Sunday, May 6, 2012

Notes from the Home VIII

   For someone like me, who has always had difficulty remembering names, Covenant Woods isn’t a bad place to be. Or maybe it is. The better solution would be for me to pay more attention, to concentrate more when I’m introduced to people. But there are so many people here with memory problems that folks don’t get upset when you ask what their name is for the thirty-seventh time.
   Some moments of forgetfulness, however, are more disappointing than others. Friday at dinner, I was at the same table as Joe, a retired transit dispatcher from New York City. Also at the table was an attractive woman, who is quite young looking by Covenant Woods standards. It seems that about a week ago, when there was a band here playing fifties music, some country and some blues, Joe and the woman danced. Joe didn’t mind at all that the woman didn’t remember his name. But - I think he has got his eye on her - he was very disappointed when the woman said she didn’t remember dancing with him. I noticed they were sitting together at dinner last night, but I didn’t get a chance to ask Joe if she had remembered him from dinner the night before.
   Woodruff Farm Road has four lanes and is busy most of the time. But on Sunday morning there is very little traffic, and I keep thinking I should - like the chicken - get to the other side and check out Publix, the supermarket in the plaza over there. To get there, I would have to go down the asphalt path to the plaza where Piggly-Wiggly is and then down the service road. From the end of the service road to the Publix parking lot is a straight shot. When traffic is light, I could dart across Woodruff Farm Road’s four lanes without being a traffic hazard, or a statistic.
   The only thing holding me back is a growing loyalty to Piggly-Wiggly. All the employees are so friendly. Even another customer was helpful this morning. I was in the check-out line, and the woman in front of me, who was watching the cashier ring up her groceries, turned around and took a step toward me. Thinking she was setting off on a mad dash to get something she’d suddenly remembered she’d forgotten. I backed up to let her by. “No,” she said. “I was just going to put your groceries on the counter for you.” And she did. The cashiers all call me “darlin’” or “baby,” which is a little disconcerting. But they call me that after they’ve rung up and bagged my groceries. That’s when they say, “Come around here, darlin’ and I’ll put these bags in your tote.”
   I wonder sometimes if it is a cultural thing. Maybe this Southern hospitality is the same in every store. But I’m enjoying it, and a supermarket by any other name is still just a supermarket, so I keep going to Piggly-Wiggly.
   About a week ago, concerned that I wasn’t doing enough writing, I went to a few Internet sites that dispense writing prompts. One of the prompts I made note of was, “Write about something you think needs to be invented.” I didn’t have anything in mind at the time, but a half-hour later I did. That’s when I decided to take a shower. Before getting some clean clothes from the dresser, I emptied the pockets of the shorts I was wearing. I pulled out my wallet, and I pulled out my keys, and then my pockets were empty. And I said, “Where the hell is my cell phone?” I went around the apartment, looking in all the places I’ve found it before when I thought it was lost. It wasn’t in any of them.
   Reluctantly, I picked up the other phone. I did it reluctantly because, a few nights before when I couldn’t find my cell phone, I dialed its number from the other phone. I expected to hear ringing from the closet or maybe from under the pile of stuff that had accumulated on the table. Instead, it rang from my pocket. I was alone in the apartment, no one was there to witness my idiocy, yet I was embarrassed.
   But having searched the apartment thoroughly, the only thing left to do was to call my cell phone, listen for the ring and prepare to be humbled again. However, when I called this time and listened, I didn’t hear a thing. I went in the bathroom and tried again, thinking maybe the cell phone had fallen into the hamper. Not a sound. Well, maybe I dropped it somewhere when I went to get my mail earlier and had stopped in the library. But it wasn’t in either of those places when I went back to look. So, I gathered my courage and went to the front desk and asked if anyone had found a cell phone. “No,” the receptionist said. “But I’ll let you know if someone does.”
   Back in my apartment, still in need of a shower, I went into the bathroom, stood up to take off my shorts, and there on the seat of the wheelchair was my cell phone. I had been sitting on it all along, and now it was blinking to let me know I had a missed call; two missed calls, actually, both from me. If I can break wind with enough gusto to shame myself in a crowded, noisy room, someone should be able to make a phone that rings loud enough and vibrates vigorously enough to be noticed by the 175-pound man sitting on it. That’s what I think needs to be invented.
   My brother Jim and sister-in-law Susan came over from Birmingham yesterday. Then Russ, Karen, Jim, Susan and I went to lunch. We took two cars, because I can get in and out of the Aveo, and Jim drives a pickup truck that is well beyond my increasingly meager abilities. Karen drives an Echo, so even without the Aveo there would have been a vehicle I could manage.
   The Aveo, though, is special. It is functioning, noxious-fumes spewing proof that sometimes the best thing that can happen is not getting what you want. Around Memorial Day 2005, I went to Nassief’s on Main Avenue looking for a new car. I liked the Aveos, and I was hoping to get one with standard transmission. I always had better luck maneuvering in the snow with a standard transmission. But there weren’t any on the lot, and I wanted a new car now. It was either get an automatic at Nassief’s or shop around elsewhere. And I hate to shop.
   Buying a car with automatic transmission was a brilliant, brilliant move. In the fall of 2005, my left leg, which had been occasionally obstinate, took on obstinacy as a full-time occupation. How much longer I would have been able to work the clutch pedal is anyone’s guess, but it wouldn’t have been for very long. Instead, I was behind the wheel of my Aveo until December 2010.
   But I digress. I really enjoyed seeing Jim and Susan. As they were leaving, Jim said they’d be back, maybe back so often they’d seem like a bad penny. In times like this, I told him, a man can use all the bad pennies he can get. And that goes for all you other bad pennies, too.

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