Let’s say we compose each day like a song. Rock? Hip Hop? Classical? Your choice. Our interactions with family, colleagues and friends make up the verses and choruses. We repeat the melodies and refrains with slight variations in structure and tone.
While the verses and choruses constitute the bulk of our interactions, other aspects of the music keep us listening. The riffs, stops, breaks and syncopated rhythms that happen when we interact with strangers. As a result, these minor parts of the song help us transition back to the main theme. “Let me tell you what happened at the Starbucks today!” “I saw the weirdest thing at the supermarket.”
These moments, these runs of notes and stressed weak beats serve a purpose. They offer brief conflict, sudden nuances, surprising interjections and fractured rhythms to the music of the day.
Genesis of Action
I was buying gas at Quik Trip on a Tuesday morning and used my debit card. The upbeat cashier told me to “PIN it or use credit.”
I told him I’ve never heard PIN used a verb before.
“I also tell people to chip it,” he said, referring to the chip on everyone’s card. “I create verbs.”
Not looking up from his script, Interviewer Number One mumbled the question.
I asked him to repeat the question.
Interviewer Number Two interjected, assuming the tone of an exasperated father scolding his wayward middle child.
“I. Want. YOU. To explain. To ME. When you. Had to TAKE. Initiative.”
He had broken the word “initiative” down into syllables. “ini●tia●TIVE”
I used to deliver food for Project Open Hand, a charity that provides healthy, ready made meals for home bound people.
On a warm July morning, I delivered a meal to James Burris at the Trinity Towers assisted living complex. I knocked on Mr. Burris’s door but he didn’t answer. I called Mr. Burris, who answered the door while the phone was ringing in his living room.
Mr. Burris answered the door and said, “Just a minute. I need to answer the phone.”
I watched him answer the phone.
I replied, “It’s Project Open Hand. I’m delivering your food.”
“OK. I’ll be right there.”
He hung up and returned to the door. I handed Mr. Burris his meal.
“Sorry about the wait,” he said. “I had to answer the phone.”
I work at a thrift store, unloading donor’s cars and sorting through the donations to find merchandise we can sell. We’ll accept almost anything. However, we don’t accept merchandise we know we can’t sell. For example, used mattresses, ceiling fans and personalized merchandise.
On a Monday afternoon, an elderly lady tried to donate a trunk full of her grandchildren’s old trophies. However, most bargain hunters don’t go to thrift stores looking for youth soccer trophies from 2010.
“I’m sorry Ma’am. We can’t take your trophies. They just don’t sell.”
“I hate throwing anything away,” she lamented. “I tried the Salvation Army, Value Village. And now you guys. Nobody will take them.” She had a genuine look of concern on her face; concern that was morphing into worry and soon panic.
“Try a Goodwill Donation Center. They accept everything.” And then throw it in the garbage.
“Oh great! Thank you! I hate throwing anything away.”
The Starbucks barista was heavyset with pasty skin. College age. His face suggested misguided earnestness.
He asked me if I wanted a receipt. I replied, “No thanks. You can’t write off coffee”
He informed me that, “Some people are really meticulous about keeping receipts for their records. You know, people over fifty.”
That’s my generation.
Don White Memorial Park is an ideal location to paint. It’s a scenic recreation area with vivid public art.
In particular, Don White Park displays the surreal yet minimalist sculpture “Ask the Fish” by Stephen Fairfield.
“Ask the Fish” is a gargantuan sculpture and easily holds up a 61”x91” (155x231cm) painting. Art supporting art.
On a May afternoon I was breaking down my frame and taking the pieces to the car. A young girl, probably in her early to mid twenties, was standing near the sculpture. She was wearing a Victoria’s Secret pink tank top, jogging shorts and her was pulled back. Except for the bedroom slippers she was wearing, she looked like any other woman exercising in the park.
As I walked closer, she was looking at me as if she was waiting for me.
“Can I ask you a question?” she asked, deliberate yet calm.
“Is it time for the meeting?”
“The meeting where God calls me home.” She walked to “Ask the Fish” and knelt down in front of the statue, in prayer.
I went to a Publix grocery store on Saturday night. I needed batteries for my remote control. I put a package of store brand AA batteries on the counter.
I paid and the cashier exclaimed without a trace of irony, “Enjoy!”
Have you ever had a brief encounter that just made your day or completely interrupted your rhythm? We’d love to hear your story in the comments. Thanks for reading!
4 thoughts on “Montage of Brief Encounters”
I love the glass window spiral right at the start, and all of your words that follow. Brilliant writing! ❤️🦋🌀
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Thank you so much Sheila!
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Thanks for reading!
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