bi-Lo Thursday was little more than an impulse. I was in the area. I think I took the long way back from the county dump because I just wanted to.
Hmm. I think I’ll go by the deli and get a pound of shaved turkey.
The next phase is, of course, while you’re here, you might as well see if there’s coffee on sale. I ordered a pound of baked turkey and Black Forest ham, and since it takes a while for the lady to slice it, I told her I’d be back shortly and, next thing you know, I had three bags of $4.99 coffee, three 12-packs of Diet Pepsi (just $10!), a box of saltines and some smoked sausage that was “buy one, get one free.”
That’s when I heard my name echoing out of the cereal boxes.
I once played football in the midst of a band of brothers. Some were older. One was younger. Today they are all … damaged. Transistors throughout the family have been fried. They’re all very friendly, and that’s in part because they are quite possibly drunk. On something.
The youngest came jogging up, which, in itself, stands out in a supermarket. I tried shaking hands. That wasn’t enough. We hugged because we played ball together.
He yelled to his brother, who wasn’t there already because he had the shopping cart.
The older brother said, “Now who are you?”
I thought the younger was going to hit him. He recited a generalized, romanticized and exaggerated bio of me.
“Oh, yeah,” he said. “You was awful good to us back in the day.”
That’s when I realized he was confusing me with my father, who died in 1993. I was sure of it when he made reference to my blond hair turning gray, and while my hair has never been blond, my dad used to “peroxide” his.
They both wanted to talk about football games in the 1970s, but I managed to get away by claiming my Black Forest ham was going to go bad or something. I gave them business cards, and they both promised to call me up sometime and buy me lunch.
That family must have a dozen of my business cards.