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MECHANIC FALLS — I occasionally shop at a well-known box store a few miles from here. I won’t mention the name because it may cause some of you to develop a slight tic in your left eye while simultaneously ranting about products made in China and the injustice of minimum wage. Others of you love this store so much you frequent it at all hours of the day or night in your pajamas.
I know I should think more intentionally about where the merchandise I purchase is manufactured, and I shouldn’t judge anyone who chooses to wear bedroom attire outdoors…at three in the afternoon. However, I’m not focusing on those things when I’m at the box store. I am on a mission: To Get Out Of The Store As Quickly As Possible. This is why I’ve perfected the Nod-and-Smile thing when I meet the greeter standing at the entrance. Partly because I was taught it’s impolite to ignore a greeting, but mostly because I hate shopping at box stores, relegating this activity up there with body hair removal: both annoying and necessary evils. Besides, I’m thinking the greeter probably doesn’t want to engage in conversation anyway given the fact he has to say "Welcome to ______" a few thousand times a day and on the thousandth time it comes out sounding like “Wemtuhwhum. ”
Then I met Box Store Singing Man. This gentleman stands at his post with a smile on his face, a flyer in his hand and a song coming out of his mouth. If you happen to walk in and he’s standing there he could be singing outright, or humming a tune that is faintly recognizable, the title of which comes to you as you’re rounding the shampoo aisle. During the holidays he sang Christmas carols. Right before Valentine’s Day he met me at the door with a rendition of “My Wild Irish Rose.” The other day he was singing about spring, but I couldn’t make it out because he’d turned his head to welcome another customer.
I like Box Store Singing Man because he seems to believe that singing happy, corny songs might actually brighten someone’s day. He doesn’t appear to care if he’s off-key or if he looks weird. Box Store Singing Man is, well, secure, and people who are secure in who they are don’t worry about themselves. They are truly “otherly-minded”; able to think of others without any thought of payback. I mean, what do I have to offer Box Store Singing Man? Maybe a slower pace when taking my flyer and a little more than a nod and smile. I will have to work on that.
I was in a post office the other day (not the one in Mechanic Falls), doing some business for my boss. I was unable to get to the company mailbox due to the fact that a woman was standing in front of me retrieving what looked like two months worth of mail from her narrow rectangle. I didn’t mind waiting and was moderately fascinated by all the mail she was pulling out in the same way I’m moderately fascinated by the never-ending stream of clowns spewing from a tiny clown car at the circus. When the woman finally turned around, a kaleidoscope of papers and envelopes jumbled in her arms, she looked me in the eye and said, “It smells like p - - p in here.” Without hesitating, I responded, “Well, it is one of the first signs of Spring.”
It’s true. After a winter that has overstayed its welcome, to the point where, if we hear the word “snow” one more time we’re bound to jump off the Cliffs of Insanity after flinging a shoe at the meteorologist’s head during the six o’clock news, Spring, and its promise of fresh air and sweet fragrance, has us in the palm of her hand. We are giddy with relief that, finally, winter coats can be banned to the basement closet and the snow blower sent to the back of the garage.
We run outside, inhale deeply and….there it is…what the lady in the post office was talking about. True, the robins are back hopping on our lawns, and yes, the sun feels warmer on our skin and it sticks around until after dinner, but we have to face reality. It what Mainers do. Things aren‘t glossed up. Life is condensed to the main and plain. A true Mainer does things like “hunker down” and “picks himself up by his bootstraps” (a phrase I have no idea how to visualize because I have never seen a bootstrap, nor do I know how to pick myself up by one. It probably hurts, which is why Mainers can do it so easily), and mud season is faced head on. People from other states think Mainers are joking when they say there are five seasons in Maine, believing the term “mud season” is probably a quaint reference to early spring. Well, Mainers don’t do quaint. Which brings me back to the lady in the post office. There was nothing quaint about what she said and I know exactly what she was talking about. Spring is here, and even though underneath all the fresh air some things don’t smell so good, it’s only temporary. Pretty soon the mud is going to dry up and the grass is going to turn green and there will be leaves on the trees again. At least that’s what I think the lady in the post office was talking about. On second thought, I never did check the bottom of my shoes. Until then, watch where you step.
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